Food: A taste of Copenhagen

Top British chef Leon Smith, a regular visitor to Copenhagen, reveals his favourite dining spots in Scandinavia's most Michelin-starred city, where Nordic cuisine pioneer NOMA has just reopened

Friday, February 23, 2018,
By Leon Smith
Food: A taste of Copenhagen
Photograph by Lagkagehuset

I ate my way through Copenhagen on my last visit, ending up at chef Bo Bech's restaurant, Geist, for a meal I remember vividly — notably, the herb salad with smoked bone marrow and tomato. The Danish mentality of foraging, and natural ingredients, has also stuck with me. Many kitchens now use herbs and plants such as woodruff, verbena and sorrel, inspired by the landscapes of Denmark. And, of course, this year, all eyes will be on the epicentre of this tradition: the new Noma restaurant. Could this be where René Redzepi wins his third Michelin star?

Restaurants in Denmark

Danes eat both small and large plates, tapas-style, putting them in the correct order to ensure the right balance throughout the meal. Geist is the place to go for this kind of modern Nordic fare; diners can even watch the chefs create the intricate dishes. Restaurant Radio is another favourite. The set menu is very affordable, great quality and wholly seasonal, with home brewed beers to complement each course.

Sweet stuff

Eating good bread in Copenhagen is close to compulsory — baked goods play a huge part in the city's history and food culture. I recommend going to Brød, the little-sister outlet to hip Vesterbro bakery Kihoskh, to grab a breakfast of Danish pastries or stock up on rich rye to make a lunchtime smørrebrød (open sandwich). Don't want to DIY? Then head to a street food market; Papirøen has stacks of exotic goodies, including an array of little pastries and chocolates. Don't miss the flødeboller (chocolate-coated marshmallows) from the Sweet Food stall.

Two to take away

Danish pastries
For the best kanelsnegle (cinnamon buns), head to the flagship Lagkagehuset bakery, opposite Christianshavn Station (in the boho Christiania hood that's home to the new NOMA restaurant).

Hot dogs
Copenhagen takes its dogs (pølse) so seriously there's an unofficial annual hot dog world championship, where the city's top chefs man food trucks and stalls and vie to create the best flavour combinations. Every mouthful has to be perfectly balanced. A perennial favourite are the organic dogs from DØP.

Follow @leonjsmith23

Published in the March 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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