A favourite foodie destination for top chefs, Bornholm is the Danish island you need to visit now

4th Jul 18 | Lifestyle

Already a firm favourite with the Danes, the Baltic isle is now finding favour with British travellers, says Rachael Burnett.

‘The sunniest place in Denmark’ has so much more to offer than fabulous weather, but the chances are most British people haven’t even heard of it.

For Danes, though, it’s a different story. Many fondly recall childhood memories of holidays spent on Baltic isle Bornholm, a 40-minute flight east from Copenhagen and buffered by the coastlines of Poland and Sweden.

Enjoying the most sun anywhere in Denmark, thanks to its easterly winds, it’s also known as The Island of Sunshine. And it has an equally impressive reputation for being a larder of fine produce, used by some of the country’s top chefs.

The island’s granite cliffs are great for rock climbers (Destination Bornholm/PA)
The island’s granite cliffs are great for rock climbers (Destination Bornholm/PA)

The shaping of a foodie destination

When the fishing industry went into decline in the 1990s , enterprising residents put the weather to good use, reinventing the island as a top food destination by fostering a community of producers and gourmet eateries.

Dozens of small-scale producers have sprung up in the last ten years and there is now a network of around 65 on the island. Our guide, Hans, tells us the top Danish chefs, including René Redzepi of Noma, use Bornholm produce, earning it a name among Danes as ‘foodie island’.

Rapeseed oil and Danish blue cheese are among the specialities, but products range from wagyu beef to cherry wine. Danish bacon is another local delicacy; the island is home to a special breed of pork and the number of pigs far outnumbers the human population of 40,000.

The culinary delights of Bornholm are on offer at Gudhjem Harbour on the island’s north-eastern coast every June, when the Sol over Gudhjem festival takes place.

A festival of feasting

Sol over Gudhjem food festival takes place at a stunning waterfront setting (Rachael Burnett/PA)
Sol over Gudhjem food festival takes place at a stunning waterfront setting (Rachael Burnett/PA)

Sol over Gudhjem festival, named after the traditional Bornholm herring dish ‘Sun over God’s Home’, is a showcase of local produce.

The sleepy coastal town comes to life as thousands of food enthusiasts mingle with top gourmet chefs to sample the latest island fares.

It has become one of the biggest chef competitions in Denmark and gives foodies the chance to see how the professionals put local produce to good use.

A huge stage and kitchen is erected beside the waterfront, where crowds can see the chefs at work.

Jakob Mielcke kåres som Kokkenes Kok 2018! Stort tillykke Jakob! Fonden Dansk Gastronomi skriver om Jakob: “Han er en ener i dansk gastronomi, han er en stolt, passioneret og autodidakt kok, som arbejder med de vanskeligste råvarer med en stor ydmyghed. Som menneske er han i et med naturen og arbejder efter jord til bord principperne. Han ynder selv at finde sine råvarer og rejser gerne ud i naturen for at fange både fisk og dyr til sine skønne retter. Han er en kok, som går forrest og sætter gerne nye standarder for den danske gastronomi. Jakob laver ikke mad for at vinde stjerner og anerkendelse, han laver mad med hjertet og for at skabe det bedste måltid for menneskene omkring ham.” Foto: @montgomery_photo #solovergudhjem2018

A post shared by Sol over Gudhjem (@sol_over_gudhjem) on

Visitors also get the chance to sample some of the island’s specialities at the food market, with dozens of stalls offering tasters around the harbour.

For me, a highlight is a Cosmopolitan with a twist, made using orange gin from Copenhagen Distillery, drizzled over cranberry ice cream – made fresh by local producer Bornholms Ismejeri.

The ice-cream parlour is a start-up by Jonas Bohn and Vibeke Bengtson, who quit their jobs in IT and graphic design in Copenhagen and came to Bornholm for a less stressful life.

And I can easily see why; life here has a wonderfully relaxed pace and appears to be the epitome of what the Danes call ‘hygge’.

An open house event

You can pick your own strawberries at Plantagen farm (Rachael Burnett/PA)
You can pick your own strawberries at Plantagen farm (Rachael Burnett/PA)

Local farmers, cafes, restaurants, smokeries, fisheries, and other food producers open their doors to visitors for four days as part of the festival.

We pay a visit to Plantagen, which is not usually open to the public. It’s an organic vegetable and berry farm where people with mental health issues are given work.

“Working with plants gives you time and good feelings,” manager Bertil cheerfully tells us.

After a few hours picking deliciously sweet, fresh strawberries in the sunny fields, I can feel all the stress of city life ebbing away.

Our next stop is Høstet, a plantation growing sea buckthorns – a fantastically sour kind of berry and superfood.

The berries are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, and are used in marmalade, juice, sauce and even flakes to sprinkle over dishes. They have a sharp, fresh taste, and the marmalade is the perfect accompaniment to blue cheese on a cracker.

The cows at Wagyu Bornholm roam freely over the pastures (Rachael Burnett/PA)
The cows at Wagyu Bornholm roam freely over the pastures (Rachael Burnett/PA)

The final stop on our food tour is meeting a herd of cows at Wagyu Bornholm. Farmer Jeppe and school teacher Kasper are rearing the Japanese quality beef calves to be sold to restaurants on the island.

The calves seem to have a carefree life frolicking in the beautiful Bornholm fields and clearly know and love Kasper, who has given them all names.

“We wanted them to have Danish names to show that although they have come from Japan, they are in Bornholm now,” he tells us.

So, what’s the island like?

The island is also a paradise for nature lovers. Cycling is a way of life for Danes, and the island’s flat terrain, with miles of biking trails, offers the perfect setting to work off all that food.

Bornholm is also home to four of Denmark’s seven ancient round churches. These otherworldly fortresses were built in medieval times for the dual purpose of prayer and protection.

Osterlars Church is one of four round churches on the island. (Destination Bornholm/PA)
Osterlars Church is one of four round churches on the island (Destination Bornholm/PA)

Another gem is Hammershus Castle, a collection of craggy ruins perched on top of a cliff with panoramic views across the Baltic Sea to Sweden. The medieval fortress gives visitors a brilliant insight into the island’s past.

Due to its strategic location, the island has been fought over for centuries and has been ruled by Germany, Sweden and briefly the Soviet Union after the Second War World.

There are also plenty of charming little towns for visitors to explore, such as Svaneke with its red clay roofs and winding streets.

Part of a shipwreck on a beach in Bornholm (Destination Bornholm/PA)
Part of a shipwreck on a beach in Bornholm (Destination Bornholm/PA)

The north of Bornholm is lined by a rugged granite coastline, while the south has long stretches of almost empty, pristine white beaches. The sand is so fine on Bornholm that Danes say it’s used to fill hourglasses.

Our local guide, Ross, says many visitors describe the island as “one of the quietest, simplest and unspoilt places in the world”.

And after sampling a taste of Bornholm, I’m inclined to agree.

Where to eat

Three restaurants you must try in Bornholm…

Stammershalle Badehotel

A dish of lobster tail
(Rachael Burnett/PA)

The restaurant offers gourmet Nordic cuisine in a relaxed setting with sea views over the rugged, rocky coastline. It feels more like visiting a friend’s dining room than a top eatery. Calf’s tongue with horse radish and cucumber is a highlight from among the six courses. A menu based on seasonal produce starts at £53, and wine pairing can be added for an extra £41. Visit stammershalle-badehotel.dk/en/the-restaurant

Røgeriet Svaneke

A serving platter of food
(Rachael Burnett/PA)

A trip to the island would not be complete without a visit to a traditional smokehouse. Enjoy a fresh seafood platter with locally brewed beer at a trestle table in the sun. The restaurant’s signature dish, Sol over Gudhjem, consists of smoked herring with a raw egg yolk, chives and radish, served on freshly baked rye bread. A sharing platter for two costs £36. Visit roegerietsvaneke.dk

Nordlandet

Perched on a rocky shore on the northern tip of the island, this restaurant boasts a panoramic sea backdrop through floor-to-ceiling windows. Danish asparagus with smoked beef heart and quail egg is a favourite. Four courses with wine, coffee and petit fours costs £112. A two-course meal starts at £41. Visit hotelnordlandet.com/en

How to get there

Stammershalle Badehotel (stammershalle-badehotel.dk) offers double rooms from £107, including breakfast.

Flights with SAS (flysas.com) from London Heathrow to Copenhagen start at £108 return. From there, flights to Bornholm with Danish Air Traffic (dat.dk) start at £96 return.

For more information on the island, visit bornholm.info/en

© Press Association 2018

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