EATING OUT JULY 2010
By Walther Griesé
“iT’S THE PASSiON which makes Restaurant Schønnemann a success,” says owner John Puggaard, dressed to the n ines in h is starched chef’s uniform.
“You need a clear concept and great staff as well,” seconds his life and business partner, Søren Puggaard, who is in charge of the floor
Old school becomes trendy
Sand on the wooden floorboards, foaming draught beer and open sandwiches on the white-clothed tables. RESTAuRANT SCHØNNEMANN could hardly be more old school. jOHN and SØREN PuGGAARD have taken the restaurant to the top of the game in Danish gastronomy.
The couple took over Restaurant Schønnemann in February 2007. The restaurant has been in business since 1877 and is located in a recently renovated heritage building. In the early noughties, it wasn’t managed properly though, and poor reviews earned it a shady reputation in the business.
“WE KNEW we had turned it around, the day the newspaper Politiken awarded us five chef’s hats,” says Søren Puggaard, straightening his black tie and beaming with pride.
“We had positive reviews before, but their reviewer Adam Price has such a tremendous following that it made a whole new group of people come visit us.” Besides doing restaurant reviews, Adam Price co-hosts one of the highest rated television shows in Denmark.
“If you’re new to smørrebrød, you should try the smoked salmon or the fillet of plaice,” say John and Søren Puggaard.
AT RESTAURANT SCHØNNEMANN the guests have to walk down four steps to the low lit basement restaurant. Dark wood panels on the walls, framed quotes, and painted glass panes give the interior a quaint feeling, but that all changes when you taste the food. “We source the best goods,” says Søren Puggaard returning to the subject of passion.
“We have our own beer and our own aquavit. The salmon is from reputed chef Daniel Letz, and the meat is from Jens, who’s the best organic butcher in Copenhagen. It even took
John three years to find the perfect rum for our cheese.” They aim to focus on organic produce, but only if the taste and quality equals the non-organic varieties.
“Everything is homemade, and if you can’t serve it with pride, why bother?”
“SERViCE iS IMPROVING in Copenhagen,” John Puggaard says. “I think it comes from a general pride of self in the hospitality business. It used to be seen as embarrassing to serve others, but the positive press about the Danish kitchen rubs off on the waiters, and they feel good about their job.” “We search out staff from other restaurants,” admits John. “We know who does a good job, and entice them to join our team. Once they’re here, they really love it. The tone, the quality of the food, and the pride in serving it.”
HE RECOMMENDS that you visit restaurant Le Sommelier if you are looking for good service in Copenhagen, and adds that they have brilliant food and one of the best wine lists in Copenhagen.
His local joint is Scarpetta in Nørrebro. “They are young guys, and it’s very informal. They make that clear from the beginning, so that’s fine, and the price reflects it.”
John and Søren Puggaard have been partners since 1988, opening their first business together in 1989. John is a trained chef and restaurant manager, Søren has worked in the fashion and retail industry for 25 years. They bought Restaurant Schønnemann in February 2007.
Restaurant Schønnemann is an old school restaurant serving the only truly Danish contribution to the world’s cuisine: Smørrebrød (open sandwiches). Book your table at least a week in advance, or chance it and hope to charm owner Søren Puggaard into finding you a table.
“THE IDEAl GUEST is someone who knows what we stand for, and appreciates the quality,” says John Puggaard. “And who likes the tone here,” adds Søren Puggaard. “We joke and
hold our own. If people can’t take it, too bad for them …” “Even though we’re a very traditional restaurant, many young people come in,” says John Puggaard. “And they want to try it all, boiled calf’s tongue and aquavit as well. They go all out.” He smiles, “But then, quality is always in fashion.”
Hauser Plads 16, Monday-Saturday
Find more information at danskfrokost.dk