The Hungry Wanderer in CopenhagenNovember 8, 2016
- Mikka WeeWords
My partner and I found ourselves scrambling to make restaurant reservations while in Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport. This is what happens when you decide to make a spontaneous 3-day side-trip to Copenhagen and only decide to plan for it two hours before your flight—but it’s all part of the fun.
Despite the short notice, I’d still like to think that the food gods were on our side because they blessed us, despite our short notice, with some seats at two of Christian Puglisi’s restaurants, Manfreds & Vin and Bæst, and Mikkeller Brewery’s Øl & Brød. Noma, sadly, was hopeless case.
Scandinavia, I think, is a region built by both hedonists and introverts, which is why it attracts folk of the same sort. There is more than meets the eye in terms of the city’s design, culture, and of course, its food.
Prior to the “New Nordic” culinary movement, Scandinavians (especially the Danish) feasted mostly on heavy meats paired with boiled potatoes. Foraging was something that was laughed about, but now, watch at how it has been adapted and celebrated by numerous establishments across the region and the world.
Today I am writing about 7 (out of 12) places that I’ve eaten at in Copenhagen. My partner and I were there for only two-and-a-half days, and I know there is so much more to explore, which is why I know we will be back.
1. Manfreds & Vin
Come here for: The Beef Tartare, the “Chef’s Choice” Tasting Menu, and the Natural Wines
When a restaurant says that it is (probably) the world’s only veggie-focused restaurant that’s famous for its raw meat, you know exactly what to order.
Manfreds and Vin’s beef tartare comes dressed in what Christian Puglisi calls an “egg cream”. Poached eggs are whisked with some breadcrumbs, lemon juice, olive oil, and a bit of salt and pepper. It sits on a bed of young cress and is topped with crumbled bits of toasted rye bread. Its texture is unparalleled by any tartare I’ve eaten prior to this. The meat arrives with a deep shade of red, as if the now-dead cow sitting on the lovely cress-bed was happy and alive only minutes ago—it may sound unsettling, but you know that this is a good thing.
Instead of slicing it up with a knife, the beef is processed through a grinder. As a result, you get a still-raw serving of ground beef prepared Puglisi-style—a fancy mound of ground beef that spoils you with simple yet opulent flavors and mind-blowing textures. Not bad for 165 kr (because we got the XL portion, of course).
But wait, the vegetable dishes are also radically impressive and are deserving of praise. From the tasting menu came two favorites—a tiny pot of light zucchini cream that blanketed a poached egg. Green onion confetti gave a garlicky zing that cut through the rich flavors, while a healthy douse of olive oil married all the ingredients together. The second favorite was an unassuming wedge of cabbage that had a smoky, charred top and a subtle tangy, pickled flavor. Cutting through the cabbage revealed layers of basil leaves, and the whole dish was topped with gratings of nutty aged cheese. It was quite a pleasant yet disturbing dish, seeing how such simple ingredients can all build up to a luxurious and sensational feat.
It makes me think that I can recreate this dish in my own kitchen. But can I, really?
2. Atelier September
Come here for: The coffee, Avocado Toast, me-time, and a nice photo for your Instagram
What lured me into this café was that it was on Kinfolk’s list of recommended cafés in Copenhagen, which is enough reason for any millennial-minded folk like me to pay this place a visit.
A busy spot for brunch or afternoon coffee, Atelier September is the perfect place to hole up with a lovely book (or date) and waste an afternoon away. The café is gorgeous. With its big glass windows and cozy environment, who would want to leave a place like this?
Come here for: The Pizzas. Period.
In fairy tales, nettles are a common ingredient that’s used in witches’ potions and thrown into black, stone cauldrons with little children inside. But in Bæst, nettles are turned into a pesto, spread onto a tasty crust made with Danish flour and fired in a Naple-made oven, and topped with mushrooms, and house-made smoked mozzarella and Bæst’s panchetta. Their pizza menu changes depending on the season, but there’s always something tasty and surprising. I am currently eyeing a pumpkin and goat cheese pizza and another with pancetta, leeks, oyster mushrooms, and pecorino. But sadly, I am all the way in Asia and can only hope that it makes a comeback on the menu when I go back.
In Bæst, everything is made from scratch. The charcuterie is impressive and the cheeses are all too luxurious. You can’t fault a restaurant that has an ethos of providing only the freshest and organic meats and cheeses. While both are descriptions so loosely thrown around, a step inside Bæst and a bite of their dishes can define those two descriptions pretty clearly.
4. Democratic Coffee Bar
Come here for: The croissants and the coffee.
Another coffee bar recommended by Kinfolk, Democratic Coffee is joined to Copenhagen’s main library, making it the perfect place for bookworms to flock to.
Most coffee shops in Copenhagen source their beans from Swedish coffee roasters, Koppi. But if you’d like a change of bean selection, Democratic Coffee serves up their brews from Great Coffee, a Danish coffee roaster.
But what really stood out here for me are Democratic Coffee Bar’s croissants. The coffee is good, but the croissants? They’re fantastic. Fold upon fold—the obvious product of a determined lamination process—yield golden, buttery, and flaky pastries that worth every damn calorie. Of course, I needed to try the pan au chocolat as well, which was also quite decadent.
5. Warpigs Brewpug
Come here for: The brisket, burnt ends beans, and beer.
Ah, Warpigs. Where do I even begin? A recommendation from a good friend who resides in Billund, Warpigs is a smokehouse located at the old meatpacking district of Copenhagen, Flæsketorvet. Apart from succulent, melt-in-your-mouth meats, they also have a mean selection of beers thanks from Danish brewery, Mikkeller.
Inside is a no-frills cafeteria setup where you choose your sides and your meat. The beer area takes up another section of the space. The meat comes well-seasoned and tender. We chose the brisket when we visited, but there is an array of meats such as pork belly and sausage links that are smoked to bring out the meat’s fullest flavors. It’s definitely worth the trip if you’d want to stuff your face silly with great tasting meat and get shitfaced with pints of Mikkeller beer.
6. Hija de Sánchez
Come here for: Their paletas, homemade beverages, and select tacos
This Mexican venture by former Noma pastry chef Rosio Sánchez, may be the talk of town when it comes to tacos. But instead, I say come for the paletas, which are Mexican frozen treats that are similar to popsicles.
Despite its icy surface, HDS’s avocado paletas melt into a creamy, milky mess once it touches the tongue. The squiggle of cajeta (sweetened caramelised goats milk) adds touches of dulce de leche, while freeze-dried raspberries punctuate the treat with tiny, tangy burts. If you’d like something more juicy, try the tepache, or fermented pineapple beer, which is fruity, acidic, and hella addictive.
When it comes to the tacos, try the stuff that’s not on a normal taqueria’s menu. Ditch the carnitas, lengua, and al pastor for the obscure yet tantalising varieties such as the Grilled Cheese (2 months aged cow’s cheese, guacachile, salsa morita, avocado, onion, and cilantro) or the El Paul (crispy fish skin, gooseberry salsa, onion, cilantro, avocado).
We tried the usual fare, and a Queso Fresco, which had fresh cheese, guacachile, pickled red onions, and cilantro. The cheese was soft and pungent, which paired nicely with the acidic pickled red onions. The corn tortillas, though, are so good they can be eaten on their own.
7. Øl & Brød
Come here for: Any smørrebrød with herring and more Mikkeller beer!
Smørrebrød is a traditional Danish open-faced sandwich made with buttered rye bread and is topped with anything—from grated horseradish, to flounder to vegetables to the Scandinavian staple—herring.
Similar to a sardine, herring is served in many different ways: fried, pickled, and fermented (for the adventurous). At Øl & Brød, there are many ways that herring is prepared on smørrebrød, and we had herring that was pickled in elderflower (since it was the summer season) and served with egg, mustard, capers, and watercress.
We also grabbed some grub from numerous food carts, and a street food hall called Papirøen, or Paper Island where we indulged in plantains and Koldskål, a sweet Danish buttermilk soup that had ginger rhubarbs and coconut.
Copenhagen is known to be Denmark’s cosmopolitan city, but its food is very telling about the Danish culture as a whole. There is a unique artistry that goes into the Danish was of cooking, and has given it its culinary thumbprint.
In case you were wondering: yes, we paid a trip to Noma—but just to check it out (and to lament that fact that it would be impossible to dine there during our short trip). But again, I really think the food gods were on our side because we walked away with the best souvenir.