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A meal that changed my life – an Irish chef recalls an incredible meal at a very special destination


by Eoin Higgins
19th May 2020

JP McMahon photographed by Andrew Downes

JP McMahon at Tartare Café + Wine Bar

Acclaimed Irish chef, restaurateur and symposium impresario JP McMahon recalls a memorable and inspiring meal at a special restaurant in one of his favourite cities.


I first visited Amass, in Copenhagen, in October 2019. Amass is one of the most ethically-drive, sustainable restaurants on the planet, at least as far as I am aware. Matt Orlando, Noma’s former head chef, is the chef-patron.

I used to go to Copenhagen a few times a year. For me, it’s a great place to eat and discover new trends. I have many friends in the industry there now but I never seem to run out of restaurants to go to. There is something for everyone in Copenhagen, from outstanding bagels to incredible Michelin star meals, from sea urchins to the best coffee money can buy … I just love it.

Amass is situated in a large building, an old shipyard grain store, I think, so they have tonnes of space. The music is always loud, and more often than not, it’s hip hop playing. And that’s one of the things I love about Amass: the combination of hip hop with ultra-modern food in a casual space.

 

The food, above, is smart and nicely styled. Matt is very much into upcycling and has made a commitment to producing as little waste as possible. So many of the dishes use lesser cuts, recycled ingredients; there is fermentation, garums (fermented fish sauces), misos (made from left over bread). Desserts are always fascinating. And the bread! Grilled flatbread with an ever-changing range of condiments. Try and eat as many as you can. I think the record is seven. I only managed three or four.

You can have a tasting menu (five, or ten, courses) or sit outside and have AFC (Amass Fried Chicken). The staff are informal, smart, relaxed, yet extremely knowledgeable. The chefs bring all the food down.

 

The wine offering is also great. All organic, biodynamic, or natural. It was one of the places that inspired us to open Tartare – Café + Wine Bar in Galway (Manfred’s, above, also in Copenhagen, was the other). I wanted to bring natural and organic wine to Ireland in a more casual manner.

After my meal at Amass I felt happy. Not too full and a little more educated than I was when I arrived. I had begun with a walk in their garden, where they grow many of their own herbs and vegetables with an aquaponics system, another reason why I love this place and will always yearn to go there. Even writing about it now, I am missing it. The buzz, the tastes, the sensation of being in the room with so many people from all over the world. Will we ever experience this again? I hope so.

 


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