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Skipperhuset: A look inside the royal laundry room turned contemporary bistro

Photo: Thomas Høyrup Christensen

The Danish restaurant Skipperhuset does not skimp on history and heritage. Literally meaning ‘The Skipper’s House’ in English, this modern Danish restaurant is situated in a historic building right on the waterfront of the idyllic Lake Esrum, some 30 kilometers north of Copenhagen.

The whitewashed, half-timbered walls, wooden ceiling beams and tiny windows with thin glazing bars instantly give away that Skipperhuset is a historical building. However, the odd-shaped floor-to-ceiling panels on the walls are what make this place truly unique: They are large ventilation panels originally used to air out the place back when it was the royal laundry room.

Skipperhuset - Esrum sø

Photo:Alex Nyborg Madsen, Baadfarten

This peculiar feature is due to the building’s location by Lake Esrum, roughly 30 kilometres north of Copenhagen. The lake was the site of the royal laundry operations in the 18th century, due to the extraordinary cleanliness of its water. During the day, the restaurant interior is lit up by sunlight dancing in the lake’s water, and during the evenings its westward view offers a spectacular view of the sun setting into the lake.

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Photo: Thomas Høyrup Christensen
SKipperhuset restaurant 02
Photo: Thomas Høyrup Christensen

The building complex, still formally a part of the nearby Fredensborg Palace, also housed ferry operations, the royal boathouse, and living quarters for the sailors (from which it derived its name). Since the 1990’s, it’s been home to several restaurants, although mainly in the summer.

SKipperhuset restaurant 03

Photo:Thomas Høyrup Christensen

A modern Danish bistro in historic surroundings

The building’s ageing shell is contrasted by the modern, understated Nordic furniture that recently moved in: Last summer, the lease was taken over by restaurateurs Rune Sonnichsen and Anders Stoffregen Pedersen. Both have grown up in the area and have enviable culinary careers behind them: Anders was sous-chef at Sletten, a legendary restaurant in an idyllic fishing village north of Copenhagen, while Rune has co-owned several restaurants in Copenhagen.

Skipperhuset. Rune Sonnichsen
Photo: Thomas Høyrup Christensen
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Photo: Thomas Høyrup Christensen

“I’ve known the place for a long time and have a special relationship to Skipperhuset and Lake Esrum, so it was a no-brainer when the lease became available last year. It could easily be another 20 years until a chance like this would come up, so I had to take it,” says Anders Pedersen, who will head up the new restaurant with Rune as head chef.

Together, they have transformed the historic building into a contemporary Danish bistro, open all year, and focusing on open-faced sandwiches (“smørrebrød” – a Danish lunch staple) during the day, and classical French-inspired bistro servings during the evenings.

Skipperhuset smørrebrød
Photo: Thomas Høyrup Christensen
Skipperhuset Smørrebrød 2
Photo: Thomas Høyrup Christensen

Two of Skipperhuset’s signature dishes: The potato sandwich, with truffle cream, pickled red onions, chives and roasted onions on rye bread, and “The Skipper Toast”, with crab, lobster and shrimp salad and fresh herbs on toast.

In the royal backyard

The restaurant is located on the grounds of Fredensborg Palace, the spring and autumn residence of the Danish monarch. And the royal heritage is ubiquitous: Members of the family are sometimes spotted taking walks on the grounds, and the late Prince Consort of Denmark, Henrik, was particularly fond of Lake Esrum and the maritime life found here.

“We’re practically running a restaurant in the royal family’s backyard, and the atmosphere here is something you can’t help but notice and think about. Aside from the royal history, you also get sucked into the natural surroundings. I feel this place has so much to offer, which also means we’re obligated to do the best we can while we’re here, and give something back with the food we make,” says Anders Pedersen.

At least once a week during the summer seaseon, they get a fresh delivery of vegetables from the palace kitchen garden, along with many other locally sourced produce, such as fresh mushrooms gathered by local forest explorers, or strawberries from nearby farms. They also blend their own schnapps (a strong distilled brandy, and a classic pairing with open-faced sandwiches).

Restaurant Skipperhuset is located by Fredensborg Palace, just over an hour north of Copenhagen by public transport.

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