Discovering Copenhagen: A gourmand’s guide to the city

Words by
Lucy Golding

23rd August 2019

With world-famous restaurants, delicious local delicacies and a thriving culinary scene, the Danish capital has much to offer visitors with a passion for food

Strolling through the impossibly clean, water-bordered streets of Copenhagen, it only takes a minute to understand why this Nordic nation is considered one of the world’s happiest. With progressive policies, a healthy economy and a high quality of living - plus the laudable aim to become the world’s first carbon neutral capital by 2025 - the Danes are setting the standard for the good life in the 21st century. This forward-thinking approach has also transpired to Copenhagen's restaurants, putting the city firmly on the global culinary map. On a long weekend to the city, we discover the gourmet attractions that make help Copenhagen so desirable a destination. 

While the illustrious two-starred Noma has recently relocated to a more spacious plot a mile down the road, the former restaurant site across the Inderhavns Bridge has been transformed into the considerably more casual - but equally beautiful - Barr. Remaining under the Redzepi name, here head chef Thorsten Schmidt serves up contemporary ‘Northern sea cuisine’ alongside a selection of traditional natural wines, beer and aquavit. Dishes that appear simple by name - think cucumber salad and white asparagus soup, Danish meatball and sherry mousse - come with impressively complex presentations, with each mouthful demonstrating world-class culinary skill. The interiors, all pine, original wooden beams and touches of leather and brass, underscore the restaurant's understatedly elegant approach.

Discovering Copenhagen: A gourmand’s guide to the city

Directly across the canal you’ll find the vivid, art-deco style Standard building, home to three individual restaurant concepts. Whilst the recently opened Mission offers an informal menu of Mediterranean and Californian-inspired tapas, Almanack will appeal to those after something more traditional, offering some of the finest smørrebrød (open sandwiches) in the city. By day, Almanack is an ideal spot for enjoying an al fresco cocktail, or for a Nordic five-course tasting feast should you come in the evening. Upstairs at the Standard, the Michelin-starred Stud!o offers a 12-course experience menu, showcasing the best of Scandinavian cuisine combined with influences from South America.

For smørrebrød in the less traditional sense, restaurant Selma – close to The King’s Garden – is the city’s sole Bib Gourmand-awarded smørrebrød restaurant, a lovingly designed and homely bolthole, where chef Magnus Pettersson has culminated an innovative menu of open sandwiches in multiple, creative forms. A selection of more substantial-sized smørrebrød is available per piece (one or two will do the job) or curated into the ‘Small Menu’, where you can try five smaller smørrebrød creations in tasting-menu style - each crafted very prettily. Herring smørrebrød, with optional shot of apple and horseradish schnapps to wash it down, takes centre stage alongside other varieties including shrimp, confit chicken and beef tartare.

Discovering Copenhagen: A gourmand’s guide to the city

Natural wine is the tipple of choice in Copenhagen. Pay a visit to wine bar Den Vandrette, offering delicately composed small plates with biodynamic tipples from across Europe. For something exclusively Italian, the cosy Mother Wine shop and bar offers a standout selection, with occasional jazz nights and numerous tastings taking place throughout the month. For a pre or post-dinner cocktail, head to internationally acclaimed Ruby. Located in an 18-century townhouse opposite the parliament buildings, Ruby feels more like a private party than a bar, complete with high-backed armchairs, cosy nooks and ornate mismatched lighting. 

From Ruby, take a scenic stroll along the canals past the iconic Tivoli gardens, which will lead you to Vesterbro - and to Sanchez. Here, former Noma pastry chef Rosio Sanchez has opened one of the finest Mexican restaurants in Europe, a favourite amongst chefs and those in the know. Sanchez dishes up authentic tacos using Mexican grains, some with a Nordic twist. Take a seat at the counter for front-row views of the expert chefs at work. Order from a selection seven small bites - or, if it is too difficult to choose, opt for the ‘favourite serving’ option, which consists of five unique dishes selected by the chef.

Ruby feels more like a private party than a bar, complete with high-backed armchairs, cosy nooks and ornate mismatched lighting

In Vesterbro’s meat-packing district, former butchers pave the way for an eclectic selection of some of the city’s most interesting bars and restaurants, including world-famous Fiskebar, alongside Paté Paté, Fleische and the renowned Mother pizza. Now open for lunch, take a seat by the window and soak up Fiskebar’s Scandi cool vibes, enjoying chef Jamie Lee’s exquisite repertoire of seasonal fish dishes (alongside a couple of meat and veggie options). The staff will recommend starting with a handful of fresh Danish oysters, followed by the seven-course tasting menu for an indulgent blow-out. 

Discovering Copenhagen: A gourmand’s guide to the city

For a fish dish with waterside views, La Banchina – aka Scandinavia’s most sophisticated shed – is a pleasant 15-minute cycle from the crowds of central Copenhagen to the residential district of Refshaleøen. Begin your experience in the restaurant’s eight-seater sauna, followed by a glass of something sparkling on the jetty before heading inside for the experience menu – 12 courses of seafood and plant-based perfection, with an optional flight of matching wines. Dishes include oyster ravioli and mussel broth, cod with beurre blanc and ramson oil, and rosehip sorbet with pistachio, ending with a wonderfully comforting course of forever-cooked milk and cookie. Expect passionate commentary from the chefs, who also serve each course. With glorious sunset views and a crackling wood-burning fire, dinner at this off-the-beaten-track spot is surely one of the best ways to spend an evening in the home of hygge.

For breakfast, look to Café Atelier September, only a couple of minutes from iconic Nyhavn. Its simple yet refined selection of specialities feature granola with zucchini jam and matcha, freshly-baked pastries, eggs and fresh fruit. In the bustling Nørrebro neighbourhood, chef Christian Puglisi’s team bakes sourdough by the truckload at organic bakery-slash-brunch spot Mirabelle. For those acolytes embarking on an exhaustive Noma pilgrimage, a kilometre down the road in fashionable Frederiksberg is Hart, the latest offering from chef Redzepi. This small-batch bakery offers both Danish classics and reimagined cakes and breads from around the world - be sure to try the delicious Hart Cross Bun. Alternatively, head to The Corner, Redzepi’s coffee shop and wine bar attached to restaurant 108. It serves breakfast and light snacks by day, while small plates and a 600-strong selection of wine takes focus come evening. 

Discovering Copenhagen: A gourmand’s guide to the city

If you're looking for a healthy option after so much indulging, there’s nowhere better than the original café Grød, the world’s very first porridge bar - the spelt porridge with chestnut purée, apple and toasted almonds is particularly good. Visiting Grød is also an excuse to explore the vibrant upmarket shopping-street of Jægersborggade, lined with artisanal shops, boutiques and delis. Spend the morning exploring the surrounding district of Nørrebro or the gorgeous grounds of the Assistens cemetery across the road, before returning for lunch at laid-back Manfreds (another outpost from chef Christian Puglisi). Ironically, this heavily vegetarian restaurant famed for the city's best beef tartare. Another option is to splurge on a three-hour lunch at Relæ, Manfreds’ somewhat more serious, no-frills sister restaurant, currently ranking 39 in the World’s 50 Best.

Any summer weekend in Copenhagen should almost certainly end with dinner at the magical Gro Spiseri, a unique supper club-style restaurant situated on Denmark’s inaugural rooftop farm. On arrival - in a seemingly deserted part of the Copenhagen’s Østerbro district - you might believe you’ve taken a wrong turn before spotting the long spiral staircase which leads guests up to an immaculately maintained roof garden. Mingle with other diners with drinks around the roaring log fire before taking a seat at the 16-seater table, making for a warmly welcoming dining experience. The menu (served Saturday-Monday) changes weekly, using ingredients from the crop grown on the rooftop itself alongside produce from the very best local suppliers. Get stuck into a six-course sharing feast whilst working through Gro Spiseri’s outstanding selection of natural wines - and of course, enjoying one last sunset.  

Wherever your travels take you in Copenhagen, you can be assured you won't go hungry. 

Discovering Copenhagen: A gourmand’s guide to the city
Gro Spiseri