Three days in Copenhagen; where to eat
The land renowned for bicycles and beautiful people is rapidly becoming the restaurant mecca of Europe, if not the world. Since the mid-noughties, swarms of chefs and creative food concepts have descended on the city to lap-up the culinary credentials cultivated by Noma, its chef founder Rene Redzepi and his army of proteges.
Copenhagen has subsequently evolved into a foodie’s amusement park; bakeries, street food markets, hipster cafes and natural wine bars dominate almost every district, not to mention its collection of more than 20 Michelin stars.
Lucy Golding visited the city for a solo three-day trip and there weren’t enough meals in the day to dent her restaurant wish list but she had a pretty good go at it. Here are her Copenhagen culinary highlights.
You can’t miss the striking green art deco-style Standard building facing Inderhavn harbour, home to a trio of restaurants and situated on the edge of iconic Nyhavn.
The newest and most casual of the concepts is Mission, described as ‘a Mediterranean restaurant with a Californian mindset.’ Here, chef Alex Dadzis has created a vibrant menu of Mediterranean style tapas and pizzas with access to one of the city’s best views.
From the outside, Mission might look like it’s been designed for the Insta-crowds – but the food is far from surface-deep, serving beautifully constructed, colourful small plates with outstanding ingredients. I went for multiple sharing plates (which I shared with… myself); a buffalo cauliflower served with blue cheese cream and garlic sticks, the endive salad with apple salsa and the almond breadcrumb and onion compote served with flatbread, labneh, aubergine and herb salad. All so pretty on the plate and packed full of flavour, whilst the cleverly thought-out texture combinations are clearly something Dadzis is a dab hand at.
The pizza dough at Mission is made from ancient grains milled locally. The result is a beautifully thin, crispy light base and served with an array of interesting toppings. I tried the potato, goat’s cheese and rosemary – a must – washed down a crisp, cold glass of house rosé.
For something a little more Scandi, hop next door for Mission’s slightly more serious neighbour Almanack, which serves smørrebrød (open sandwiches) for lunch and a Nordic-influenced tasting menu for dinner, whilst sharing the same stunning harbour views. Or make a booking upstairs at the Michelin-starred Stud!o for a taste of contemporary Nordic cuisine and a 13-course experience menu from chef Torsten Vilgaard.
The Danes don’t mess about when it comes to smørrebrød; which one must not, under any circumstances, eat with one’s hands. For the most innovative open sandwich experience in the city, head to restaurant Selma.
Situated downtown, a short walk from the Copenhagen Lakes, the restaurant opened in 2018 and sees Magnus Pettersson serving-up smørrebrød with a contemporary twist. As the only smørrebrød spot in the city to have been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand, the interiors of Selma are kitsch, cosy and candlelit, whilst the menu offers smørrebrød as individual portions (price between 100DKK and 155DKK a pop, around £11.50-£18) or in ‘small menu’ form; a degustation experience of four smørrebrød bites and a dessert, as chosen by the chef.
I opted for the small bites and, as smørrebrød tradition dictates, herring was served first; delicately piled on rye bread alongside dill mayo, mustard seeds and pickled red onion with optional chaser of lemon, horseradish and apple schnapps. Then came an exquisite creation of new potato and crispy pig’s ear, followed by salmon and radish with a perfectly poached egg, and finally a chicken salad smørrebrød with beetroot and hazelnuts on fried rye bread to finish. All in all, an exquisite and creative immersion into smørrebrød, which as demonstrated by Pettersson, has immense versatility. Dessert was a delectably light, palate cleansing plate of clarified rhubarb, white chocolate ice-cream and cicely foam.
Breakfast and bakeries
I’d heard that the Danes don’t brunch like Londoners do, but I was determined to satisfy my Sunday fix so headed to the sleepy neighbourhood of Island Brygge for breakfast at Wulff & Konstali, a cute corner café with regular queues out the door.
One of four Wulff & Konstali cafés in the city, the breakfast menu offers a selection either five or seven items from an extensive list of every brunch speciality you could possibly imagine. It works as a sort of grown-up pick ’n’ mix, with some more unusual Nordic breakfast options including organic Vesterhavs cheese (a Danish gouda) served with apple and sea buckthorn, green salmon mousse and purple quinoa porridge.
If looking for something central, head to Atelier September, a short stroll from Kongens Have (the King’s Garden) and close to the main shopping stretch. If not just to gawp over the effortlessly chic interiors, but also to order the granola with zucchini jam and matcha (which is wonderful), followed by a poppy seed Remonce pastry for the road.
Copenhageners know what they like, and natural wine is in. In fact, you’ll be pushed to find a glass of the non-natural sort, which may or may not appease the masses as this unfiltered and therefore cloudier tipple is still to hit the mainstream in the UK.
Mother Wine, from the people behind the acclaimed Mother pizzeria in Vesterbro (and as of two years ago, also in Battersea Power Station), sells natural and organic Italian wines in a compact, welcoming little shop in the centre of town.
Swing by to try the shop’s frequently changing selection, where dashing manager Marco will be happy to give you a small tasting and talk you passionately through the portfolio. It’s worth keeping an eye on their Instagram for news of official tasting events and jazz nights. Mother itself, famed for using seawater in its dough, can be found in hipster Vesterbro.
From the outside, the 16-cover La Banchina, can only be described as a ramshackle blue shed, found tucked away on the canals of the city’s western Refshaleøen. Following the dreamy, deserted cycle along the canals from Nyhavn bridge, I parked-up in time for an early dinner.
As the sun begins to set, enviously cool Danes dangle their legs over the restaurant’s adjoining jetty as they sip natural wines, whilst the braver amongst them dive into the canal or sit around in towels in the restaurant’s adjoining eight-person sauna.
Opened in 2016 and headed-up by chef Kieran McLaughlin, La Banchina draws on its waterside location serving only fish and vegetable-based dishes and with an ethos deeply rooted in sustainability. Open all-day every day, the view across the canals is incomparable. The restaurant is flooded with a wonderful natural light and the cosy open kitchen creates a beautiful buzz about the place. In the evenings until the end of spring, enjoy the sensational experience feast, priced around £75. I was told that the lack of menu helps create a more mindful way of eating as my waiter told me ‘guests get fixated on details of the dish.’ This was more than made-up for by the extensive explanation from the chefs, who deliver plates to the tables. Throughout the summer (May-September), a more affordable a la carte menu is served instead.
And that I did. Stand-out dishes included a delicately poached langoustine, dotted a couple of surprisingly tasty ants, oyster ravioli and mussel broth and an exquisite umami-packed scallop, hazelnut and white truffle dish. I finished my final mouthfuls as the sun went down, looking over the burning fire-pit as the last of the swimmers gradually went inside.
La Banchina is ideal if like me you are flying solo (the views providing as much entertainment as the food) but it’s also a unique dining experience as you could hope to find in Copenhagen; a joyful haven of hygge serving up a beautifully-executed menu in one most special spots in town.
Lunch at the world-famous Noma would’ve cost the equivalent to my entire trip (and then some) – so instead I opted for lunch at its sister-site Barr; another gem from Mr Redzepi.
Housed within the 18th century warehouse and former Noma site until it moved up the road in 2018, the jaw-dropping interior design is as much of a draw as the food; think bespoke pine counter-tops, tables and chairs made from local trees grown, open beams, leather and clean lines. It serves as the perfect backdrop for the food, which is influenced by the countries of the North Sea.
After a light lunch, I went for two starters; the brown crab served with Chinese cabbage and butter sauce with beer, followed by the most perfect tartar I’ve ever eaten in my life. Not the minced variety, as I had expected (you can find the best minced tartar at Copenhagen neighbourhood spot Manfreds), but thinly sliced, layered over a portion of finely diced ramson and pickles.
The beer selection at Barr is stand-out and to showcase this further, the restaurant also boasts a more-casual no-reservations beer bar for those preferring a place to enjoy something snacky or weeknight stop-off for a schnitzel tea.
As a place I’d only previously visited after dark (due to its various retro-style hipster nightspots WarPigs, Gorilla and Jolene) little did I know that Copenhagen’s meatpacking district is fully-functioning during more civilised hours. Fiskebaren is the place to soak up those easy-going Vesterbro vibes, people-watch and play the ‘spot the most-tattooed waiter,’ game.
Originally opened in 2009; Fiskebar (aka the Fish Bar) is headed up by the supremely passionate British-born chef Jamie Lee who is orchestrating a 7-day-a-week operation, creating exceptional and sustainably seafood dishes and demonstrating some stonking skill and creativity.
Having recently been awarded a Bib Gourmand, the finesse of Fiskebare’s dishes are a surprising contrast from the raw, urban interiors of what was previously a butchery (the clue is in the name of the ‘Meatpacking District’) – but it works remarkably well.
I started with what can only be described as springtime on a plate; the most delicate dish of scallop, Norway cucumber, horseradish and nasturtium. This was followed by pan-fried hake with Jerusalem artichoke, spinach and green strawberries, pearl barley, buckwheat and roasted onion butter.
Dessert was phenomenal; an almost too-pretty-to-eat concoction of rhubarb with sesame miso and woodruff. It was beautifully light, cold in the centre and crafted with immense creativity and care.