Eating and Drinking and Eating Some More in Copenhagen

Written by Katie Parla on September 6, 2011

It’s no secret that Copenhagen is one of the world’s best dining cities at the moment. Still, I wasn’t prepared for such a mesmerizing enogastronomic landscape. In fact, I’m still reeling and yesterday began plotting a December return. It’s difficult to sum up the city’s food culture after only a week there, but the dominant characteristics I found included: a maniacal attention to quality, a penchant for foraging, dedication to sustainable and biodynamic ingredients, and a tendency to drink both quality and quantity. If it weren’t for my perennial plummet into seasonal affective disorder, I would already have packed up and moved north.

Gravlax at Ved Stranden 10

Copenhagen is an exciting place to drink, as well as to eat, and I did lots of both. Mikkeller Bar became one of my regular pub hangouts. They serve 20 craft beers on tap, including around 10 of their own brews. They offer a few savory snacks to choose from. A beer with dried sausages and gherkins was my habitual afternoon snack. For outstanding natural wines and a greater selection of sustenance, Ved Stranden 10 can’t be beat. You can read my recent post about my unhealthy obsession new favorite wine bar here. I also quite enjoyed the Italocentric natural wine bar Terrioristen in Nørrebro. For caffinated beverages, make for Coffee Collective, which reputedly makes the best coffee in Copenhagen (having tried it and many of its competitors, I wholeheartedly agree).

“Rene’s Favorite” – smoked halibut – at Schønnemann

From what I gathered during my short visit, Copenhagen is the smørrebrød (buttered-bread-open-sandwich) capital of the world. If that is the case, then Schønnemann is Amalienborg Palace. This place does the best smørrebrød in town (based on an intense taste testing of several top spots). The traditional old establishment dates back to 1877 and the decor has scarcely changed. The sandwiches are made of the highest quality ingredients and are a bit more expensive than the average (they start at 59DK/$11/€8), though they are well worth it. A bonus: the service is unbelievably nice. Be sure to order a couple of smørrebrød per peson as well as a beer and some snaps, which I am certain burns off all the fat. Book well in advance.

Another famous smørrebrød spot, Aamanns does gorgeous open faced sandwiches in a contemporary environment. Kanal Cafeen, on the other hand, is an old school place decked out in historical prints and nautical paraphernalia. It’s a fine place to enter a food coma, ideally after a visit to the nearby Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Booking recommended.

Mackerel and lovage at Relæ.

At Relæ Sicily-born Christian Pugliese, former sous chef at Noma, serves creative Danish cuisine St the Nørrebro neighborhood. His restaurant serves a prix fixe menu for 345DK ($/€). On a recent trip I had a sensational meal: mackerel, lovage and salted gherkins followed by baked celery root, black olives and pickled seaweed, then Havervadgård lamb and turnips and concluded with blueberries, coconut and black pepper ice cream. A goat cheese course can be added for an additional 85DK. There is also a vegetarian menu and wine pairings available, for 345 DK each. Booking is essential (you can do so online at the Relæ website). I recommend booking a place at the bar so you have a view into the open kitchen. Pugliese also owns Manfreds, a sort of gourmet cafeteria across the street. I didn’t have the chance to visit it this time around, but it is at the top of my list for December!

After four consecutive days of devouring everything in sight research, I visited AOC, a very formal, contemporary restaurant with 1 Michelin star. Sadly, I wasn’t up for the whole 10-course shebang, and settled on the 4-course menu instead. The starter–grey mullet rolled mushroom powder and served with raw mushrooms, mussel cream and double cream with oak oil–was a highlight. The entire meal was interesting and flawlessly executed. I will definitely return.

At the oposite end of the spectrum, I thoroughly enjoyed Døp, the organic hot dog stand. The center of Copenhagen is packed with hot dog carts, but this one serves products made from Hanegal‘s organic meat. A great snack. Or lunch. I enjoyed two spots in the meatpacking district for a moderately priced dinner: Fiskebaren was nice for wine and some fish and Paté Paté serves a brilliant seared foie gras with a fried egg.

Charred onions with onion broth and thyme oil.

Saving the best for last…Noma has been named the world’s best restaurant on the San Pellegrino list for the past two years running. The food, atmosphere and experience actually exceed the hype. My meal there last week (you can read about it here) was one of the best of 2011; I enjoyed it so much, I booked a table for December, too. Yes, I am clearly insane.

The jury is still out on Geist and Grønbech & Churchill. Both of these restaurants opened in 2011 and, while there were a couple of great dishes at both (I can’t get Geist’s dessert of milk chocolate and porous day-old bread out of my head), overall they were not nearly as well-conceived nor well-executed as many of the others enjoyed last week.

Here’s a round-up of my favorite spots in town. Enjoy!

View Copenhagen in a larger map

A very special thank you to Caput Mundi Cibus and Very Good Food, without whose advice I would have gone hungry.

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