Over the last decade, much has changed on the Scandinavian food scene, and its influence really has reached across the world.
Copenhagen is now the epicenter of the food scene across Scandinavia and beyond. To celebrate, Copenhagen Cooking organise an annual festival of food with an agenda packed full of events to suit all ages and interests, and to celebrate all things foodie in Copenhagen and the wider area. I recently headed off to Copenhagen to see what was happening, and to bring to you a selection of recommendations for things to do and where to eat.
Street food and markets
Torvehallerne is the largest food market in Copenhagen. Occupying two large halls with plenty of outside seating and street food in the surrounding areas, it is absolutely worth a visit, even for a look if you are not buying. It’s a real mix ingredients, food to go and food to enjoy in. A coffee at Coffee Collective is an absolute must, too.
Papirøen is also an essential stop for any foodie. Occupying the former newspaper storage warehouses down on the river near noma, it’s now an indoor street food destination, featuring lots of interesting independents who all sell food to go from inside the warehouse. There is a large choice of cuisines for every taste and plenty of seating both in and outside. With a strong focus on sustainability and recycling, the individual food stalls are made from reclaimed and upcycled materials, making it an unusual and eye catching destination.
There is so much going on in the way of fine dining in Copenhagen at the moment. Most famously, there is noma – voted the best restaurant in the world in the World’s Best Restaurants awards. Head chef René Redzepi is generally credited as being responsible for the revolution in Nordic cuisine, and it’s explosion throughout the world. If you can get in, you’re very lucky, and will have to book a couple of months in advance, but you can try for a last-minute cancellation on the website.
Next, is Relæ and its sister restaurant Manfred & Vin. I only made it to Manfred & Vin, whose menu changes every day, depending on what is fresh and in season. Instead of ordering from a menu, diners are brought a succession of small but delicious dishes – six out of seven were vegetable-based. The food was fantastic – interesting and different. Flavours were fresh and vibrant. Standout dishes included large but thin slices of raw kohlrabi, topped with goat curd and black pepper. The lamb belly, cooked to perfection, served with chargrilled aubergine slices and topped with an anchovy sauce and dill was one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time.
Tårnet is a newly opened restaurant housed in the tower of the Danish parliament building. Occupying a space that was, until very recently, completely unused, so the decision was taken by MPs to open the space up for everyone to enjoy. The results are quite remarkable, and a meal here is such a great experience. First, you must take the lift up to the viewing platform in the tower for one of the best views in the city. The menu is based around the best Danish produce, sourced from all over Denmark. Food is light, fresh and full of flavor. The wine list is interesting, too.
Coffee, cake and lunch
The café in the Copenhagen National Museum is a wonderful place to stop for lunch. They have a bountiful buffet on offer every day, featuring a delicious selection of meats, fish and salad. They offered an interesting ‘Money Menu’ to celebrate Copenhagen cooking, with dishes inspired by the artefacts in the Museum featured on Danish Krone notes.
Claus Meyer is a founding partner of noma, and the head of his small eponymous chain of bakeries and cafes. The food and coffee is excellent, the coffee is seriously strong (and good), and the cafes sell a really interesting range of goodies to take away. An absolute must!
Lagkagehuset is another chain of bakeries found dotted around Copenhagen. They offer a good-value selection of lunch items and cakes – although I think the cakes are their strongest offering.
Fiskebar is also highly recommended for lunch – offering a lovely selection of fish, shellfish and fine wines.
Beer and bars
If you enjoy beers, then Viktoriagade is the place to go. Try Øl & Brød – owned by Mikkeler, who specialize in pairing bread and beer together. The beers are excellent, the food is exceptional (the pork scratching is something else!) and they even serve some really lovely – they even have the most extensive akvavit list in northern Europe!
Just a few steps away, you’ll find the Mikkeller bar – a place to go for a selection of around 20 different beers.
There are also some very interesting places in the meat packing district – allow yourself to wander and you’ll stumble across some very cool bars.
Where to stay
My hotel for the visit was the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, which is arguably the most famous hotel in Copengahen, as it was originally designed in its entirety by Arne Jacobsen – the designer best known for his swan and egg chairs, as featured in the Big Brother house. Anyone who’s anyone stays there when they’re in town. Although the rooms have been renovated and changed over the years, I would say the standard of accommodation is not at the level you’d find in 5* hotels elsewhere. It is a clean and comfortable hotel in a great location, right by the Central railway station, and is a must-see for design fans. Breakfast on the top floor is excellent, and offers some of the best views in the city.
How to get there and getting around
Copenhagen is closer than you think, with a flight time of around an hour and a half from London. Norwegian Air offer good value flights from London’s Gatwick, and there are connections from airports all over the UK.
Once you arrive into Copenhagen, I recommend catching the train into the Central station. It’s easy to do, even without speaking Danish, and you’ll be transported into the city centre in around 10 minutes, for around £4 a way.
Copenhagen is an easy city to navigate – do take some comfy shoes as you can walk around the city centre with ease. Bikes are a popular method of transport and most hotels offer bike hire to guests. There is a good bus network too – for which a Copenhagen card is a good idea, making it easy to hop on and hop off throughout your visit. You can also use the card for the airport train service, too.