One hour west of Copenhagen lies an 800-year-old castle where history and gastronomy meet in equal measure, exemplifying Denmark’s regional biodiversity. Welcome to Dragsholm Slot.
From the menus served by Michelin-starred chef Claus Henriksen to the immaculately preserved period interiors, the 800-year-old castle immerses visitors in Denmark’s past and present. “The original castle was built around 1215 by the Bishop of Roskilde, but its architecture has evolved with time,” says maître de maison Mads Hylleholt Bøttger as he points at the façade’s mix of medieval, renaissance, and baroque features.
Surrounded by a vineyard, miles of woodland, and wildflower-dotted fields, a stay at Dragsholm Slot is like a living in a fairytale. A key moment in the estate’s history came in the 19th century, when the castle’s owner decided to drain the nearby Lammefjord to counter the risk of famine in the aftermath of the Second Schleswig War. Denmark had lost one third of its territory, so the country was in urgent need of more farmland. That initiative transformed the former fjord into mineral-rich, fertile land, which to this day supplies Denmark’s markets, restaurants, and kitchens. “For a long time, our vegetables weren’t consumed here, but instead went to Copenhagen to be used in the city’s world-famous restaurants, like Noma,” explains Hylleholt Bøttger. “We wanted to change this, so we invited Claus Henriksen, Noma’s former sous-chef, to take over the kitchen at Dragsholm Slot in 2008.”
At the property’s two dining spots – the gourmet restaurant Dragsholm Slot Gourmet and the more casual Dragsholm Slot Bistro, Chef Claus Henriksen creates a symphony of flavors from the season’s crop, turning the humblest of ingredients into culinary gold. Henriksen’s vegetable-centric cuisine relies entirely on the nearby fields, forests, coastlines, and the castle garden, with over 100 Nordic herb varieties. “Take a ten-minute walk from the castle to the seafront and you’ll see everything we use in our kitchen: the asparagus from the field behind us, the vanilla grass from the castle garden, the seaweed from the beach,” says Henriksen. “This is my territory – it’s like a playground that lets me create stories with local produce.
The dishes of the 16-course tasting menu in the Michelin Star Gourmet blend into an inimitable masterpiece, each telling a different version of the same tale: the region’s rich biodiversity. Potatoes marinated in seawater blend with locally sourced caviar. An oyster dish is topped with different varieties of foraged seaweeds and herbs. Grilled asparagus stars as a main. “For me, the most luxurious ingredients are asparagus and carrots,” says Henriksen as he comes over to my table after the meal. Once again proof that true luxury lies in simplicity.