Chris Moss heads out on a Copenhagen food tour to uncover the New Nordic movement
On my last visit I to Copenhagen I’d been delving into the world of philosophy — specifically, the work of local intellectual superstar Soren Kierkegaard, a champion of restraint, self-control and the joys of the spirit.
This time it was all about the pleasures of the body, as I was joining a foodie tour, more precisely the Danish Delicacies walk led by local guide Cindie Christiansen. The meeting point was the Church of our Lady. When I arrived, there were two more Brits but also four Danes — curious, they said, to explore their own gastronomy.
Cindie said she got the idea of food walks while working in Lisbon. As a traveller herself she’d been after an “authentic local experience” and decided her own city needed to offer the same.
“A food tour opens up Copenhagen because visitors get to explore new food, and get taught about its history and culture by locals,” Cindie told me as we wandered through the sun-dappled lanes of the old town.
“Visitors are presented to local food gems that are difficult to find if you don’t live in the city,” she added.
We started with a Danish classic, breaded plaice and creamy potatoes, at the Cafe Gammel Torv, also a Danish classic. Beer has been pulled here since 1671 and the cosy, wood-panelled restaurant, which opened in 1902, was the first in the city to welcome female diners unaccompanied by men.
At the pungent Osten ved Kultorvet, Mikael Henriksen, aka Mr Ost (‘Mr Cheese’) showed us some of his 120 or so cheeses. Danish cheeses were renascent, he said, and local customers were ever keener on stronger flavours. His Jutland blue packed a punch.
Sausages are a staple across Northern Europe. At the tiny Polse Kompagniet stall outside Torvehallerne, the trendy new food market that opened in 2011, we all tried to keep chatting while ‘politely’ tucking into salt-and-pepper hot dogs. Mayo and mustard exploded on all sides, but the pork was delicious and the bun fresh and sweet.
I asked Cindie why Copenhagen had evolved into one of Europe’s premier foodie destinations. She said it all began in 2004, with what has become known as the New Nordic manifesto.
“There’s no doubt that Claus Meyer and René Redzepi, with Noma, led the change in food culture in Copenhagen and Denmark as a whole,” Cindie explained.
“In order for Scandinavia to compete with other countries food-wise, it was necessary to ‘go back’ and use our own local ingredients and to create our own food.”
Copenhagen is as much of a hipster city as Berlin or London. Few eateries are hipper than Grod, which has given plain old porridge a makeover. Served with dulce de leche, crisp apples and roasted almonds, it’s fair to say that oats can be pleasurable as well as satisfying. The menu featured novel culinary coinages such as ‘barley-otto’ and Indian lentil porridge, too.
Our next stop was at the equally cool Social Foodies, a chocolatier that sources organic ingredients and uses a sustainable supply chain structured to support projects in Africa. The future of food, perhaps?
Finally, it was time for a drink, so we found a table in the warm snug at artisan alehouse Mikkeller & Friends. I was full to the brim but it had been my kind of food tour — very Danish (and not too delicate), with a bit of history and good company, and a glass of fruity IPA to toast the end of our three-hour educational extravaganza.