I had never been to Denmark until January this year, when a business trip became the excuse to stop over for the weekend and enjoy the Danish capital with @bmcboy. Yes it was cold, but we got some beautiful sunshine too which allowed us to explore it on foot walking around for a few hours and taking in the sights and the food, of course.
The centre itself is spread out but indeed walkable. We chose to stay at a pretty 4* boutique hotel at the edge of Nørreport, the Kong Arthur hotel. Strange Arthurian theme aside, the hotel was bright, with clean spacious rooms and a welcoming lobby and bar, plus a courtyard and conservatory breakfast room which I bet will be perfect in the summer. From the hotel, it’s easy to walk north to trendy Nørrebro, east towards the famous mermaid and south, towards the centre proper. The nearest metro station is about 5 minutes walk, and it’s a useful and fast direct link to the airport.
During our weekend in the city, we decided to start our walking tours in the middle of nowhere (around Amagerbro), where @bmcboy was after a famous custom bikes shop called Wrenchmonkees. We did take a taxi there, and after a chat and some photos we walked towards hippy freetown Christiania, having heard it was an odd but really friendly place where weed is sold freely, children play happily and everyone lives outside of the local government but in a commune style manner. We hated it. We felt like walking on the set of the movie Christiane F… dodgy looking men completely off their trolley, dogs scavenging through rubbish in the winter sun, pot smoke everywhere, a screaming young man with bleeding forehead, this really was not what I expected and we made our way out almost immediately! We continued our walk in Christianshavn, much prettier and quieter, with quaint period building, canals and house boats and quirky coffee shops. In need of a hot beverage and a snack, we stopped in Sweet Treat, a lovely coffee shop with hot food, healthy snacks and friendly service which I would recommend for breakfast. Across the water we went, and ended up in equally pretty but more touristy Nyhavn.
During my work visit, I had enjoyed lunch at the oddly named Royal Smushi: Danish open sandwiches prepared in the shape of sushi and maki. The building is heritage and very interesting (note the downpipes), the dining room is a little strange, and they sell cakes as well as smushi yet I must admit the food was pretty good. With @bmcboy, we opted to try lunch in the city’s main food market called Torvhalle: two indoor areas full of attractive food stalls selling everything from fresh fish to confectionery, and a couple of coffee shops including Coffee Collective which had been recommended by a couple of friends (and which makes indeed very good coffee). Lunch in the market was very disappointing, perhaps we picked a bad stall but our ‘fresh fish‘ sandwiches were bland, the rye bread was stodgy and were pretty forgettable.
The following day, after a necessary stop at the Little Mermaid (swamped by tourists), we walked across town taking in more sights such as Amalienborg and the Marble Church, and again Nyhavn and the King’s New Square. We paid a quick visit to the National Museum (which has a great medieval art collection), and passed by Tivoli Gardens (sadly closed at this time of year), past the uber stylish (and uber expensive) Nimb hotel and the stunning Axelborg staircase, we then ended up in what is called the Meat Packing district, where once it was mainly, you guessed it, butchers’ shops and now trendy cafe’s and restaurants. Visiting on a Sunday lunchtime, the area was quite dead and frankly, not that pretty. The walk from the beautiful central station is not the nicest and the area itself is a little run down yet we have been assured that at night it becomes the ‘place to be’, full of young people out and about, drinking and generally having plenty of fun. We had brunch in sustainable Bio Mio, a large space housed in a former Bosch storeroom, with plenty of dining area, kitchen in sight and organic products. Here the food was really good and the service very friendly, so worth the trip to the area.
We did better in the evenings: on our first night we started out with a delectable botanical cocktail at cool bar Ruby, located on Ved Stranden right across from the Christiansborg palace. Their cocktail menu changes seasonally, the place has a cosy old style look yet the atmosphere is relaxing and friendly. From here, we hailed a cab and made our way to the north side where we had booked a table at natural wine bar & restaurant Manfreds, one of chef Christian Puglisi’s outposts. As we arrived late thanks to my book keeping skills, our table was gone yet we could sit at the ‘bar’ which overlooks a busy and pretty small kitchen. We liked Manfreds, and although the menu is mainly based on vegetarian and biodynamic vegetables, the flavours we experienced were skillfully achieved by the use of olive oil, nuts, dairy ingredients and herbs. My favourite dish of the night was without a doubt Roasted Jerusalem artichokes with skyr dollops on top and powdered seaweed sprinkled over.
We however saved the best for our last night. I had booked Amass out of a variety of really interesting places, and I hope to go back to CPH one day to try them (Noma, one of them of course). Amass is located not far from the motorcycle shop we had visited actually but even further on, right by the sea and the best way to get here is a taxi (locals I am sure, can get here with their own car). It’s no big deal and only really 10 mins or so. Amass is a concrete building, and inside, the space is massive, with a downstairs main dining area and kitchen and upstairs private dining areas. Large glass windows look right across the water to the city, and I am sure in the summer when the days are longer, it must be really beautiful to gaze outside while dining. When we visited it was pitch black until the nightly bonfire was lit, which spread a warm glow towards the room. We decided not to go for the tasting menu, a decision I regretted as soon as we had the bread: fermented potato bread with kale dip. Then the starter: a small roasted potato with parsley, burnt yogurt crumble.
My main was Danish monkfish with butter and seaweed salad, roasted Brussels sprouts with slow cooked egg yolk. It seemed a bit bonkers to match sprouts to fish but it worked and it was a great dish, with plenty of textures and saltiness. Bmcboy opted for a meaty 7 weeks aged beef with crunchy beef fat cubes (amazing), middle rib cooked for 36 hours at low temperature, and he really liked it (and he’s fussy!). I then had the ‘standard’ dessert (Caramel ice cream, chestnut and cep mushroom oil, deliciously salty and savoury but sweet at the same time) while he loved his Black pepper ice cream, biscuit and infused fruit. He can’t have mushrooms so the chef had prepared this for him and we were told the fruit had been infused for hours in ‘anything the chef could find’ from brandy to sugar. It was of course, divine. With the bill, we had some out of the oven mini lovage madeleines with lovage jam and olive oil. I caved in and devoured a couple. Amass is a fantastic place: the style and the very friendly but professional service reminded me of Restaurant Story; chef Matt Orlando’s skills are extremely refined and I cannot recommend Amass more. I loved it.
During my work visit, I had had a chance to visit a lot of restaurants and bars, some of them even try (such as Nimb’s bar). Out of the many places I visited, I would love to have a chance to dine at 1* Studio in the interesting deco building called the Standard (which is the location of more restaurant including local fare Almanac); I would also like to try bbq restaurant Kul in the meat packing district and regional cuisine small and cosy Kofoed; Host near our hotel also looked lovely for an informal meal, while 2* Geranium would be perfect for a special evening, elegant as it looked. What was great about visiting so many eating venues is that most of them use locally sourced ingredients, sustainable and organic and promote Danish modern cuisine with skills and experience.
While the city itself has some odd quirks (bicycles rule, be careful when you cross the road!; you can’t use notes when buying a metro ticket, only loose change; there are graffiti everywhere), and it is fairly expensive (yes, more than London), it certainly has many beautiful buildings and palaces, pedestrian streets which are a pleasure to walk and a mix of old and new which makes it a charming city for sure. The food was for me a big part of the experience, and it’s an incredibly lively and interesting gourmet scene. I am looking forward to visiting again!
Thank you The Daily Out for the recommendations; a comprehensive blog on Copenhagen is from Mulia here.