Smorrebrod and more on a gourmet dining tour of Copenhagen: Travel Weekly
We Bostonians are picky about our seafood, so it was with some trepidation that I ordered Massachusetts lobster at Marchal, a restaurant at the posh Hotel d’Angleterre in Copenhagen.
True, the restaurant has a Michelin star, but would Danish chef Andreas Bagh really know his way around such an iconic New England staple?
In fact, the dish, one of the eatery’s signature offerings, was lobster twice: the first course was lobster tail with pumpkin and quince sauce, followed by the claw with Jerusalem artichokes, hazelnuts and currants.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the result was so good, as was the starter comprising four different kinds of caviar, that it set the tone for several days of stellar gourmet dining.
Everyone knows by now that Copenhagen is the jewel in the crown of Scandinavian cuisine. Its reputation was ignited in 2010 by the coronation of two-Michelin star Noma as the best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine, a designation it retained multiple times since. Its chef and co-owner, Rene Redzepi, is credited with reinventing Nordic cuisine and putting it on the map for discriminating foodies worldwide.
That reputation has spread not only to the rest of Denmark but, on its coattails, to the other Nordic countries.
During my visit, I unabashedly ate my way through some of the best gourmet dining Copenhagen has to offer, including meals that would impress even the most finicky luxury traveler.
One trend I experienced is the re-emergence of smorrebrod, the traditional open-faced Danish sandwich, which has become trendy again in upscale eateries.
At the Michelin guide-recommended restaurant Aamanns, for example, chef Adam Aamann serves up a hipster version of smorrebrod with homemade schnapps and local organic beer.
The Royal Smushi cafe blends the concepts of sushi and smorrebrod in a setting that flaunts the city’s other claim to fame: Danish design. The eatery is emblazoned with chandeliers, the china is Royal Copenhagen, the cutlery is by Georg Jensen and the chairs were created by Arne Jacobsen.
For a different take on design-meets-gourmet cuisine, we sampled the Nordic/Japanese fusion fare at Admiralgade 26, a new eatery by Christian Nedergaard and Sebastian Rind Nelleman. The two had already made a name for themselves in the city with Ved Stranden 10, a wine bar nearby, and the restaurant makes the most of the owners’ knowledge of wine, now paired with inventive cuisine and a deceptively simple decor, designed to look like a 19th century Danish home but with startlingly futuristic light fixtures.
On subsequent nights we managed to tackle the tasting menu of Asian tapas at Kiin Kiin Bao Bao, overseen by chef Henrik Yde and served in a restaurant that blends Scandinavian design with inventive takes on everything from steamed buns to salted coconut ice cream, and at Geist, a gastronomic Nordic eatery in a hipster setting of predominantly concrete and dimmed lights, where the service is so laid back that you can order as you go.
Since our visit took place in winter, we found ourselves drawn to cozy eateries for the kind of indulgent afternoon treats that wouldn’t normally fit into our everyday lives. The Danish have a word for this, hygge, and while it is virtually impossible to translate, it conjures up images of sparkly lights, glowing candles and fireplaces, hot mulled wine and gooey pastries.
For diet-defying cakes, for example, we spent a happy hour or two sampling the wares at Conditori La Glace, Copenhagen’s oldest and probably best-known bakery. This is the kind of place grandmothers take their children on special occasions, and the tradition, which began in 1870, carries on to this day. The Sport Cake is the company’s most famous, but the menu also includes everything from macarons to wedding cakes and even a few gluten-free confections, which can be accompanied by coffee, tea and hot chocolate served in antique pots.
Or go all out for an afternoon at the iconic Tivoli Gardens, part amusement park and part destination experience, which is fun all year but goes a little bananas during the winter holidays with colorful lights, visits from Santa and his elves and traditional heart-shaped gingerbread that you can decorate and take home. The gardens boast rides, restaurants and cafes, theatrical and musical presentations and even the boutique 38-room Nimb Hotel.
Speaking of going all out for the winter holidays, the five-star, 92-room Hotel d’Angleterre, where we were staying, attracts selfie-taking passersby with its massive wooden soldiers flanking the entrance, its glittering light displays and its enviable location directly across from Kongens Nytorv, a public square that turns into a fairy tale Christmas market in season.
The 250-year-old property was closed for two years for an extensive $80 million renovation and reopened in 2014.
The hotel is also within easy walking distance of the lively Nyhavn waterfront area and adjacent to Stroget, the city’s best known and longest pedestrian shopping street and home to the Royal Copenhagen porcelain company, which puts on a museum-quality Christmas display.
In addition to Marchal, highlights at d’Angleterre include the Amazing Space spa, with its massive indoor swimming pool and the 100-year-old ballroom, said to be the oldest in Northern Europe, which boasts a beautifully ornate ceramic glass ceiling.
Historical doesn’t mean stuffy, however, particularly in the adjacent Balthazar, a lively Champagne bar that serves more than 160 varieties of bubbly in a jewel box setting of velvets, antique mirrors and sparkly chandeliers.
Special offers at the hotel include a Sunday special, available on select nights, starting at about $790, double, including breakfast.