So it started with a cryptic clue for my impending 40th birthday. I got this text from Samantha
A surprise trip from my lovely wife- which I thought was Norway! Geography was never my forte.
We have finally got into a position where we are lucky enough to be able to afford to travel and Samantha decided to take us to Copenhagen in Denmark. Probably because I’m always banging on about how cool the Scandi countries seem to be after having been to Sweden about 15 years ago.
Anyway first impressions were kind of what you would expect from the Scandinavians. Spotlessly clean in the airport, lots of helper staff speaking embarrassingly good Enlgish (and numerous other languages), in the station.
I always feel like a bit of a philistine for not making more of an effort with other languages but there’s something about submerging yourself in a place where all the words look unfamiliar; it’s part of the fun.
Once we got to Copenhagen however the atmos changed a bit. We left the station out of the side that backs on to the red light district. Should’ve known really:
The apartment was an Airbnb. We arrived and the owners’ kids were comically lined up with their little suitcases waiting to be evicted from their own home by the slightly pissed couple from England. No worries, they were probably going somewhere nice…
The place was pretty awesome. Classic Scandi style, relaxed and informal, light and airy but utilitarian and understated. The family obviously had very good taste and a keen eye for art and design. I loved the kid’s monster drawings.
In the spirit of throwing myself into the culture I went to Aldi (that well known Danish supermarket!) and bought some crazy shit I don’t understand.
I can recommend the “Ass guard” (as we ended up pronouncing it), and the Grovhakket was a particular favourite of mine and Sam’s – god knows what it is, probably pureed dog or something. Anyway it was tasty spread on some rye bread.
After I’d decked the birthday beer and we’d had a quick nap, we were off to Väkst, a fancy new eatery on St Peter’s Street near the University.”Väkst” means growth. The whole theme of the place is based around a central greenhouse type structure with lots of hanging plants and greenery. The meals too tended to place the emphasis on the vegetables and herbs, which as a dedicated carnivore normally isn’t my bag, but I gotta say. It was all bloody delicious.
We had the taster menu which had about 5 or 6 courses I think with a separate taster wine for each course, again slightly hazy on the details. I can’t tell you exactly what I had because I looked like this by the end of it:
I don’t know what the Danish for “shitfaced” is
The following morning we decided to nurse our hangovers with a hearty breakfast. I can recommend Dyrehaven in the Vesterbro district a couple of streets from where we were staying. I have a bit of an obsession with avocados at the moment, so this played right into my hands. It was a crazy mix of granola served next to poached eggs on rye bread next to avocado with chilli on rye bread with watercress and roasted tomatoes and some more rye bread. I think they really like rye bread in Denmark.
The next day’s breakfast was at Mad&Kaffe which I’ve got to say despite the rave reviews didn’t live up to expectation as much as Dyrehaven. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but quiet busy (we had to wait in a queue to be seated for 10 minutes) and when the food came (a long time later) it was basically just various stuff in lots of little pots. I didn’t really get it. Why not just put that on a plate. What you’ve done there, is created a lot of unnecessary washing up. Good kaffe though …
Two more restaurants I need to mention are Krebsegaarden, which I visited on my actual birthday, and Meson Espana.
As you might expect, Meson Espana is a tapas place. It’s tucked away under street level, a 5 minute walk form the train station. We were the only diners there and might have walked past it but for a recommendation from a friend who had told us to go. The food was authentic and delicious, but being a greedy bastard, I always feel like I haven’t eaten very much when I have tapas. Plus I hate sharing food.
Krebsgaarden is a concept restaurant where the food is inspired by the current exhibition at the Galleri Krebsen. The food was incredible. Actually incredible, which may explain why it’s number 2 on trip advisor. Can I tell you what I had? Can I bollocks, because I also had the wine taster menu again. To be fair, it was my birthday this time. You’re allowed to be catatonic on your 40th birthday, it takes the edge off the depression. Funnily enough, I wasn’t that taken with the artwork on display in the restaurant, maybe the gallery is better?
I’ll tell you what else Danish people like to do. They luuuuurve to put the plate of food down in front of you and then tell you all about the food you are about to eat, and how it was made, and where it has come from, and who grew it, and what their cousin does for a living and why that’s relevant and…OH MY GOD JUST LET ME EAT THE FOOD ALREADY!! I’m not knocking it really, it’s nice that they’re passionate, but for me this is nearly as bad a sharing.
I have no idea what this was but it was amazing.
All things considered I found eating out in Copenhagen to be a great experience with plenty of variety and quality, however, even relatively modest fare can be eye-wateringly expensive:
Copenhagen really is a great place to just wander around and take in the sights. There are some beautiful areas to the capital such as the harbour and the old town.
Lots of nice little shops too selling upcycled and designer goods alike. Samanatha was particularly smitten with this flower shop. It’s the kind of look she’s going for with the house.
But you gotta watch the exchange rate, it’s easy to get caught out if you’re a bit stupid like me. Managed to buy this delightful hand carved wooden bowl/ objet d’art for just a fiver.
Bah ha ha ha how we laughed when we found out!
Except that it wasn’t a fiver…It was fifty quid! Managed to get the exchange rate wrong by a factor of ten- D’oh! If you listen really hard you can still hear them laughing in the shop. Obviously I couldn’t take it back and explain my error because I’m British and as such I would rather give away all of my money and belongings and live out my days as a hermit in the Outer Hebrides, rearing sheep and living off nettles than engage in that conversation.
Being as venerable as it is there are plenty of old buildings and history to immerse yourself in in Copenhagen if being a culture vulture is your thing. I was particularly taken with the architecture, both old and new.
…but being a modern city there are still shit bits…
What the actual fuck?
…and dudes who skip leg day at the gym…
The Carlsberg museum is an absolute must-see and I would definitely put aside a good chunk of the day for this if you intend visiting. It was a really fascinating museum, but with added beer. I just fail to see how this cannot be a winner.
Carlsberg beer in Denmark is infinitely more delicious and quite a bit stronger than the UK version, so don’t be put off by that tepid stuff that somebody brought to your last barbeque because they didn’t actually like you enough to buy proper lager. The company have grand plans to develop the area around the museum into a chic, modern, urban setting, it will be interesting to see how they blend the architectural styles.
I don’t know about you but I find that getting about the city when sightseeing can be a bit tedious unless you’re staring imminent death in the face. So with this in mind, we decided to hire a city bike “Bicyklen”. This works by handing over your bank account details at one of the bike hubs to a third party you’ve never heard of and then taking your life precariously in your hands as you flail wildly about in Copenhagen’s heavily-trafficked streets with a flagrant and, at times, suicidal disregard for the rules of the road. Remarkably, we weren’t killed and still had money left in our bank accounts when we last checked so it turned out to be something of a success. I think it cost about £2.50 for one terrifying hour.
A couple of great bars that deserve a mention are Lidkoeb and Ruby. Lidkoeb has a warm, friendly feel about it with table service and a little area outdoors if it is too busy at the bar. The cocktails are pricey but really good. I loved this place.
Ruby is more well known, and whilst it was pretty fucking cool, there was a bit more of an air of pretension to it. We had to queue to get in. On a weeknight!
Again the cocktails were fantastic but not cheap. Still worth a visit.
All in all I would highly recommend Denmark. It’s vibrant and fun, cultured and cool, seedy and saucy, but sexy and sophisticated. The people are warm and friendly, getting about is easy and the food and drink are sublime. Just remember to learn how to start crapping money before you go.
…oh, and maybe take a calculator.