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The complete foodie guide to Copenhagen

The complete foodie guide to Copenhagen

by Lucy Golding 26 February 2020

Lucy Golding introduces us to the four foodiest neighbourhoods of Denmark’s capital, shedding light on the best restaurants, cafés and bars to head to when you’re visiting the city.

If you find innovative menus outshine modernist museums, wine bars trump walking tours and emerging young chefs upstage famous old churches, then Copenhagen must make it onto your city break bucket list. Not that its history and culture isn’t compelling, but when its restaurant scene repeatedly becomes the number one talking point you know there’s more to this Nordic destination than Noma (Rene Redzepi’s world-famous culinary institution). And whilst a long weekend here will only scratch the surface, with a decent sense of direction (and a reliable pushbike), there’s a multitude of means to maximise on your mealtimes. I’ve divided this guide into neighbourhoods within the city, highlighting the best places to eat within each.

Indre By (Copenhagen Centre)

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The centre of Copenhagen is busy for a reason – it's where many of the city's most famous attractions can be found
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Aamanns 1921 is home to some of the best smørrebrød in Copenhagen

In a city where smørrebrød (a Scandinavian open-faced sandwich) creation is approached as seriously as an Olympic sport, it takes a confident chef to tackle the competition. Adam Aamanns is gunning for gold in Copenhagen as he creates his ‘smørrebrød redefined’ at Aamanns 1921, one of the chef’s three Aamanns outposts in the city, which includes a casual deli along with a lunch spot near the lakes. With its sleek, grown-up interiors, this ode to the open sandwich is positioned in a historic townhouse just off central shopping street Købmagergade.

Pickled herring is the hero flavour of the smørrebrød circuit, and Aamanns 1921 offers three varieties of the Danish signature, served on its nutty, rich ryebread with either raw apples, kohlrabi or Jerusalem artichoke. The remainder of the smørrebrød selection, filed under ‘green’, ‘fish’ and ‘meat’ on the menu, includes artfully comprised, stacked-by-tweezers concoctions of pumpkin and blue cheese, pan-fried place with shrimps and pickled chamomile, or the beef tartare, which is dotted with hazelnuts and a drizzle of brown-butter emulsion, rye bread on the side. Served per piece or as part of a tasting selection for the table, pair at your peril with a schnapps flight (the smørrebrød chaser of choice).

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Brace combines Italian and Scandinavian cooking – with delicious results
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Chef Nicola Fanetti also incorporates Brazilian touches to his dishes, thanks to his wife and co-founder Ursula's heritage

To continue surfing the Copenhagen smørrebrød scene, stay central but swerve the penny-pinching promenade of the iconic Nyhavn waterfront (best to stick to drinks only here, folks). Open sandwiches of equal stature can be found at nearby Selma, the city’s only smørrebrød spot with a Michelin Bib Gourmand. Alternatively, try the harbour-facing Almanak, located within The Standard, an iconic green building on the Havnegade quay.

When you’ve reached your limit of consuming things piled onto bread (it will happen eventually), stroll for five minutes towards Ørstedsparken and to restaurant Brace for a taste of something ‘Scanditalian’. Nicola Fanetti, former head chef of the city’s extolled Era Ora, is at the helm here and weaving his northern Italian heritage with influences from the Danish countryside alongside nods to Brazil – the home of wife and co-founder Ursula.

Nicola’s avant-garde repertoire of compact and colourful dishes includes the zero-waste celeriac gnocchi with hazelnut cream, where skin from the celeriac is made into stock; the delicate quail and black garlic, served with offal pâté and a sprinkle of raspberry powder; and the comforting chestnut and mushroom ravioli del plin, with fresh truffle placed on top. Yet it’s the Brace carbonara that really brings home the bacon – in all its creamy, cocooned, cheesy glory, it eschews pasta in favour of a tartlet of rice dough flavoured with Danish guanciale (pork jowl), before it’s finished with an essence of burnt hay.

Nørrebro

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Nørrebro is Copenhagen's hip, trendy district, full of cafés and bars that open long into the night
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The district's most famous chef is Christian F Puglisi, whose restaurant Relæ is regularly named one of the best in the world

Leave behind the crowds of the centre and veer north-west across the Copenhagen Lakes, over Dronning Louises bridge, and you’ll find yourself in Nørrebro – the original home of the Danish hipster and now an epicentre of epicurean delights.

As well as a multitude of brunch options (Mad & Kaffee, porridge temple Grød and cutesy vegan Cafe Blå being among the best), one chef in the neighbourhood has done a ‘Padstein’ on this picturesque pocket of the city, monopolising the Nørrebro restaurant scene. The proud purveyor of four establishments, Christian F Puglisi is the chef and farming fanatic enticed to Denmark from Italy by the nuances of Nordic cuisine, and someone who – unsurprisingly – once worked at Noma.

Whilst his Michelin-starred Relæ requires booking more than eight weeks in advance, a piece of Puglisi magic can be experienced at the casual yet no less charming Mirabelle; a bakery, wine bar and all-day dining destination on sleepy Guldbergsgarde. The interiors are bright, spacious and satisfyingly geometric, whilst the looks-too-clean-to-have-been-cooked-in kitchen spills into the main space. Views and smells of oven-kissed cinnamon buns, cardamom and marzipan fastelavnsbolle (a cream-filled sweet roll) or chamomile and strawberry Danish pastries make it impossible not to order one.

Brunch dishes are wholesome and generous in size, with highlights including the Mirabelle eggs Benedict or the ‘Morning plate’, if not just to experience a rye bread so good it’ll have you researching local property prices. Served with a soft-boiled egg, local cheese and jam, it is Scandinavian simplicity as its finest. At lunchtime, the freshly crafted pasta of the day will have you thumbing the Puglisi cookbook for his secrets (‘casually’ dotted about the room), while washing it down nicely with a Mirabellini (sparking La Matta with fruit purée) or glass of Italian plonk.

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As well as Relæ, Puglisi also owns sourdough pizza joint Bæst...
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...along with all-day dining destination Mirabelle

Directly next door, Christian’s sister restaurant Bæst offers organic pizza, cured meats and house-made mozzarella, paying authentic and undiluted homage to his Italian roots. Half a mile across the neighbourhood, within his charming corner spot on chic Jægersborggade and opposite Relæ, you’ll find Manfreds – where things are much more Nordic. The restaurant opened in 2010 and has been celebrating the power of plant-based ingredients ever since. Using produce reared at Christian’s Farm of Ideas, located 50km outside the city, here’s also where you’ll find the best value tasting menu in town (around £37pp for dinner, and an astonishing £29pp for lunch).

Go for the chef’s choice and find yourself on a vegetable-centric voyage of textural and flavour-packed discovery, where your jaw will hit the floor throughout as you question how a plate of simple grilled white onions, flower sprouts or celeriac could ever taste that good. Whilst the veg might be at the centre, meat and fish aren’t entirely exiled and make a handful of appearances (if requested). The beef tartare is something of a Copenhagen legend, yet your experience will be no less fulfilling without it.

After pouring enough of your pounds into empire Puglisi, other neighbourhood must-dos include Michelin-starred Thai Kiin Kiin, Mexican taqueria La Neta, or Hooked for Nørrebros’ finest fish and chips.

Refshaleøen

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A former shipyard, Refshaleøen is in the midst of being regenerated and is home to some of Copenhagen's most exciting dining (including the second iteration of Noma)
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Amass is famous for its approach to sustainable fine dining, with beautiful dishes served in a trendy, open plan dining room

Past Copenhagen’s iconic harbour and the home of restaurants Barr (housed in the former Noma site) and Kristian Baumann’s 108, hang a left and follow the scenic waterfront past some unsightly scrubland to where you’ll eventually arrive in industrial Refshaleøen. A former shipyard and technically an artificial island (with plans to extend and build a fully-fledged fake beach), Refshaleøen is also accessible by boat from central Nyhavn. Rugged and remarkably sparse in infrastructure, the area most recently hit the headlines as the new home of Noma 2.0. They needed the space to build a farm, you see.

Yet chef Rene Redzepi isn’t the only gastronomic magician to swoop in on this patch of restaurant-ready real estate. Cycle as far as the island takes you, heading towards the sloping behemoth of the futuristic Copenhil waste-to-energy power plant, and to where chef Matt Orlando has been cultivating Michelin stars since 2013.

Whilst the loft-style, hyper-sustainable Amass may have upheld its reputation as the Nordic restaurant golden child, in 2019 Matt birthed a second, beer-orientated restaurant business only few yards up the street.

Broaden & Build is the Californian-born chef’s first foray into the brewing world, a pipe dream part-inspired by the San Diego watering holes of his youth. With twenty-two constantly changing taps on offer, Orlando has approached his liquid creations with equal gusto to his food. Pooling the produce grown in Amass’ super allotment positioned outside the front, the Broaden & Build brewery operation is a progressive one, as Orlando and his team strive to develop an ever-changing roster of unconventional and funky flavoured beers. A stout infused with blackened pear, sour ale with macerated fig and plum or a lemon and coffee IPA are amongst the key players proving that chefs can brew too.

The food menu demonstrates the daring techniques that put Amass on the map, but for a slice of the price. Share a selection of dishes to include the fried fermented potatoes with black pepper mayo, the roasted pork with charred kale and grilled onions served with charcuterie.

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Just up the road from Amass is Broaden & Build, chef Matt Orlando's brewery and restaurant
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Food here is more relaxed and informal than what you find at Amass, but no less delicious and interesting

Asides from restaurants growing their own grub, nothing says Scandinavia like pre-dinner conversation with half-naked strangers. La Banchina, a restaurant positioned in a hidden pocket of Refshaleøen along the canals, knows its target audience, and has forgone the fancy vegetable patch for a sauna instead.

‘Eat, dip, repeat’ is the mantra here, and they’re not talking about condiments. Following the sauna-session, embrace the chilly Copenhagen waters before restoring one’s blue lips with some food. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the postage stamp-sized open kitchen is led by British chef Brendan Walker, who serves twenty covers at a time with his two-choice, daily-changing pescatarian menu. Grab a seat at the canal-facing counter-top for one of the city’s best views. After sunset, a wood-burning fire on the adjoining jetty draws in drinkers after dark.

Vesterbro

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Scoot back into town and slightly west, past the hypnotizing illuminations of Tivoli gardens and to versatile Vesterbro, the home of too-cool-for-school Kødbyens (that’s meatpacking to you and me). The Meatpacking District might not live up to the scale of its New York originator, but the food and drink scene there holds equal prestige. Since the area first began flourishing in the late noughties, its plaza of 1930s former slaughterhouses are brimming with everything from gourmet Josper grill joints to carbon-neutral café bars, retro cocktails spots and the best hot dogs in town.

Fiskebar – the city’s seafood stalwart – has taken prime spot in the district’s main square, with its blue and white façade now the poster boy of the neighbourhood. With one of the most vibrant dining rooms in the city, complete with seven-foot fish tank, British chef Jamie Lee serves his artistically crafted plates of sustainably sourced seafood, demonstrating a level of culinary execution and imagination that far surpasses its long-standing Bib Gourmand.

If Kødbyens’ kitsch sourdough pizza joint Mother looks familiar, then it’s likely you’ll have stumbled on its British-born sister site in the arches of London’s Battersea Power Station – its pizza dough famously contains purified seawater. Directly opposite, in a space as small as a store cupboard, squeeze in to Prolog for a cup of the city’s best coffee and a croissant as crisp and buttery as Denmark’s summer days are long.

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Sanchez serves some of the best Mexican fare in Denmark
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Lidkoeb is a buzzing cocktail bar that's perfect for continuing the fun well into the night

For an underrepresented slice of Central America, reserve your spot at Sanchez – Rosio Sanchez’s celebrated Mexican taco emporium – to feast on world-class tostadas, oysters and empanadas just down the street on Istedgade. Alternatively, for Mexican on the move, then Hija de Sanchez (Rosio’s casual taqueria) can be found back in the Meatpacking District – offering all the flavour but for half the Kroner.

Five minutes north and skirting the Vesterbro borders, as you approach adjoining Frederiksberg, you’ll discover a pocket known as Little Paris. Granola is a brunch, dinner and drinks spot, which will firmly reinforce the charming French pretence about the place, or if you’re exploring the district after hours then grab a spot by the fire at nearby Lidkoeb – the classy, Chesterfield-filled cocktail joint, offering a relaxed retreat from the area’s often manic post-dinner party scene.

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The complete foodie guide to Copenhagen

 
 

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