A filmic experience of the aurora borealis, an ocean with floating jellyfish amongst plastic debris and sparks from fire rising to the sky are some of the mood creating tableaus inside the dome.
A filmic experience of the aurora borealis, an ocean with floating jellyfish amongst plastic debris and sparks from fire rising to the sky are some of the mood creating tableaus inside the dome.
Image: Claes Bech Poulsen

A slab of pork stabbed with a syringe of chilli oil may turn off even the most ardent gourmet, but to Copenhagen’s gastro-provocateur Rasmus Munk, it’s all part of the fun. The dish — a comment on antibiotic use in pig rearing — is typical of the politically charged 50-course tasting menu at the 28-year-old chef’s latest venture.

Alchemist is due to open its four-metre-high, custom-made bronze doors on July 4, after a two-year construction job that has cost $15m, 10 times its initial budget. The restaurant seats 40 for a five-hour meal that, with wine, costs about DKr4,000 ($600). Despite the price, the waiting list already runs to 15,000 people.

The venue, like the food, is designed to stun. The 22,000 sq ft former warehouse has four kitchens, a three-storey wine cellar for 10,000 bottles and tables commissioned from Chilean artist Marco Evaristti. Above the main dining hall rises a domed ceiling on to which a dozen projectors cast moving tableaus to match the food and its message — giant squid pulse past ocean debris, for example, to highlight marine pollution.

A staircase leads the guests up past the three-story wine cellar and across a glass floor with views down into the wine cellar with the capacity to store 10,000 bottles.
A staircase leads the guests up past the three-story wine cellar and across a glass floor with views down into the wine cellar with the capacity to store 10,000 bottles.
Image: Claes Bech Poulsen

The building, in the former dockyard area of Refshaleøen, used to house sets for the Royal Danish Theatre, a fitting heritage given Munk’s vision for “holistic cuisine” that blends art, drama and dining. The staff includes a dramaturge, animator, composer and five actors — “It’s the future of food,” says Munk.

The new restaurant builds on the success of the chef’s last — a 15-seat affair of the same name that closed in 2017. There he built a reputation for theatrics, wonderful flavours and dishes packed with meaning. One resembled a heap of cigarette ash but was in fact a version of brændende kærlighed, a potato and bacon classic adored by Munk’s grandmother, a smoker.

Food for thought dish: Sautéed foie gras in a Madeira casing topped with aerated foie gras.
Food for thought dish: Sautéed foie gras in a Madeira casing topped with aerated foie gras.
Image: Claes Bech Poulsen
Food for thought dish: Sautéed foie gras in a Madeira casing topped with aerated foie gras.
Food for thought dish: Sautéed foie gras in a Madeira casing topped with aerated foie gras.
Image: Claes Bech Poulsen

“That was a hard one to put on the menu because my grandmother had died of lung cancer a few weeks before,” says Munk. Another featured a sheep’s heart and a mock blood transfusion bag that encouraged diners to become organ donors — 1,500 did so.

“Alchemist is so out there I don’t even consider it a Nordic restaurant,” says Matt Orlando, a former head chef of Noma who now runs Amass, a few steps from the new Alchemist. “You will never experience that anywhere else.”

Scoby bloom: This beautiful flower is actually made from thin, dried sheets of “scoby”, the yeast organism that is used to ferment kombucha.
Scoby bloom: This beautiful flower is actually made from thin, dried sheets of “scoby”, the yeast organism that is used to ferment kombucha.
Image: Claes Bech Poulsen
Raw scallop dish: A trompe l’oeil dish in that it looks exactly like a raw scallop with it’s roe sack straight from the shell.
Raw scallop dish: A trompe l’oeil dish in that it looks exactly like a raw scallop with it’s roe sack straight from the shell.
Image: Claes Bech Poulsen

Financing the project is Lars Seier Christensen, the founder and former co-chief executive of Saxo Bank, whose other Copenhagen restaurant, Geranium, boasts three Michelin stars. Seier Christensen began his career running a restaurant in southern Spain, thumbing through three-day-old copies of the FT before moving to London to pursue finance.

“It remains to be seen how it will be received but the goal is to give people an experience they haven’t had before,” he says. “There’s a meaning to the madness.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019.

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