{04/10/2012}   Copenhagen: a foodtastic, fun city

I hadn’t liked Copenhagen the first time I went and wasn’t expecting to particularly care for it 19 years later, but I had thought there was potential.  As it happens, I really, really enjoyed it and hope to go back again soon!  I went back to a few places I knew I’d visited previously, namely The Little Mermaid (still disappointing but at least not covered in graffiti this time), Nyhavn (far more touristy and over-priced than I’d remembered) and Hans Christian Andersen’s statue opposite Tivoli Gardens.  All those places were just touristy.  This time, however, we explored and walked around a lot.  We found some amazing places, ate some fantastic food (not including Noma as I’ve already devoted three posts to it!) and enjoyed using buses, water buses and a few Metro trips.  It’s a great city whose charm lies outside the tourist areas and chain-heavy shopping centre.

Thanks to another friend who mentioned a good cafe with a world champion barista, I Googled it and found a cafe that proudly boasted such a barista.  It was called The Coffee Collective and was on Jægersborggade, in the area of Nørrebro, a street with no places of interest on it according to my Rough Guide.  In need of good coffee on our first full day in Copenhagen, we headed there by bus, bus and foot via Hans Christian Andersen’s grave, in a beautiful, large, tree-filled graveyard.  Jægersborggade was at the other end of the graveyard and was at first glance an uninspiring, quiet street.  There were not many shops on the street and all of them were small but on that short street was one fantastic cafe, an amazing bakery, a magnificent toffee/caramel maker and some nice looking cafes and eateries.  We went to that street twice.  The bakery, Meyers Bageri, is opposite Coffee Collective.  They bake on site and only serve a small range of pastries and breads, those of which we tried being exceptional.  A very special mention should go to the carrot cake.  It is without doubt the best carrot cake I have ever eaten, and that is a very well researched claim.  Carrot cake perfection.  As for the caramel shop, Karamelleriet, we were given liquorice caramel hot off the press.  Seriously, warm toffee caramel.  A delight and a joy.  We bought quite a lot of toffee caramel: cream caramel, peppermint, liquorice caramel, sea buckthorn, chocolate, cinnamon, salted liquorice caramel … quite hugely delicious!  The coffee was amazing and well worth going out of our way for.  Twice.  That is one of my all time favourite food and drink streets.

We had lunch at Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus, another great find.  I expected mediocre bar food, in part because it’s clearly a clubby bar by night, ie not known for its food, but we both ended up with really, really fresh, prepared to order food which was reasonably priced.   Portions were generous, the staff were friendly and my friend ordered crab which was fresh that afternoon.

That evening, we were meeting an old friend of my friend’s at a Vietnamese restaurant, LêLê nhà hàng, Vesterbrogade 40.  I would never have eaten Vietnamese food while in Copenhagen had it not been for his suggestion of our meeting there.  I know I may sound excessive with all my new-found Copenhagen loving, but, seriously, the food was delightful, fresh and it was a busy restaurant.  The three of us shared a selection of dumplings, cooked in different ways and with different fillings and dips.  They were all lovely.  For mains, my beef and papaya salad with coconut sticky rice was exceptional, especially the coconut sticky rice, served looking like a potato croquet.  Fantastic food and a reassuringly small menu choice (though a huge wine and drink menu!).  I hope to eat there on every subsequent trip to Copenhagen.

All food we ate was very good, including the meals we cooked ourselves on our fabulous house boat.  Another interesting meal out was inside a wing of a church, Restaurant Maven, Nikolaj Plads.   It was a hodge podge of antique furniture, only a few tables, like being in a dining room.  We both ordered salads (but enviously eyed up the fishcakes at someone else’s table!), which were impressive for their freshness and good dressing.  It was a lovely environment, friendly staff, excellent quality ingredients and an interesting, small menu.  We found that place after ruling out all manner of eateries prior to that.  It was raining quite a lot when we found ourselves in the church courtyard standing amidst outdoor tables under umbrellas.  I am so glad we gave it a go, choosing to go in slightly more because of the rain and wanting to eat rather than having studied the menu.

As for the house boat, it was a great experience.  We spent the whole time discussing whether or not it was moving.  My friend was adamant it was but I couldn’t work out how it could move, despite feeling it move, as the deck and into the water was made of concrete.  The owner confirmed that it does move!  It was a great place to stay, reasonably near Bella Center Metro station.  Being out of town meant we saw more of the waterside suburbs.  It also meant we used the water bus a fair bit.  As we had a seven-day, c£40 travel card, we could use all public transport, including the water buses.  That was a great buy at the airport.

We walked a lot and, along with the street I mentioned earlier, another street we enjoyed was Store Kongensgade, which also had a Meyers Bageri and quite a few cafes and bakeries.  There were also lots of lovely looking eateries, including a few serving smørrebrød (Danish open sandwiches).  There was a Parisian feel to the area and lots of boutiques.  We discovered this street by walking from The Little Mermaid, round the castle and towards the centre.

I feel I should also mention Christiania, part of the island of Christianshavn, an area not without its “politics”, for it is in part a commune, an autonomous neighbourhood, and is often in conflict with the Danish state.  Politics aside, it’s mad: a cross between Camden and Amsterdam.  I have never walked around outdoors and inhaled as much cannabis as I did there.  You can’t take photos and the residents have their own rules.  I have never been anywhere quite like it and I loved walking around, but it’s not the life for me!  Curious?  Go there, it’s an eye opener!

There is a lot to see, eat and do in Copenhagen but I really, really recommend taking the river bus from the start to finish of its route (we were staying at the southerly end of the line) and taking buses (pick up a bus map otherwise you don’t stand a chance!) to see areas.  We ended up pushing the Stop button quite a few times after we spotted things we wanted to look at.  My friend’s friend told us there are roughly 500,000 inhabitants of central Copenhagen and one million if you include greater Copenhagen.  It is a small city with a much bigger city buzz.

For accommodation, don’t even think of booking a hotel, have a look at the amazing places, including our house boat, on offer at  Having an apartment to ourselves meant we saved a lot on food and drink and it being such a lovely place meant we didn’t feel guilty when we just wanted to sit around and drink wine “at home”.  I have just re-read these two sentences and I am horrified that I sound like I’m advertising Air BnB … I’m not, but it is fab!


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