In Henne Kirkeby’s huddle of handsome thatched-roof cottages, their small paned windows glowing like flames at night, the chef immediately saw the restaurant he’d create.“I envisioned a place that would feel like I was serving a meal in my own home,” he says, “a place where I could have my books on the shelves.” A place where a sprawling garden bursts with vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, berry bushes, and flowers flanked by beehives.In 2011, a mentally and physically frayed Cunningham closed the restaurant.
Many of these, built up through the eighteenth century, still exist: timber-framed, thatch-roofed fairytale cottages scattered across the Jutland like a constellation.The squat buildings dating from the eighteenth century retained their exterior charm, but on the inside, walls were painted white and floors redone in polished Douglas fir.One dining room got a vaulted ceiling, builtin shelves (where Cunningham’s wellworn cookbooks now reside), and an outsize window into the bustling kitchen.British chef Paul Cunningham was present at the revolution, working 100-hour weeks at his own place, The Paul, in Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen’s landmark 1840s-era amusement park.The restaurant earned a Michelin star seven months after it opened, in 2003, and retained it for eight years, with Cunningham turning out inspired food anchored by Danish ingredients (langoustine, turbot, cabbage, wild fennel) but wrapped in French, English, and other culinary traditions.
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Stroll farther and, at the smoker behind the kitchen, a sous chef in whites may be doctoring some oysters.Dinner is a good time at Henne Kirkeby, particularly in the A-frame dining room by the kitchen.It opens with a parade of house-made marvels arranged on wooden slabs: tart, olive-size green peaches; aged duck, bresaola-like and earthy, with pickled carrot and orange zest; a fat slice of bacon with cacao mustard.There will be bread called Keith Moon, for the music that was playing when its starter was conceived; it’s a headily fragrant boule with herbs baked into the bot tom, served with tangy butter churned an hour before service.The slim highway that leads here from Billund, the closest small city with an airport, delivers humdrum rural views at first.
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But soon it begins to cleave through boundless expanses of shimmering, sand-colored heath, tousled here and there by stiff sea breezes.
A place where the nearby Wadden Sea teems with oysters, and Hvide Sande, the fishmon gering capital of Denmark, lies just up the coast.
The inn had been renovated a couple of years prior to Cunningham’s arrival, upgraded into pleasantly unfussy luxuriousness.
As we approach the shores of the silvery North Sea, the water remains out of view, but we can sense it; the plush heath gives way to salt-weathered marsh grass and the wind kicks up.
When Henne Kirkeby Kro appears by the side of the road, it does so suddenly and without fanfare, like a roadside motel.