Given how often I go to Copenhagen, I couldn’t really have a 40 list without including something from CPH really. The thing with CPH was that because I had been so many times before, there were a lot of things which could qualify for the list which I had already done (if at all possible, I tried to do new things for the 40 list). That said, some things are too good to miss out so that’s where I started to change (bend) the rules somewhat in my approach to the whole 40 Project.
First up will be the Danish hot dogs (and Frikkadeller) . I mean, even if you ignore the stand in the hall on your way to baggage reclaim at Kastrup Airport, there’s another kiosk right by the baggage carousels. What’s more, they’re both packed most of the time with Danes wanting a quick hot dog fix or presumably, a taste of home after some time abroad. In my case, it’s partly a reminder of my childhood when one of my cousins used travel to Denmark quite often as the guy she was dating lived in Denmark and she would subsequently bring over boxes of “Danish Sausages” (as we called them in my house), much to all my family’s delight. But it’s also a reminder of how much nicer hot dogs are than what we’d get over here. There is the important “snap” of the casing and the contents of the sausage may well be meat of indeterminate origin, but they’re damn tasty – Especially if like me, you got for the whole gamut of finely diced raw and deep fried onions, ketchup, remoulade and pickles all delicately encased within a hot dog roll lightly toasted and not big enough to encase the whole sausage resulting in both ends protruding out. I completely understand why the returning Danes make it one of their first stops upon landing back in CPH – I often make sure it’s one of the first things I eat upon landing at Kastrup and I look forward to it every time. I love the fact that your choice of drinks range from bottled water to soda fountains, or why not have a beer, Gammel Dansk or (my fave) a Jägermeister. So, whilst it’s not something new I did for the 40 Project, I couldn’t really have a CPH post and *not* include hotdogs in some way.
Smørrebrød, or (Danish) Open Faced Sandwiches were the first thing I remember making in Home Economics class in school (many aeons ago). Being a Brit, I just thought it was curious why you wouldn’t have the 2nd slice of bread on top – That’s the whole point of a sandwich, isn’t it?!. That said, my trips to CPH have since taught me that the singular, solitary slice of bread on the base of a smørrebrød isn’t just any bread, it’s a slice of deliciously rugged and wholesome Danish rye bread – The sort where you believe that it’s actually doing you good by the act of eating it alone and well, you don’t need a 2nd slice to top the sandwich. Furthermore, the toppings are not of the ham and cheese (or coleslaw) variety my classmates and I had to eat in Home Economics all those years back. Rather, it’s some of the most delicately smoked eel either with scrambled eggs or some other accoutrements, it could be topped with another Scandinavian favourite – Pickled Herring, or you could top it with some organic local Danish roast pork… The variations are both broad and all very tasty. So it came to be that on one occasion in my 40th year, I didn’t just manage to eat Smørrebrød at Slotskælderen hos Gitte Kik in CPH, but I also managed to drink some Danish snaps and a local CPH beer  whilst there. This wasn’t the first time I had smørrebrød in CPH and I thought the first occasion was OK, but this visit to Slotskælderen hos Gitte Kik was brilliant – From the friendly service, to the guy with the red face at the front finishing most of the plates in front of you and I suspect that the snaps and beer may have added to the whole experience, but whilst the roast pork may not have looked like much, it was some of the best roast pork (and crackling) I’ve ever eaten and was worth the food coma it sent us into afterwards.
An unexpected treat was a trip to the oldest bakery in Central CPH, Conditori La Glace. I loved how the window display of all the cakes drew you in and it’s very old Copenhagen inside, but the cakes are fantastic – They even had a sugar-free cake which I loved. However, I did manage to eat a Sportskage  which is the cake that La Glace is best known for and added another tick to the 40 list.
With my growing interest in (Craft) Beer, it would be remiss of me to travel to CPH and NOT at least drink something local and well, the Daddy of CPH brewers is Mikkeller with their collaborations and experimental beers. So it was on the way to Relæ for another brilliant dinner that I got to drink a (Mikkeller) beer at Mikkeller and Friends . It has quickly established itself as one of my favourite places to drink in CPH – With its minimalist look of walls painted in a soft, light blue (Turks and Caicos blue, I believe it is) combined with fixtures, fittings and furniture in a bare wood (lightly coloured) – The kind of Scandinavian minimalist design that you (well I) covet over for your own home until you realise that you’re too much of a hoarder to even begin to contemplate the ideal of minimalism. It’s the kind of bar design that is quite common in CPH and much as places in the UK imitate or offer something similar in design and setup, there is a certain (minimalist) swagger and well, vibe that makes it work so well in CPH which is missing in other places. Actually, whilst I’m here, I should really mention how CPH (despite the high price for alcohol) is a great place for craft beer – There are some really great tap rooms throughout the city with really varied and interesting selections. I mean, even the local corner shop near a hotel I was staying at had an entire aisle of bottled craft beers (which meant I could cheekily have one of my favourites, Brooklyn Brown Ale, with a snackette back in the hotel room). It was also in CPH that I discovered Christmas Ale (Beer) or Julebryg – And truly, my life has never been the same since..
Relæ has an extra special place in my heart because it was my first experience of New Nordic Cuisine 4 years ago and I was completely blown away by it all – The cooking, the room, the soundtrack, how you got your cutlery from a drawer in the table. Added to this how Christian Puglisi and Kim Rosen are 2 of the nicest (and coolest) guys around, it pleases me to see how their little empire has expanded and transformed Nørrebro. So it was with complete surprise when YKL phoned me letting me know of an email that she had received from Christian saying that he knew it was short notice (4 weeks) and well, YKL and I had only literally just returned from a weekend in CPH, but that it was the 5th anniversary of Relæ opening and to celebrate it, they were having a bit of a party in the local park. Sounds good, right? Then we read this:
“The plan is that our amazing friends Rosio Sanchez and Renè Redzepi will be dishing out tacos, Magnus Nilsson cooks up hotdogs, Matt Orlando fries chicken, Mehmet Guhrs braises lamb, Kobe Desmeraults makes us Croquettes-de-crevettes and Chad Robertson will spread butter on delicious bread – all for you, friends and family to taste.”
Literally, my jaw dropped. Had we really been invited to this? Even though we had just got back from CPH, we were scrambling our diaries looking at plane tickets and accommodation. To cut a *very* long story short: It was every bit as brilliant as I hoped. There was a laid back feeling of joy in the air and it very much felt like a coming together of like-minded people in celebration of how Relæ has evolved in 5 years and with it, helped to make Nørrebro a go to destination within CPH. In fact, the whole weekend was centred on the (aforementioned) empire of restaurants and bars that Christian and Kim have built up: Bæst, Manfreds, Mirabelle and of course, Relæ. But what could I add from this for the 40 list? I could have added eating the beef tartare at Manfreds (Truly, if you’re ever in CPH and go to Manfreds, have the beef tartare – It’s one of the best you’ll ever eat). However, I wanted to convey how it felt extra special that in the year I turned 40, it was also the year that Relæ turned 5 and they put on such a massive spectacle which YKL and I were so very lucky to experience. So whilst I have eaten at Relæ many times and will continue going back as much as I can. For me, being able to eat a reinterpretation of the original menu at Relæ  made it onto the list. However, I do need to mention the generosity of Kim and Christian because when the bill arrived for that meal which was one of the best we’d ever had there, it appeared to be wrong (and any subsequent demands to speak to Kim and Christian were laughed at by the staff..
Similarly, I have another special place in my heart for Bror; quite often our meal at Bror will contain the best tasting dishes of the whole CPH trip which is saying something how we generally go for the Big Hitters. Sam Nutter was still at Noma the first time I ate there and he was the one whom gave us our kitchen tour afterwards. When he and Victor Wagman left Noma to open Bror, I remember Rene Redzèpi saying how they both may not have any investors backing, but they had “huge talent and balls”. That only added to the amusement of how a signature dish at Bror became the Bull’s balls – They even have T-shirts saying “Poached, Sliced, Breaded, Fried” (how it’s cooked). So whilst I could say that eating Bulls balls at Bror is on the list, I should also mention how during one of my trips to CPH in my 40th year, I also got to eat at Café LilleBror (RIP) where not content with feeding me balls at Bror, I also got to eat crispy dicks at Café LilleBror. [added to 38] As a side note, I can’t believe I’ve just made that public and now worry how this post is going to come up for certain internet searches…
I started this post by saying how I couldn’t really leave out writing about Copenhagen given how often I have been there. Therefore I can’t leave out one of (if not) the main reasons for going to Copenhagen in first place – To eat at Noma. Yes, I am very biased when it comes to Noma – But that’s because I’ve never had a bad experience when at Noma. Sure, there have been some dishes where they didn’t *quite* hit the mark, but when you talk about an overall dining experience to encompass the setting, service, wine pairing and food – The whole shebang – you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere better in the world than Noma. Every time I’ve been to Noma, it’s been special and for different reasons every time. I always spend hours recollecting various parts of the meal with YKL with a permagrin on my face – be it certain dishes, interaction with the staff, recounting conversations… The fact that I got to eat at Noma not just once, but twice to mark my 40th year with friends  added to the how special my 40th year was.
I know this won’t be my last post about CPH, but it very much was part of my 40 Project and whilst some things weren’t within the original remit of eating something local to that region or a speciality of a restaurant/bar for the first time, it felt right that I tweaked some of the qualifying criteria just so I could share some of the happy memories I have from my trips to CPH.