Copenhagen’s extraordinary new food scene – A guide to Nordic cuisine
If someone 10 years ago had told me that Nordic cuisine would be the next big thing I would have laughed. I’ve always believed that you have to be born and raised in Denmark to enjoy most of our traditional dishes. Then, in 2004, a bunch of Scandinavian chefs decided they wanted to create brand new kitchen based solely on things that grows or live in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the waters surrounding us. I didn’t have the imagination to see how a project like that could end up as a success, but luckily these chefs where much more imaginative, talented and visionary than me.
Now, 8 years later, Nordic cuisine is on everybody’s lips and the greatest symbol of the projects success was when restaurant NOMA (NOMA is as contraction of the two Danish words “nordisk mad” meaning “Nordic food”) in April was named the world’s best restaurant for third year in a row.
Getting a table at NOMA is almost impossible and a dinner for two with wine will set you back at least 650€, but there are plenty of cheaper ways to get a taste of Nordic Cuisine in Copenhagen, below a handful of my favorite places for just that.
Browse Torvehallerne – Copenhagen’s new food market.
Behind the Nørreport train station you’ll find Copenhagen’s new food market – Torvehallerne. The train station is undergoing a major renovation, so the trains don’t stop at the station at the moment, but it’s only a short walk if you are in the city center. Once you get there you’ll see two large halls packed with stalls selling fish, vegetables, bread and delicacies from all over the world. Hunting for specialties from the Nordic kitchen you should look for 360° Nord, Torvehallernes mejeriudsalg and Bornholmerbutikken.
The 360° Nord stall is a collaboration of small local Scandinavian producer’s selling their products here. Wine, beer, juices, jam, flour are among the products on sale. Torvehallernes mejeriudsalg sells dairy products and specializes in Danish cheeses. Bornholmerbutikken has sampled all the best the South-Eastern located island of Bornholm. A box of liquorice, a bottle of rapeseed oil or a sausage makes a great souvenir.
Open sandwiches at Aamann’s
Looking at all that food can make you hungry, so it’s time to get some lunch. Take the ten minutes’ walk to Aamann’s located on Øster Farimagsgade behind The national Gallery of Denmark. Aamann’s lunch specialty is the traditional Danish open sandwiches (smørrebrød) in a modern version. Favorites are confit of pork with pickled prunes, walnuts, plums honey and vinegar and deer marinated in ale and juniper with Waldorf salad and bacon/nut crunch.
You can eat in the restaurant or take your lunch with you. On a sunny day the nearby Botanical Gardens or The Kings garden are perfect spots to enjoy your lunch.
At night Aaman’s serves up quality Nordic dishes, so you might want to return later.
Snack an organic hotdog.
If the walk back to the city center has renewed your appetite you should try an organic hotdog at the hotdog stand next to The Round Tower (Rundetårn). Copenhagen is famous for its hotdog and sausage stands, but this one stands out from the crowds due for its focus on quality and keeping everything organic. The buns are made from slow-fermented sourdough bread and you can choose between sausages of pork and beef.
Beer time at Mikkeller bar
If your legs are up to it you can walk to Mikkeller bar in around 20 minutes, alternatively grab a city bike and park it at the Copenhagen central train station and walk the 5 minutes from there. Besides being a bar Mikkeller is also Copenhagen’s most innovative micro-brewery. The focus of the beers is not solely Nordic, but if you are a beer lover you shouldn’t cheat yourself for a visit.
The bar looks nothing like you would expect of a beer bar. The rooms are light and the walls are painted white. On the 20 taps you can choose from a selection of Mikkeller’s own beers and a selection of local Danish and international brews. If you have difficulty in choosing among beers with names like Beer Geek Breakfast and Hop Burn Low, just ask. People here are passionate about beer and will love to advise you and supply you with some background.
Dinning at Restaurant Relæ
Jærgesborggade in the Nørrebro district is one of Copenhagen’s trendiest streets at the moment, not in a posh and polished way, but more in a cool city smart way, with small basement shops selling handmade shoes and jewelry, wine bars and small but ambitious restaurants, among them the world’s only porridge bar. Porridge isn’t the reason you should visit Jægersborggade though. Instead you should head to the Michelin stared Restaurant Relæ.
In my opinion there is nowhere else in Copenhagen where you get as much value for your money as you do at Relæ. The menu that changes monthly is a 4 dish set menu (you can choose between a regular and a vegetarian), you’ll have your table for two and a half hours and the price is 355 DKK or around 48€ (without wine). For that, you get a hard to beat taste of Nordic cuisine. The people at Relæ have a background from El Bulli and NOMA’s, so they definitely know how to cook and their best dishes wouldn’t be out of place on NOMA’s menu. You can reserve a table on Relæ’s website, chances of getting a table are best if you reserve a few weeks in advance.
If you can’t get a table, you can visit Relæ’s little brother Manfred’s food and wine bar across the street. The food is more rustic, cheaper and you enjoy it in the restaurant or as take away.
Enjoy, Bon appetit, Velbekomme
About The Author: This article is written by Stefan Russel. Stefan lives in Copenhagen and part time in Bali where here writes about Bali and rent out villas at Vilondo.com
Photo Credits – Flickr: #1 cristinable, #2 Bernt Rostad