Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Eating in Copenhagen: Mikkeller, Kødbyen, Mother and Dyrehaven

Copenhagen, home of Noma and numerous other restaurants leading the charge in Nordic, seasonal and foraged cuisine, has become synonymous with high class dining in the last few years, being on a par with Paris, Venice and San Sebastian for a food inspired get away.

I ate at none of these places, because I'm 22 and have no money. But that's not to say that there isn't plenty to discover at the other end of the restaurant spectrum, there are so many brilliant places to eat that are still exciting and innovative and I did my best to try as many as possible in a short three day break.

We were staying in Vesterbro which seems to be one of the 'hip neighbourhoods' (note plural, more on this later) at the absolutely lovely Axel Guldsmeden Hotel, which the windows proudly told us was 90-100% organic - where the 10% of uncertainty came from I'm not sure. Complete with four poster beds, polished wood floors and persian carpets it made a perfect base for exploring.

Axel Guldsmeden, Copenhagen

Our eating and drinking, with day time exceptions, largely feel into the Vesterbro area, between Kødbyen and Vesterbrogade. In an area known for its prostitutes and butchers, there was meat of all varieties on sale. The red light district starts from just behind the train station and down the main strip of Istedgade, but after Gasvaerksvej it is a lot less seedy.

Before I get into the who/what/where I'll note that *everything is expensive*. We knew this before going, and had done adequate research into affordable yet good places to eat, but even in the best value of places a beer was never less than 40 dkk, which is around £4.50, coffees around 25-35 dkk and food was anything from 120 dkk to 300 dkk for a main course in the mid-level restaurants we visited.

The beery: Mikkeller Bar, Vesterbro and Fermentoren 

I don't think it was coincidence that we ended up staying in a hotel one street away from the Mikkeller bar, but it was certainly advantageous and became our little neighbourhood bar for the trip, making it our first and last point of call.

With around 30 taps of beer on, everything on offer was chalked up and served in a range of sizes. I'd try and recall everything we drank but not having taken notes it's difficult to remember; the Norrebro pils, Norrebro wit, Norrebrown ale, Pale Ale, Dim Sum as well as selection of guest beers from Toccalmatto were all sampled and all enjoyed. Drinks started from 25 dkk for 20cl.

It was the sort of bar I dream about opening one day, a little hidden away basement of beery goodness and charming, clean design. It was friendly, knowledgeable without being pretentious and we spent most of our money there.

Just down the road we also popped into Fermentoren, which was excellent if a bit more rough around the edges. It was also slightly cheaper, so a trip is definitely recommended, especially when it's a bit warmer as it had a large outside seating area.

Eating Danish: Dyrehaven Cafe

I really loved Dyrehaven Cafe, and although I'm sure it's inundated with hopeless visitors looking for a corner of 'authentic' copenhagen, it felt like a locals' hangout, with all day food, the best value beer we found, lots of wood and a laid back atmosphere.

I got a very plump pork chop, pepper sauce and sweet potato type thing for the relatively bargain price of 155 dkk and the other half had some lovely fish with braised fennel, apple and a lightly creamy sauce which was marginally cheaper. The menu was (obviously) in Danish but the staff translated it for us without (justified) evil stares, to say my only source of Danish comes from obsessive viewing of The Killing, everyone spoke perfect english without so much as a grumpy huff face.

Meat Packing Eating: Mother and Nose2Tail

Kødbyen, the meatpacking district, just to the east of the main Vesterbro area, has low white buildings, wide empty streets and eerie open spaces. It looks like somewhere Sarah Lund should be finding a gruesomely disfigured body and thus, was clearly the perfect setting for some of the trendiest restaurants in town.

An old Bosch show room had been transformed into an organic cafe, an the old meat packing rooms now housed anything from raw fish bars (which I wanted to try but sadly was slightly out of our price range), sourdough pizza bars and underground nose to tail restaurants.

I'll be writing more on Nose2Tail in its own post, but Mother, which we were directed to by two chatty British guys in Mikkeller who ran a start up (5,000 hipster points), did extremely good pizza in a vast, warehouse space. Obviously popular and at around 110 dkk, good value, after a day of travelling and an early evening of empty stomach boozing it was pretty perfect, simple good food. Chewy, charred dough with a proper sour kick was topped with freshly sliced Italian meats, rocket and homemade pesto.

Copenhagen manages to make the 'cool and hip' aesthetic that so many cities try and recreate look totally effortless. Sure everyone is on a bike and has a beard, but then it's very flat and beards are a good way to keep your face warm. All our dinners gave us something different, from pizza to pork to horse liver (as I say more on that later) but were all within walking distance of one another with plenty of bars in between. 

Part two of eating in Copenhagen features organic dogs, bakeries, coffee and the best breakfast. 

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