You’re probably familiar with Danish cookies or open faced sandwiches as a worldwide known specialties of Danish cuisine, but there’s more to it.
Danish traditional cuisine is based on simple, rural ingredients like meat, fish, potatoes and gravies. Nothing exciting, rather boring and dull.
However, in the past 15 years the Danish chefs have mastered these simple, local and organic ingredients in a way nobody could foresee. The term New Nordic cuisine was born in Denmark and it’s highly praised to this day. So much, that Copenhagen alone counts 23 stars in 17 restaurants. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic situation we were not able to participate in any of the starred restaurant, so we walked less starry path of both traditional and international cuisine.
Nordic/Scandinavian tradition to start your day is black coffee. Only. However, if you really like to get your energy flow your will grab grøt or grain porridge. Porridge is so praised in these parts of the world that it’s eaten by all generations, with or without teeth, different occasions and in variety of forms. There’s a shop with the name Grød (porridge in Danish) that serves only, well you’ve guessed – grøt.
One of their spots is located in the Torvhallerne food hall.
This urban, covered marketplace featuring stalls with local produce, gourmet foods, beverages and desserts opened in 2011.
The first green marked in Copenhagen that opened in the late 19th century in the same location later moved to another part of the city, although veggies and flowers were still sold at the spot. The idea of opening a covered market, like the one in Stockholm, existed for many years, until it finally opened.
Since we, well at least me, eat porridge on a daily basis (some days :),) we opted for a completely new thing. The chia seeds pudding, something that’s a thing here in Norway too.
Chia seeds are native to central and southern Mexico and have many healthy beneficial features. The seeds can absorb up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked so they make perfect for so called breakfast puddings mixed with nuts or/and fruits. Rather tasty meal, but not so satisfactory unlike other Danish options, like smørrebrød.
Smørrebrød is a very Scandinavian thing. If literally translated it’s basically butter and bread but it’s more than that.
The base for these open faced sandwiches is buttered rye bread (rugbrød), a thick, dark brown bread, topped with cold cuts, pieces of meat or fish, cheese, veggies, eggs or potatoes.
Schønnemann’s is one of Copenhagen’s oldest eateries. Opened in 1877, the restaurant still has the vintage vibe with its dark wooden panel, green walls, white table linen and hand painted plates.
Only lunch is served at the restaurant but it was definitely worth making the rest of our plans according to that.
We tasted several different topped smørrebrøds of which my favourite were the ones with fish; eel and herring. But probably because the herring was fried. Anything fried tastes better, we think 🙂
The usual drink accompanying rich open face sandwiches is a traditional Scandinavian hard spirit made out of potato. Called akvavit or akevit it depends if you order it in Norway, Denmark or Sweden but the main ingredient is this root vegetable.
Although the first potatoes were planted in Denmark’s Royal Botanical Garden in 1642, Danish farmers did not start growing it until almost a century later, around 1720. It’s believed that farming of potatoes was introduced either from England and Ireland or via Huguenots emigrating from France.
Few years back the potato production in Denmark totaled some 1.6 million tonnes while each year the average Dane consumes about 73 kg of potatoes. Quite a lot. But the potatoes are an an important part of the national diet and the Danes are quite proud of them, to that extend that they even have a holiday dedicated to potato know as kartoffelferie.
The Danes are quite proud of the first yearly batch of potatoes called the nye danske kartofler. The earliest that can be plucked from the greenhouses comes in March. They are usually small and when cooked soft but possible to cut into slices without falling apart which makes them perfect for the smørrebrøds.
With potatoes often comes meat and the most common version of it are frikadeller or meatballs that we had to chance to try at a another typical old school restaurant called Husmann’s vinstue
Traditionally, frikadeller, are made from minced veal, pork or beef (or a blend of two of these meats), chopped onions, eggs, milk (or water), bread crumbs (or oatmeal or flour), salt and pepper. They are then formed into balls, flattened and pan-fried in some form of animal fat or vegetable oil.
Although a land on the sea most of the shrimps comes Greenland or the North Atlantic. Fjord shrimp from Denmark are a seasonal and less common delicacy: very small and flavorful, about the size of the smallest fingernail.
The shrimps are often used for shrimp cocktails (rejecocktail), shrimp salads (with mayonnaise) and shrimp terrine but we were more interested in a common Swedish dish named after Danish town Skagen.
A starter and a food dish, toast Skagen consists of two pieces of toasted bread, mayonnaise, and many prawns. Very delicious.
The funnies or the weirdest thing about food research that we’ve done before heading to Copenhagen, was finding out how much or how little fish products was eaten in the past. A land by the sea exported much of its fish products and ate meat.
The things drastically changed in the past ten years or so when the local chefs started introducing local products in their meal combinations.
Located in the old city meatpacking district Kødbyens Fiskebar was among the first restaurants that transformed the industrial part of the city into a hip destination filled with restaurants, galleries and nightlife.
This fish restaurant is even located inside the old fish market and it kept its original look when it comes to the interior design. Very cool. And so are their meals.
We specifically came for the fish and chips that are actually made of leftovers of Atlantic cod fish used for some fancy dishes. The extra tasty touch to the deep fried fish is that it’s smoked. Smoked and deep fried, can’t go wrong.
Before heading for the, what was supposed to be the best kebab in town, we tried one more fish dish, this one a rather unusual but very delicious combination of baked calamari and beetroot.
Kebabistan is a mini-chain that offers middle eastern dishes like shwarma and kebab that Debeli was not thrilled by it at all. Although we reviewed several good recommendations and decided to go to another part of the city, just to try it.
Food trucks that serve hot dogs (pølsevogn) are quite common street food option in Copenhagen. They serve variety of pork sausages, including Denmark’s renowned red sausages, røde pølser. We headed for the recommended options at Døp (Den økoloiske pølsemand) hot dog cart that, apparently, serves the best hod dogs in the world.
According to our opinion, not even close.
The sausages, both pork sausage with wild garlic and the goat one were tasty without a doubt but the buns were to dry and crumbly. The toppings didn’t help and I had to watch not to catch the ketchup on my skirt 🙂
But. But. On the other hand, when we talk about street fast food options like these, the burgers at Gasoline Grill were absolute delight.
This former gas station now burger joint was located right across our accommodation / hotel so we jumped there after the flight before checking in for a late lunch. The tricky part is that the grill opens at 11am and they close when the burgers are sold out. We were scared that we would be left empty handed but luckily for us, everybody skipped the sunny Sunday in the city and that meant more burgers for us.
The owner of the GG was working in USA for a while where he tried and fell in love with the classical American burgers, so he decided to bring them back home. The mission was a success. In spring of 2017 GG made it to Bloombergs top 27 best burgers in the world as the only one in Northern Europe.
As a multicultural city, Copenhagen food scene is rich in variety of international eateries and it would be a shame not to try some of them and we would like to pass forward the best recommendations that were our guiding light.
Kiin Kiin Bao Bao serves traditional Vietnamese steamed buns in variety of options. When sitting at the table, we got a piece of paper and a pen to fill our order (probably because of Covid-19 measurements) so we went with a couple of starters and whole lot of buns.
We went for all six buns from the bun menu and were delighted with most if not all of them. The stuffing was rich and tasty and the buns properly cooked, not to sticky and not dry.
The Mexican street food stall Hija de Sanchez located at Torvehallerne has been ranked Europe’s best street food so it was self explanatory to grab few bites for breakfast.
We dropped by the stall who’s owner and the chef behind it, Rosio Sanchez, used to work as a dessert chef at Copenhagen’s Noma uses only the best ingredients for her dishes. Meat and veggies are local, but the corn for the corn flour tortillas is imported all the way from Mexico.
Everything is made from scratch right at the spot and it tastes delicious. We tried the daily taco offer and we couldn’t decide which one were the best. Runny eggs, pulled pork or ceviche so we had to order another portion of the same. Runny eggs with pork would be my number one 🙂
We had some typical Mexican drinks with tacos, because drinking culture is big, not just in Mexico but in Denmark as well. Especially when it comes to beer. You probably know that drinking beer in the old days was safer than drinking water, as it could have been contaminated. Well, the water is clear and pure these days but the beer tastes better.
One of the most famous Danish beers is pilsner from Tuborg, a Danish brewing company founded in 1873. Since 1970 Tuborg has been part of the Carlsberg Group that now owns the largest Norwegian beer company, Ringnes.
Den Gamle Købmand is an all purpose grocery store with a huge selection of beers that we stumbled upon. Debeli went in for a couple of refreshing drinks, and came out after a while. It was just too hard for him to pick a drink (we were on our way to a dinner so there was no point on grabbing more than one bottle).
Debeli went for AZ Ale from Refsgivninge brewery considered to be one of Denmark’s smallest, but the most famous breweries at the same time and I was surprised by the famous Australian Bundaberg ginger beer. Seen it a couple of times in Oslo, but couldn’t get my hands on it. Until Copenhagen 🙂 Very tasty, btw and now they have several other types of non-alcoholic drinks that they produce and sell.
Sea buckthorn is a very common plant in Northern Europe (Denmark, North of Germany, Estonia), so it’s no wonder the locals use it for making jams, sauces, cocktails, and ice creams. The flavour is quite bitter therefore perfect as a summer refreshment.
We tried buckthorn cocktail in one of the few social eateries in Copenhagen, a very popular trend that many Scandinavian countries are following. Broens Gadekøkken is one of those. As their official web says it’s a meltingpot of street food kitchens and bars that serve tasty food and beverages from all over the world.
Østerberg Ice Cream shop was said to make the best ice cream in the city. We have to admit that we agree on that. Tried sea buckthorn, lemon and coffee ice cream.
Finding a fine dining place that serves food in a time of pandemic was, well at least challenging. But Debeli likes challenges. This time we had to skip some of the must-eat-place like Noma or Geranium so Debeli took us to Geist.
On our last day in Copenhagen we went there for a dinner. After a serious of disappointments with some of the recommended places we were quite excited about this one. It had good reviews, a nice colourful web site (I like that :),), the location was perfect, just 15 minutes walk from our hotel, the staff was generous and the interior was nice. In the end it turned out that was the only thing that I will remember.
We’re not usually picky about our food and we eat everything, but this time we had some minor requirements that we have informed the staff upon our on line reservations. They kind of oversaw it, so we had to repeat it few times and change our orders. Maybe it was a misunderstanding or ignorance, but we cleared it at the end. Nevertheless, we were not so over surprised and delighted with the food. Sure it was good and edible but most of the dishes was completely unsalted. It’s like the kitchen never tried the dish before sending it out. My favourites were young peas and pasta. Of course.
Conclusion: what to say about food scene in Copenhagen in the end? It’s definitely rich and colorful, but the recommendations were not something that lead us the good way. Hope next time will be better.