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Copenhagen For Beginners- Finding the Food, Wine and Beer Scene

We arrived in Copenhagen with nothing particular in mind except the words from friends that said everything was easy to find. We booked an Airbnb in Nyhavn, which is sort of in the central district off the canal. We took the train in from the airport which was both easy and affordable. Once we exited the train, our unit was a short walk from the station.

Immediately after dropping our bags we headed out to explore. Normally we avoid touristy areas, but in Copenhagen (København) the establishments along the scenic canal are home to places that are touristy, but intermixed with more upscale restaurants that are frequented by locals. We headed out to explore around 4:30pm, which in late October is sunset. We found many street side bars and cafés that were all pretty much identical. Embracing our tourist-truth, we stop at the fourth or fIMG_0459 (1)ifth one down.

I ordered a Chablis (all the wines are either French, Italian, or German) and M ordered a beer and an Aquavit. Both served to help us settle in and absorb the immediate surroundings. Each street bar provides warm lap blankets over the chairs for patrons to stay warm and comfortable.

Next, it was dinner time and we felt that since we would not be able to get into Noma, it would be best to find something in our neighborhood. It was Friday night, and the while the street was lined with many places to dine, most $$$, as we approached the ones we found most interesting we were quickly turned away because all seating was reserved. At that point we started approaching every place we passed, but were turned away from each one. Keep in mind, this is not peak or even high tourist season. This is simply a Friday night in Køpenhavn! I suggested one more place that we had passed on our way down towards the canal, and while they too were fully booked, the young man hosting made a recommendation for Madklubben. He said, “walk away from the central area until you reach #66, which is the address for Madklubben.

Things at this point: 1, The place on the corner that made the polite recommendation was Bistro Royal, and during our time in there, it would essentially become the equivalent of our hotel bar (if we were in a hotel), and 2, we later learned that Mad is Danish for “eat” so Madklubben losely translates as “eating club.” We were quickly seated at the chef’s counter, one of our favorite places to dine when in a new location, with menus and a wine list in front of us. Shaking off the cold and having hung up our coats, we quickly ordered from the cocktail menu.

One of the things you will notice within hours of arriving in København is that everyone under 45 speaks incredible English, and that the Danes are approachable and friendly, which made it much easier for me to deliver my double difficult request of an onion-free, vegetarian meal. Denmark is a highly meat-centric country and vegetarian is no easy task. Even fish is less prevalent than you might expect. That said, the chef was able to create a meal from a short list of vegetable sides that served my dinner needs perfectly. I enjoyed two glasses of wine with my salad of frissé, my mIMG_0462ain of roasted spiced pumpkin, and mashed potatoes with fresh herbs. I had an Alsatian cremante and a Barbera d’Alba, both which paired splendidly with the salad and with the spiced pumpkin and potatoes. We could’nt resist the dessert because we had been watching the chef prepare them for almost an hour! We chose the spiced carrot cake with carrot sorbet and poached pear with house-made vanilla ice cream and a dense cake crumble. Both were excellent choices!

Our next magnificent dinner was at Bar Central, which was a place that was simultaneously cosmopolitan and Danish, a blend that was warm and welcoming.

Scanning the list of cocktails handwritten on the mirror mounted on IMG_0485the wall, at the bottom I spotted “Negroni.” We asked our server what he recommended as a signature cocktail, to which he said that their Negroni was one of the best! He also said that they were making their classic Negroni as well as a “Christmas-inspired” Negroni. Again, considering it was early November, it seemed a little early in the season, and yet too tempting to turn down. We ordered one of each!

M ordered the evening’s pre-fixe meal, with wine pairing. It featured a local lobster bisque, a Gravlax plate, and a lovingly prepared flank steak. I ordered the salad frissé with warm goat cheese on a crostini and the artichoke appetizer, coursed as my main. To go with my salad, M chose the Sancerre that was available by the glass, and the Alsatian Pinot noir was recommended to pair with my artichokes. However, due to the kind enthusiasm of our server, glasses of all wines that were either being poured with M’s pre-fixe meal or simply wines he thought we should try began to show up on our table! They were all excellent choices and the finale wine was a semi-sweet Riesling that we had with our cheese course and baba rum. Delish!

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Our last evening in København we took the recommendation of my niece and walked 30+ minutes across town to Mikkeller, an urban microbrew oasis! It was perfect for what we needed because we were not up for another sit down dinner and were still adjusting to the jet lag. Mikkeller brews all their own beers, plus mead, cider, and a seasonal cherry wine. It is a cozy bar with soft lighting, and a staff that is simultaneously aloof and attending, a difficult balance to strike. I had the Green/Gold IPA and M had the stout. We order four or five snacks, which made for a very filling supper. The hard cheese and almonds were great, but the stand-out item was the pickled carrots, made by their sister restaurant (which was closed on Sunday). IMG_0525We truly enjoyed the ease of Mikkeller with the top quality of their brews and snacks. It turns out we have a Mikkeller in our own backyard, just south of Market in San Francisco, which we will have to try when time permits.

Here is the curated collection of wines based on what we enjoyed in Copenhagen/Køpenhavn:

NV Domaine Allimant-Laugner Cremant d’Alsace Rosé
2012 Domaine Jean-Louis Mothe Chablis
2014 Domaine Andre Vatan “Les Charmes” Sancerre Blanc
2011 Ghiomo Barbera d’Alba Lavai
2012 Domaine Allimant-Laugner Pinot Noir
2010 Domaine Rieflé Riesling Grand Cru Steinert

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Nancy Garvin

Editor in Chief at Well Produced Food & Wine
Nancy is the founder and chief editor of Well Produced Foods and Wines. She has had a flourishing career in food and wine for 3 decades (remember aspics?).