A meal that changed my life – Aimsir’s Majken Bech Bailey recalls her first fine dining experience
Six years ago, Majken Bech Bailey, manager and one half of the husband and wife team behind Aimsir at Cliff at Lyons, recalls a visit to a restaurant that would change her life forever.
It was the beginning of April, 2014. It was a warm spring day in Denmark and I was sitting on a train heading over to a guesthouse, in the middle of nowhere, on the west coast.
A friend had asked if I could help out as a waitress as they were short staffed that particular weekend.
I got into a taxi at the train station and asked the driver to take me to the guesthouse Henne Kirkeby Kro. The taxi driver turned around to me and said “you are in for a real treat at that place! It’s beautiful.”
I didn’t know anything about this place that I was heading to. I was a waitress at a small neighbourhood café at the time. I was certainly in for a big surprise.
The taxi pulled up outside and I was instantly blown away. The building is very picturesque with its thatched roof and red stone walls. I was immediately greeted by a very smartly dressed and handsome General Manager, along with my friend who was also the Head Sommelier.
Upon entering, I was taken back by how much of a contrast the interior was compared to the cottage feel on the outside. It was bright, airy with Danish designed furniture everywhere and I could hear music coming from the kitchen as they were preparing for service that evening. I immediately felt like this could be my home, away from home.
My friend showed me to my room and then explained to me exactly who was behind this guesthouse. Before coming here, I was a little naive about the restaurant industry and didn’t know too much about food guides and famous chefs.
Back at the café where I worked, we were in our own little bubble because we were two hours south of Copenhagen on an island. So when she informed me that Paul Cunningham, the Head Chef had previously held a Michelin Star in Copenhagen and that Garrey Dawson, the General Manager was the Development Chef at a three-Michelin Star restaurant called The Fat Duck, I felt very overwhelmed.
Heading into service that evening I was nervous, as the only thing I had to go on was what I had seen on TV and imagined a Michelin Star restaurant to be like.
I thought it was going to be a little stiff, quiet and very formal but as soon as service started I found out how wrong I was. Guests were warmly welcomed like everyone was friends of the house, waiters and waitresses were given the freedom to be themselves by showing their personality and flair and the music was turned back on again in the kitchen where they were serving the most exciting food I had ever seen.
Most of the ingredients were hand picked that morning and then meticulously prepared into various offerings for dinner. A standout for me was their homemade butter which was rolled with all the fresh herbs and flowers that had been picked in the gardens.
Another dish included beautiful lobster caught off the west coast of Denmark that was dressed with new season tomatoes, basil and mint. The explosion of the soft acidic tomato juice was sweetened when you bit into the pieces of fresh lobster and the soft finish of basil and mint on your palate.
This is one of those things you can’t stop eating once you get started. This is also where I first learnt that it’s not about how much you are putting on the plate but that you combine the right things together. The chocolate mousse dessert served with a fine slice of toasted sourdough bread, sea salt and olive oil was to die for.
A new life
While travelling back home on the train I noticed something had changed within me after just one night experiencing food and service in this restaurant.
I was meant to be heading off to university that summer but this experience had fired up an intense desire and passion for fine dining that I craved more of.
I was offered a full-time job later that week by Paul, and well, the rest is history!
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