“Oh, cool, you’re going to Copenhagen? I love it there. Are you going to Noma?”
If you’ve ever touched down at CPH, I feel certain you’re familiar with that line.
The thing is, whilst occasionally the answer will be *smug* “yes”, more often than not it’s “no, fully booked and, oh, £££”. Moreover, whisper it, but not every trip abroad is a gastronomic pilgrimage based on The World’s 50 (allegedly) Best Restaurants or some fat French bloke wearing a few car tyres. Other things (real life) go on, and budgets don’t always stretch.
Yet man and woman must still eat. So, excluding Noma, AOC, Geranium, Relae, Geist, Kadeau et al, where should we dine? Where’s the middle, relaxed, bookable-at-the-last-minute ground?
I had a crack at finding casual eating Nirvana on a recent trip to Scandinavia; hoping, really, for the equivalent to the likes of Koya Bar, St John Bread and Wine, Barrafina, Pitt Cue, Quality Chop House or any of the various generic pizza, ramen bars and gastro pubs that now abound in London. To be honest, I didn’t try particularly hard, nor am I sure I struck gold this time*, but here are three of the better eats from that visit.
If there’s a better, more self-assured brunch in Copenhagen, I’d like to know about it. Or in London, for that matter.
We found ourselves at Atelier September three times over as many days (once for lunch). The menu is simple but clever, if you catch my drift. Just a few options, sometimes simply egg and soldiers, or avocado on rye. But what an avocado on rye. Smart dishes, done really well with effortless style and (most importantly) banging flavour.
Top marks went to a yoghurt and seeds number (pictured at the top), which was punctuated with sweet pickled courgette, basil leaves and matcha. So. Damn. Good.
Lunch dishes were similarly effective – artfully presented courgette and burata salads; spiced tomato and olive stew enveloping a perfectly soft boiled egg. Yep, nothing crazy, but all pitch perfect. I understand they occasionally do supper club style dinners, and I bet they’re worth heading to.
Burnt rice tea, matcha and a serene aesthetic points to that happy marriage of Japan and Skandiland that’s apparent in many of the cooler places across the Nordic region.
It’s not perfect, though. This popular café sits is squeezed in the foyer of an office and on a fairly key street; it’s always busy, understaffed, and basically not the place for a quick bite. So don’t go if you’re in a rush. Or impatient.
atelier-september.dk – Gothersgade 30, 1123 Copenhagen K – Mon-Fri 7:30-16:00, Sat-Sun 10:00-16:00
I liked Baest. I didn’t like Baest. Oh, I don’t know.
Baest is a mostly pizza restaurant from the crew behind Relae and Manfreds og Vin. They cure their own meat and get the flour for the pizza from local mills. They make mozzarella and burata in house daily. There’s cash behind the interior, real thought behind the menu, loads of staff and accomplished cooking – pizza toppings like nettle, oyster mushroom, house guanciale and ricotta on a pizza are gooood; as are the interesting side dishes salads.
And it’s mostly successful, and safe and stuff – you’d go there to meet your girlfriend’s parents for the first time. Because it’s nice.
But you wouldn’t take your cousin from Naples. Because he’d explode at the overly doughy pizza bases, and the quantity of (admittedly delicious) topping on them. Is it possible to have too much prosciutto on a pizza? Yes, yes it is. Also whilst it’s possible make your own mozzarella, that doesn’t mean you should; a bit stiff, over salted, and not a scratch on Puglia’s best.
Baest misses the simple, quick and dirty mark of a good, paired back Neapolitan pizza. But to be fair, it will sort you a decent meal; if you’re staying nearby, you could do a lot worse.
baest.dk/en/ – Guldbergsgade 29 DK-2200 Copenhagen N – every day, 17:00-20:30
Hija de Sanchez
“Former Noma Chef….” is probably used in the marketing for half of Copenhagen’s independent restaurants. The label is not a guarantee of a successful meal (on this trip, we were underwhelmed by Bror, for example), but when the old boss keeps bigging a disciple up, it’s a good sign. Particularly if their venture is a casual eating one.
For example, there’s a taco stand outside Torvehallerne (the gentrified food market) that Rene Redzepi keeps promoting. The proprietor is one of his former pastry chefs, and her tacos are definitely quality.
They’re pretty classic bites involving very little wheel re-invention – the lengua (tongue) taco, adorned with jalepeno sauce, onions and coriander, brought back Mexican memories on the first bite.
The simple authenticity of it feels strange, coming from London where everyone’s straining at the leash to add a tweak or twist to whatever thing in a bun or box they’re peddling. But it’s actually pretty comforting.
Also, the avocado paletas (caramelized milk frozen lollies) are super good.
A very simple food option – for quick lunches or early evening first dinner.
hijadesanchez.dk – Torvehallerne · Frederiksborggade 21· 1360 København K
* NB, to date and limited experience, my favourite mid-level, mid-priced place in Copenhagen is Manfreds og Vin. I’d head there again above all of these.