Gro Spiseri is possibly one of the most unique places to eat in Copenhagen. Located on the third floor of a former car auction house, surrounded by the 600m² urban rooftop garden of ØsterGRO, the restaurant serves a five-course menu of seasonal, organic and biodynamic produce from farms in and around Copenhagen, with two seatings of only 25 people per night. To make the experience even more special, the dining takes place in a traditional glasshouse, where guests sit together at a long table, amid seedlings and plants, with a clear view of the night sky. We met up with co-founder Kristian to talk about the daily work on the rooftop.
"We wanted to create a place that connects the city
with the rural landscape and raises awareness
of where our greens come from and how we can
produce food with respect for nature."
What is your personal relationship with nature?
Kristian: I grew up in a small town in the south of Denmark and have always played in the surrounding forests. Being so close to nature has definitely shaped me and my later interest in forest engineering and landscape architecture. I’m fascinated by beautiful natural scenery, in particular the mountains – as Denmark is such a flat country. But I can’t deny that I have an equally great love for the city. I think it’s the combination of both that attracts me, and in a way that also reflects the place that we’ve created up here.
"In our restaurant, we exclusively serve seasonal, organic and biodynamic produce from farms in and around Copenhagen, while adding some ingredients from our own rooftop garden."
Tell us about this place. How did you get started?
Kristian: We founded ØsterGRO, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in 2014, and have been growing vegetables on the rooftop here ever since. After two years of a restaurateur couple running the restaurant up here, Livia and I decided to take over the place and open up our own eatery named Gro Spiseri, together with our amazing team of chefs.
What is the main idea behind this place?
Kristian: Inspired by the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm in New York, we wanted to create a place that connects the city with the rural landscape and raises awareness of where our greens come from and how we can produce food with respect for nature. It’s not our intention to compete with local, organic farmers. In fact, we want to draw attention to their amazing work, help make food valued again and contribute to a reduction of food waste. In our restaurant, we exclusively serve seasonal, organic and biodynamic produce from farms in and around Copenhagen, while adding some ingredients from our own rooftop garden.
Your CSA counts 40 members and the waiting list is long. What do you think makes this place so appealing?
Kristian: I think it’s the community and togetherness between us as people, the relaxing atmosphere, the beautiful setting and the fresh, organic produce every week that makes this rooftop farm such a wonderful place. Our members can use this place as their expanded balcony and decide for themselves, whether they want to actively participate in harvesting or just come by for the weekly pick-up.
What do you grow up here?
Kristian: Our concept is based on seasonal vegetables and fruits that we all know and that are easy to prepare. But we also want to create new experiences by showing people that a lot of our common vegetable plants have so much more to offer if we allow them to regrow, flower and set seeds. We also introduce vegetables that our members haven’t seen before, like a special variety of kale, for example. Besides that, we grow a lot of edible flowers, produce our very own honey and run a little chicken farm up here, to benefit from fresh, organic eggs. However, the vast majority of the vegetables that we process in our restaurant – and half the vegetables that we pass on to our members – are not from our place, as the acreage is far too small.
So where do you get the remaining produce from?
Kristian: We work together with many amazing farmers and producers in and around Copenhagen. Half of the produce in the vegetable boxes and a large amount of greens for the restaurant come from a small organic farm named Seerupgaard, located only 20 kilometers away from us. Another important supplier is Resilient Farm in Hvalsø, run by our agronomist colleague Teresa Fresu and her family. Since we focus on greens, there are only a few fish and meat dishes that make it onto our menu, such as wild pig, which we buy directly from a Danish hunter.
When you and Livia started Gro Spiseri, you had almost no experience in the restaurant industry. Tell us about how you built up your team.
Kristian: Our kitchen crew has more or less formed itself. We started out with Christian, who recommended Joel to us. And they both knew Corrado, Joao and Julia. So they basically had free rein in creating their own little team of chefs, who’d worked in kitchens such as Noma, 108, Manfreds and Bæst before.
The setting for your restaurant is a typical glasshouse. What’s it all about?
Kristian: The primary reason for having a glasshouse is of course the better climate, which allows us to grow seedlings in here, just before spring arrives. In our case, the glasshouse also functions as a cultural and social place, where our guests eat together. It’s sort of the center of our farm and, through its transparent character, it creates a direct link between the guests and the food that we grow.
What does a typical evening look like?
Kristian: Our guests sit together at a long table while the food is served family-style, intended to create a more relaxed and less formal atmosphere, bringing people together. Every dinner starts with a little introduction, where we talk about the place and the main idea behind it. During the evening, we serve a vegetable-based five-course menu and a selection of natural wines, beers and homemade non-alcoholic alternatives. A bonfire is set up outside to round off the evening in a relaxed and cozy way under the open sky.
For reservations, special events and further info visit the Gro Spiseri / ØsterGRO website .
And for more FOOD stories from Denmark, see our other stories from the country .
Photos: THE FRANK STORY