So we’ve talked about the many different sights you can see in and around Copenhagen in a two-part series on the blog recently… So here comes my top recommendations when it comes to the places you must eat in while in the city!
This is based on my personal list, a mixture of both low and high end places. Copenhagen is now a food hot spot and new places are opening up all the time, and with the limited time a tourist can have in the city, it is just impossible to eat in all of them!
So what is Danish, or what is now referred to as the New Nordic cuisine really all about? Why is there so much hype and buzz around it? From what I saw and experienced in our more than a week’s stay in Copenhagen, their food is simply about local, seasonal and organic ingredients. It is food that is cooked and presented in a very fresh and innovative way. Food that is served straight from farm-to-table. No extras, no add-on condiments, no rich sauces, no thick gravies, nothing artificial — it’s simply all about honest-to-goodness, real food.
In the past, Danish food was not even on the radar and certainly no one would travel just to eat it. But as we now know, this has changed drastically since the birth of the city’s superstar, Noma. And why not, when it was given the highest recognition ever to be given in a restaurant — not just once but four times (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014) — the title : the No. 1 Restaurant in the World. (I wrote a 3-part series on that amazing experience here).
Since then, more and more restaurants in the city received worldwide recognitions, and because of such, Copenhagen now has the highest density of Michelin stars in Northern Europe! So yes, you can say that the city is definitely on a roll, as it is now one of the leading gastronomic destinations in the world.
So if you happen to find yourself here, waste no time and take advantage of their amazing and dynamic food scene. Go ahead and eat in some of the must-eat places in Copenhagen!
Must Eat in : Kong Hans
Kong Hans, is a restaurant located in the oldest cellar in Copenhagen dating more than 700 years back (yes, it is in a place that old!) This location was also the residence of the legendary Danish author Hans Christian Andersen and is the first restaurant in Copenhagen to ever receive a Michelin star.
The menu was had was stellar, the service was excellent and the whole dining experience was simply wonderful. Suffice to say that this, being our first dinner in Copenhagen, was nothing short of memorable!
Must Eat in : Fru Nimb
If you want to experience the renowned Danish open-faced sandwiches called smørrebrød, then Fru Nimb inside the old amusement park Tivoli Gardens is the best place to try it. Their menu has more than 50 different kinds of this sandwich, so I am quite sure you will find something here that you will like!
The open-faced sandwiches are made with inspiration from old traditions and recipes. It generally consists of a slice of rye bread topped, for example, with roast beef, smoked salmon, pickled herring, shrimps, liver pate, or fried fish fillet, and then finished off with a variety of garnishes (the final sculptured product often looks too good to eat)! It’s usually only served at lunch time though — so make sure to time it with your meal!
I ordered my smørrebrød with fresh shrimps from Greenland, and it came with their homemade lemon mayo spread and it was topped with sprigs of fresh dill. It was scrumptious!
And because one small sandwich is never enough for a big appetite like mine, I ordered a second smørrebrød. This time I had one made of crispy rye bread that was topped with warm fried herring, apple compote and garnished with sweet apple crisps.
Must – Eat in : Papiroen
If street food and food trucks are your thing, then you know you should never miss a visit to Papiroen, or Paper Island! This is a large warehouse filled with food trucks and shipping containers serving Copenhagen’s famous street food!
You will go crazy with the diverse choices of street food here, but not to be missed in Papiroen is this unique cold dessert called : Koldskål, made of buttermilk, vanilla beans and lime, served with ginger rhubarb, coconut flakes and topped with little Danish cookies!
This was my first time to try such a deliciously light and refreshing creamy dessert! And I loved the cool, casual vibe of the place too — it’s perfect for quick lunches or for tourists like me who are always on the go!
Must – eat in : Relæ
Relæ’s head chef, Christian Puglisi has worked for both Noma and El Bulli, so you can say that this restaurant has quite an advantage when it comes to its reputation. Currently holding a one Michelin star and named as #40 in the World’s Best, the restaurant is definitely on top of its game. But more than these rankings and stars, what sets Relæ apart from all the other highly rated restaurants, is the fact that it is the recipient of the Sustainable Restaurant Award, which is an award given to the restaurant with the highest environmental and social responsibility rating. Now that’s something worthy to note!
What does this really mean to us common folk? Basically it tells us that the main focus of the restaurant is sourcing the freshest, organic local food. Probably 90% of the dishes offered here are vegetarian, but there are a few good choices for meat eaters too (but again they are organic and sustainable). The restaurant has a very relaxed and laid-back atmosphere and they tell you to pour your own wine, which are all-natural and biodynamic. The menu is not revealed right away so you are kept in suspense. The rest of your “equipment” such as your cutlery and napkins are inside individual little drawers hidden under the table — yet again another way of surprising their customers.
Food in Relæ is very experimental and exciting. Dishes are very simple actually — and flavors are maximized with just a few ingredients.
So if eating “green” is your thing, or you are very health-conscious and environment-oriented (or you are simply an adventurous foodie who’s willing to try what’s out there), then Relæ should definitely be on your list of places to eat in while in Copenhagen.
Must – Eat in : Geranium
As I’ve mentioned, the restaurant scene in Copenhagen is now known as one of the world’s most distinct and innovative, which are precisely the main reasons why we decided to explore this place and spend a lot of time here (instead of another European city). And one of our “targeted” hit list restaurants for this trip (second to Noma, of course) was : Geranium, the only 3-Michelin starred restaurant in Copenhagen as of writing, and currently ranked as no.28 in the World’s Best. As if those were not enough recognitions, it is also presently run and headed by Chef Rasmus Kofoed, who holds the title of the World’s Best Chef.
So expectations were definitely high, as we began our 20-plus course meal — yes 20 dishes in one menu, per person! (I know I couldn’t believe that myself too!) And since I can’t possible share them all here with you, here are some of the highlights.
We began with this simple but super tasty fried Jerusalem artichoke leaves in hazelnut oil and rye vinegar. This was served with a dip of their homemade lemon thyme mayonnaise. Think of it as an upscale, Nordic version of our local fried chicheria! It was crispy light but oh my goodness, it was full of flavor.
The menu in the restaurant changes with the seasons, but what’s consistent here is they use only Scandinavia’s superb wild and organic produce and they present them in very delicate and beautiful forms.
Just look at this charred potato with aroma from bark. It was smoked with a blow torch and dipped in a spoon filled with smoked sheep’s milk butter and burnt thyme. Sounds complicated I know even though it looks just like charcoal… but believe me when I say this was nothing short of amazing!
And it gets even better and more experimental than the last…Here are green “emerald stones” stuffed with smoked trout, horseradish and frozen juice made from pickled dill and cucumber. This too was deliciously tasty!
But this is probably one of the best amongst the 20 dishes we had : Smoked Hake (which is a type of Nordic fish) cooked in parsley stems and then covered in freshly churned buttermilk, topped with a whole lot (no scrimping here!) of Finnish caviar. I’m telling you ever since I’ve tried this dish, I haven’t looked at fish soup in the same way again!
And here’s to all bread lovers out there (but hate the carbs that go with it): Geranium also serves various kinds of bread with different grains and seeds — all gluten free! They put this side by side with these cute little trees that are actually cheese sticks, made of aged Danish cheese. So yes imagine your table filled with gluten-free bread served with pure Danish butter and aged Danish cheese. Seriously what else can you ask for, while waiting for your next dish?
Table service was done for our main course : Wild duck leg confit (stuffed inside duck breast) cooked in the aroma of juniper, black currant leaves, dried plum and pickled pine.
To be honest, I am not really a duck person, but this changed my mind completely about it as this was very clean tasting and excellent wild duck!
After the meal, I asked if I can see their kitchen as this is usually my way of learning more about what goes on behind the scenes, behind the awards and recognition of the restaurant. With Geranium, as soon as I entered, I immediately felt a certain kind, a different kind of atmosphere, one that is not commonly felt in most fine dining and highly rated restaurants. Sure, they are one of the World’s Best and the only one with 3 Michelin Stars in the whole Denmark, but you can also see that their young team of 20 work together in perfect sync and harmony. The restaurant (though considered formal) has such a light, happy and positive vibe to it — which I personally think without a doubt, translates to their excellent food and outstanding service.
This is definitely one of my best dining experiences in Copenhagen. I was so overwhelmed and grateful that night to have tasted this kind of quality food, cooked with never heard of cooking techniques, and served with such a seriously warm and honest-to-goodness personal service. Geranium definitely deserves to be one of the world’s best.
Must – eat in : 108
You might wait for months on end for a table at Noma, the four-time winner of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants award, and pay a whole lot of money to eat dishes such as moss cooked in chocolate. But if you really can’t get a table there, fret not, because you have the option of popping into its sister restaurant 108 , which is really just next door! This is where chef Kristian Baumann (a Noma alumnus, of course) is serving accessible but amazing dishes that everyone can afford and appreciate.
The great thing about 108 though is that it doesn’t even feel second-best. In fact, the casual, laid-back atmosphere of the dining room is more fun than at Noma. But of course, don’t get me wrong here. After having dined in Noma, the highest temple of gastronomy, I would still say that it is still by far the most incredible meal and restaurant experience of my life, and one that is worth the money and worth the wait. But of course, you can still have a great evening at 108, with delicious, adventurous food and great wines to match.
Now here’s the dish that’s creating a lot of buzz around 108 : This is what they call the Caramelized Milk Skin with Grilled Pork Belly and Cress. A lot of reviews are already predicting that this pork belly is on its way to cult status and will become the next BIG thing (ie. to be copied and made into different versions) in the foodie world.
What is it made of? They say it’s the perfectly thin crepe below that makes all the difference. The crepe is made of reduced milk cooked down in a frying pan, and then filled with the 9-hour cooked (ultra tender and juicy) pork belly. It really does sound very simple I know, but when you eat it (and you’re supposed to eat it wrapped like a burrito with bare hands), then you know this is one good example of a simple dish that can turn explosive!
For dessert, one cannot leave 108 without trying their famous sourdough cone filled with blueberry ice cream and mint. Surely this not your ordinary ice cream as the cone is made out of their “scrap” sourdough — you know, the extras that they get from making their in-house sourdough bread. The ice cream is made from fresh blueberries and seasoned with anise and corn flowers. It is one ice cream that is indeed very inventive and unique!
So yes 108 may always be in the shadows of its more famous sister Noma, but 108 is surely worth a second look too, as I feel it is actually the “cooler” sibling! The dishes are less complicated, very down to earth, hearty and delicious. One more nice thing about the place is that diners are encouraged to chat with their neighbors (it’s common seating for all) and pour their own drinks too!
So as you can see, based on what I have personally seen and experienced, the restaurant scene in Copenhagen is really an attraction in itself and worth not just a visit, but worth exploring. From reasonably priced cafes and bistros to Michelin-starred, fine dining places, one thing you can be assured of here is the focus on high quality, seasonal ingredients and their unpretentious take on dining out. (I simply hope that someday, Manila will get to this place too.)
And as I’ve mentioned in my previous blog posts, Copenhagen is often considered the happiest city on Earth. Could it really be because of their dynamic food scene? I definitely think so, as food since time immemorial, plays a very important role in society and in the people’s lifestyle and well-being.
Till our next trip!
If you want to backtrack and see what I’ve previously written about Copenhagen, click the links below :
Noma : The myths and stories behind it and how I made it here
Wood, Ants and Moss : What I ate in Noma
Kitchen stories and behind the scenes at Noma
The Best of Copenhagen Part 1
The Best of Copenhagen Part 2
To see my other photos in Copenhagen, type #TSMinCopenhagen on Instagram, or click here.