Two Nordic somm champions at Lego heir’s new restaurant

”Lyst” in Vejle, Denmark.
Krister Bengtsson
Published 14-November-2019

One of the heirs of the famous Lego group, Morten Kirk Johansen, is behind the much anticipated new opening ”Lyst” in Vejle, Denmark. The restaurant opens today and has no less than two Nordic sommelier champions on the payroll: Rasmus Lunkov Marquart and Nina Højgaard Jensen.

“I’m just really excited for the project; it is going to be something new in Denmark. And we are finally going to have a wine list which is mixing extremely classical stuff with the more natural stuff in the market,” says Nina Højgaard Jensen who will work as sommelier next to Lunkov Marquart, who is also the restaurant manager.

The new restaurant will be setting a high bar in both design, gastronomy and wine. The restaurant is housed in the iconic Fjordenhus building on the waterfront in Vejle in central Jutland, designed by Olafur Eliasson. There are foragers roaming the countryside, just like for other New Nordic restaurants. But at Lyst you even have sound designers foraging for sounds in the landscape, to use in the restaurant.

The single 20-25 course set-menu is going to cost 2,300 Danish kroner (just over 300 Euro) with several beverage pairing options. The kitchen is headed by Daniel McBurnie, formerly at Michelin stars AOC and Hotel D’Angleterre in Copenhagen.

The founding Kirk Johansen family was bought out of the Lego empire in 2007. Morten Kirk Johansen is no beginner in restaurants, having been an owner of restaurant Remouladen in Vejle for many years.

Nina Højgaard Jensen and Rasmus Lunkov Marquart.

Nina Jensen’s name has become well-known in international restaurant circles after she came second in the ASI Best sommelier of the world championship in Antwerp this year. Both she and Rasmus Marquart are also Nordic sommelier champions.

Jensen previously worked at Kong Hans Kælder in Copenhagen, and we caught up with her in Reims before Lyst’s opening.

In the beginning, you mentioned that the wine list will mix classical and natural wines. Is that the modern way to do it?
“In my opinion, yes. I mean, to me, the modern approach of wine is if it’s good, it’s good. And then the production method doesn’t matter. Of course, we can see almost any winemaker works towards more biodynamic and let’s say more low intervention wines today. And I would say when I taste wines, and I like it, it’s very often biodynamic. But that’s not a rule.”

You have an heir from the “Lego family” backing this place, how is that visible and is it different from other places?
“We have a few restaurants in Denmark which are run by investors, Kong Hans and Geranium are very good examples of that. And of course, these restaurants, which Lyst is also a part of, are having the luxury of being able to say, okay, we want a good wine cellar from the beginning. Let’s start at a budget with X million, things like that you don’t do as a private person wanting to open a bistro or a restaurant.”

“So that, of course, is very unique. And also you don’t compromise anything on quality. With the interior, with the design, everything is perfection. And that is only enabled by the money. But that being said, Morten Kirk, the guy with the money behind this project, is a very nice guy. He really understands food, and he appreciates dining experiences, which is not a given for investors. So we’re very lucky to have him.”

We do not want to be snobbish, and we do not want guests to feel like they need to sit up straight in the chair

Will it be a fine dining experience?
“Food-wise it is very high end. It is a tasting menu with around 20 courses. So it is fine dining in that sense, but we really aim for a nice space to be in, with a very relaxed atmosphere at the same time. We do not want to be snobbish, and we do not want guests to feel like they need to sit up straight in the chair. We want them to have the feeling of taking off the shoes, having a good laugh. So in that way, it’s also a little bit mixed, I would say. But I think that’s general for fine dining nowadays, you can work towards a more comfortable atmosphere and still be in the very high end.”

Can you get all the wines you are thinking of? It’s not only about money to get the ones you want; you have to get the allocations too?
“You’re very right about that. I would say the importers have been very helpful regarding the allocations in most of the cases; there are very few exceptions where we’re not able to get it. Of course, we will need to wait until the next allocation lands, but we are on the list for most of it, which is fantastic. And I think that comes with both me and Rasmus having a great relationship with many of the suppliers. I really feel very supported from that side too, which is fantastic.”

Will you stock up with older vintages on the market as well?
“Only if the price is right. I mean, any monkey can make a wine list with way overpriced wines because they have bought it too expensively, right? That is not the goal. I want to have wines that are priced right for what it is. But we have been able to find some good back vintages for fair prices. So we will have a pretty neat selection of Piedmont from the beginning, for example.”

Will you have a wine or beverage pairing with the menu?
“I have always been a little bit tired of people in Denmark not thinking very broadly when it comes to the pairing, everybody’s doing wine pairing, which can be great, but it’s not very progressive. So we will be doing a beverage pairing, meaning that out of six or seven glasses, we may serve three wines if that is what’s suitable, then you might have beer, you might have sake, or a cocktail. So you’re really going to be exploring the whole alcoholic beverage scene.”

Finally, will there be any Lego in the restaurant?
“No, haha!”

Lyst in Vejle opens today, 14th of November, and is open Thursday to Saturday. It has not yet been reviewed to be in Star Wine List’s guides.

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