We just spent a fantastic few days in Copenhagen – five nights of the most interesting, novel and innovative food I’ve eaten in years.
Copenhagen wasn’t really on my top 10 “must visit” city destinations until a few years ago. Despite their history of Danish design and their persistently happy people (Denmark *keeps* winning international happiness surveys!) I had no real reason to put Copenhagen ahead of, say, a return trip to our once-home Venice, or a trip to snowy Reykjavik.
All that changed as I learnt more and more about the new Nordic cuisine, pioneering great taste, simplicity and locality combined with molecular gastronomy techniques. One word: NOMA.
We were keen to try to get a table at NOMA, even if we were going to have to remortgage our house (I sort of joke…), but it simply wasn’t to be. On the day that the reservations line opened for our booking period, around three months ago, The Man duly rang at 9am…to find himself 1048th in the queue. Uh oh.
Needless to say, we didn’t get that NOMA booking. At first I was disappointed – NOMA is scheduled to close this December, and who wants to miss the chance to dine somewhere which has twice been awarded world’s best restaurant?! But eventually, I am really glad we didn’t go. Copenhagen IS expensive, generally. And with NOMA coming in at about £220 pp (before any drinks), we really wouldn’t have been able to experience much of the rest of Copenhagen’s food scene.
So, we spent a NOMA-amount of money, but across a few places! Ta da! Brilliant!
I’ve created a guide which will serve you from 24h in Copenhagen upwards. It is a take on the original post I wrote for I Like Press. I hope it’s useful if you have any upcoming trips to Copenhagen on the horizon! I will also do a series of specific reviews for the restaurants we liked the most – so keep your eyes peeled.
On the agenda: wake up. Wander. Find breakfast.
We found some cracking breakfast haunts whilst in Copenhagen. We were lucky to have been given some great advice, and of course, we’d done our research too (couldn’t have told you anything about Copenhagen’s history, but I knew where to head to get a good coffee. Some might question my priorities…).
We spend a few mornings wandering through parks on our way to breakfast haunts, and this seems like a distinctly Copenhagen-themed thing to do. Cursed with quite a British climate, Copenhagenites seem to really make the most of every ray of sun they’re given. I was wrapped up in coats and gloves whilst they whizzed past on the bikes, bare legged! That’s a step too far, for me.
Head to Kongens Have and the Rosenborg Castle Gardens just near Indre By to appreciate the beautiful castle, and, according to Rene Redzepi, pick some cracking mulberries if you’re there at the right time of year.
Right through the Kongens Have at the top, you will come to the Botanical Gardens. On a sunny weekend morning they’re a great place to watch the world go by.
For breakfast, it depends what you fancy…
We headed first for Cafe det Vide Hus, a tiny cafe recommended by Redzepi in the article above. It serves Coffee Collective coffee, which seemed to be a safe bet across Copenhagen – all of the tasty breakfast places we went to served this, and they all provided a great cup of coffee.
We were shocked to find the breakfast selection very limited. We satisfied ourselves with ordering a great coffee and a boring looking little pastry called a Thebirkes, already daydreaming about lunch.
How wrong we were. Their poppyseed-covered exterior belies a honey-sweet frangipane/nutty centre, which makes for an absolutely scrum little pastry! Winner!
Cafe det Vide Hus also makes their own magnums. So, obviously, our breakfast would not be complete without one. We were on holiday, after all.
Second day was Sunday. On the Saturday we had strolled past a buzzing cafe next to the Danish Film Institute, which was ram-packed full of Copenhagenites munching down some brunch. Excellent idea, we thought! And so, Sunday lunch was spent at Sult.
This is an all-you-can-eat place, but not in a grubby, English way. Think classy, bottomless brunch (indeed, it did seem you could add champers to the whole situation for not a whole lot more…)
This was complete with lovely Danish pastries (newly discovered thebirkes included), a full range of fresh salumi and cheeses, english breakfast-style scrambled eggs, crisp pancetta and sausages, cereals, yoghurts, fruits…the list is endless. For about £25pp you can eat and drink all you want over a two hour session – perfect for that Sunday breakfast-cum-lunch appetite. Their fresh berry juices were delicious, as were their pancakes and their coffees (unlimited, like everything else – in reality, this breakfast is the price of three coffees and a pastry anywhere else, so if you have an appetite, I’d go for it)!
Grød we didn’t make it to, but I did want to try. I feel like this is an everyday (read, repentant for yesterday’s calories) sort of place. They serve all sorts of tasty grains in porridge format, and it is a very popular chain. I can’t imagine much better on a frosty midweek winter’s morning.
But where were we repeat customers?
Mirabelle is a bakery, set up to provide the bread for great Christian Puglisi restaurants Relae, Baest and Manfreds. But it’s a bakery with a difference, a bakery where you can sit in and eat their sourdough produce (including impressive croissants) whilst watching the master bakers hard at it.
They also serve warm breakfasts, but the croissants and bread really are their winning option. The plain croissants had about a zillion layers, so well laminated was the pastry.
Before our flight home we cycled here, a 20min journey, just to get sourdough for our plane picnic. It was worth it.
On the agenda: See more of Copenhagen. Sniff out lunch.
After breakfast is that contented time of full-bellied wandering, where beleaguered partners can be cajoled into a bit of shopping, or bored children can be enthused with the idea of a design museum. Take advantage of these precious hours!
Indre By is the place to go if you have loads of spare cash and like to spend it on haute couture. This is stylish, Scandi stuff, where cut and material trumps showy bling. Definitely worth a wander.
Another, more mass-market and thus affordable street for a shop is Strøget. This street has all your usual suspects (think H&M), but also houses the brilliant department store Illums Bolighus. This holds a similar charm to wandering through the floors at Liberty’s, in London: Scandi design is tastefully arrayed across four or five floors, from kitchenware to bedrooms to living rooms…everything you might need (even if you’re primarily snapping away to steal ideas for colour schemes and design choices for your new house…nudge nudge wink wink).
The Design Museum is another good call if you’re into understanding the history of those Danish-inspired pieces that are really in at the moment (and are sort of timeless due to their high quality and clean lines…).
For lunch on the first day we headed to Restaurant Schønnemann, one of the oldest eateries in Copenhagen and purveyors of excellent Smørrebrød (a sort of open sandwich on rye bread, usually bedecked with pickled fish and vegetables, and accompanied by an obligatory aquavit or schnapps). It was great; we felt really looked after and it was great to experience traditional Danish cuisine! Although so many of the modern restaurants around Copenhagen are inspired by their landscape and the foods that grow locally, this was a real expression of a food that’s been enjoyed for centuries here.
Second, we headed to Manfreds. Manfreds is part of the group of Christian Puglisi ventures including Relae, Baest and Mirabelle. It thus has great sourdough bread (courtesy of the bakers) and has the class and finesse of Relae, without the prices. It is also the most laid back atmosphere you could find for a lunch spot.
Opt for the Chef’s Selection – 5 dishes handpicked for you by the chef, for around £20 pp. Highlights included a lovely courgette salad, the best Italian-inspired salad I think I’ve ever eaten (think aged ricotta, tomatoes and basil), and beef tartare (though I sadly couldn’t join in the fun on this one).
The restaurant is predominantly organic, so the wines are fresh, natural wines. If you haven’t experienced these before, you might be in for a bit of a shock – at first taste they seem almost homebrewed, with a really strong fruit fermentation in the mouth. But the more you taste, the more you see the subtlety that these wines can offer too. They’re definitely worth a try, and are what many of the Copenhagen restaurants we frequented have on the menu at the moment. That said, I won’t be abandoning a rich and ripe Malbec or a fresh, mineral Picpoul anytime soon (though I have indeed abandoned them, at least in any more than a wistful sip, for the time being! Keep your eye on the blog for more on that situation…)
On the agenda: Making the most of the season. Enjoying a beer. Finding dinner.
Copenhagen is great at beer. No jokes, the options are endless, whether you like a hoppy IPA, a citrus sour, a coffee stout or a brett-infested wheatbeer. As above, I was partaking of no more than a sip of any of these – but I can confirm, they were tasty. Sad times.
We headed for Brus, the To Øl brewery literally opposite Mirabelle, and 1 door down on the opposite side from Baest. You could literally spend a whole food-day on this teensy road, without taking more than about 50 steps. IDEAL. Great beers are looking at you wherever you go, but another place we spent time drinking (eating too, actually) was Paper Island (Papieroen) on Christianshavn, where there is a massive foodie warehouse filled to the brim with pop-ups and stalls selling all the food and drink under the sun! We enjoyed beers and fresh cane sugar lemonade, as well as duck confit burgers, moroccan flatbreads with chicken stew, pulled pork burgers and creme brulee donuts. Winner. This is a great value place for tasty food, though you’re more likely to get food from across the world than anything specifically Danish.
We enjoyed the afternoon sun like real Copenhagenites would. Look at me – even took my jumper off!
There’s plenty to do to keep you occupied in Copenhagen. Most of the residents zip around by bike, and I definitely recommend hiring yourselves one (you can either hire the electric hire bikes which have stations distributed across the city – beware, they’re a little heavy – or head for a cycle hire shop to get a normal bike. Like a normal person. Just sayin’).
On Østerbrogade, a relatively unprepossessing street, you’ll find the amazing Normann showroom – all of that Danish design under one roof. Think design shop-cum-art gallery, as you wander around basement concept rooms that are all pink, mirrored, and with seaside sounds sloshing around, or plushly lines with thick carpet. It’s worth a look around even if you don’t have a few grand to splurge on a fab sofa!
Copenhagen is also well-known for its innovative florists. We headed to Bering, an amazing florists which filled me with delight and inspiration for my new project, Pollendine’s, which is soon to be launched! I’m sure I’ll bore you with it soon.
That smell of blooms and green, cut foliage is just such a special scent, I think…and seeing people being innovative with flowers and flower design is so inspiring!
You’re tummy may well be rumbling by now. Even if it’s not – it’s time for dinner! We visited Naert – a small restaurant playing with Nordic flavours and simple yet friendly, non-precious fine dining. Although it was a little more clunky than the other amazing modern Danish food we experienced and not everything was quite on-key (the prawn dumplings for starter were accompanied by a broth which overpowered them, and the pork wasn’t quite there), the dessert was astounding – an apple and juniper pastry layered dish (a bit like baclava but without the sweetness), accompanied by pine oil and buttermilk icecream dusted with dried celery powder. It was like Christmas had climbed into my mouth to stay. It could’ve had a little more apple to bring up the sweetness levels – but it was the first thing to make us really go ‘wow’.
I wish we could have visited Relae, Baest and Amass, too – but 1. there is only so much time, and 2. there is only so much money! One has to choose wisely!
Next up was the beast of all beasts – 108.
108 is a new venture only a couple of months old, co-founded with Rene Redzepi. Just around the corner from NOMA in Christianshavn, 108 is a slightly less formal (and less expensive) younger sibling of NOMA. We had possibly the best meal we’ve ever eaten there. Keep your eyes on the blog for a whole 108 review – because I don’t have enough space to get you salivating here. I’ll link it when it’s done, but suffice to say – if you ever go to Copenhagen, you *must* go to 108!
Sometimes all of this eating out is too much, right? Wrong. Well, I suppose it could get a bit much if we’d stayed a little longer. One fab option is to head for Torvehallerne Market, a great indoor/outdoor market with artisan bakers, cheesemongers, grocers, vintners, charcuterie sellers…pretty much anything you’re going to need for a tasty, tasty tea at home made with minimal effort.
That was my whistlestop tour of Copenhagen! We had such a great holiday, and came back poorer financially but richer for our food experiences and the wonderful things we discovered and enjoyed!
Keep your eyes on the blog for my 108 review – aka, best food ever. It’s hard to revisit it, even just through pictures, knowing we might never again have the money to visit. SIGH. What a hard life. haha x