When Nordic restaurant noma, in Copenhagen’s canalside Christianshavn district took home the title, ‘world’s best restaurant’ at the 2010 S. Pellegrino awards, all eyes suddenly turned towards Copenhagen and its restaurant scene. What sets noma apart from other Michelin-starred restaurant is its exclusive focus on locally-harvested ingredients to form a seasonal menu.
Following suit, many of the city’s top restaurants are dumping French and Italian dishes for Scandinavian classics. Menus tempt with locally-raised lamb, wild game, fish and seafood caught in the nearby North Sea while fruits, grains and pulses indigenous to the region add color and vitality to the dishes.
A dish from Restaurant Herman in Tivoli — Photo courtesy of Nimb
Getting a table at noma is almost impossible; other guides have suggested that the odds are similar to winning the lottery. Don’t worry, however, as Copenhagen offers plenty more options for tasting Nordic cuisine, among them Restaurant Herman in Tivoli’s Nimb complex, where head chef Thomas Herman excels at transforming a simple dish of bacon, potatoes and onion known as ‘brændende kærlighed’ (burning love) into a pièce de résistance.
Skilled chef Christian S. Pugsili broke away from noma in 2010 to open his own restaurant Relæ in the streetwise Nørrebro neighborhood. Drawing from his shared Danish and Italian heritage, Pugsili’s simple kitchen has excited the world’s food critics as much as it has locals. Like Restaurant Radio, which opened in summer 2011 in the Forum district, Relæ can be considered a people’s noma, sharing similar values yet less exclusive, and with fruits and vegetables in the foreground.
Christian S. Pugsili at Restaurant Relæ — Photo courtesy of Restaurant Relæ
The leading mastermind behind the Nordic food movement is Claus Meyer, co-owner of noma as well as the face behind a chain of Copenhagen delis (try the one in department store Magasin) and bakeries. Meyer also owns a farm and orchard on the tiny Danish island Lilleø, where apples are produced for the rich and cloudy ‘æblemost’.
More regionally specific is Bornholm cuisine, originating in a Danish-owned island in the Baltic Sea between Poland and Sweden. Copenhagen’s Bornholm restaurant Koefoed has its own stock of cattle and lamb, meaning almost all the meat served in the restaurant can be traced to the individual, free-range animal. Koefoed has recently been joined by Kadeau København, a big city version of a popular summer restaurant on the holiday isle in an old coaching inn.
Dish from Bornholm restaurant Koefoed — Photo courtesy of Restaurant Koefoed
The green wave has washed over Copenhagen, leaving biodynamic and organic restaurants including folk kitchen Bio Mio, a former electrical warehouse in the meat-packing district, and vegan restaurant and organic cocktail bar Firefly, just across from the city’s new market.
Foodies will find plenty to tempt them on streets like lively Værnedamsvej between Frederiksberg and Vesterbro, dubbed ‘little Paris’ for its many French-styled stores and cafes, and the more offbeat Jægersborggade in Nørrebro, where a cool local vibe meets environmentally aware consumption. After years without a proper market, Copenhagen’s new Torvehallerne Kbh opened at the end of summer 2011, and its inside as well as outside stands offer the chance to take the city’s best cooking home with you.
Taste even more in late August, when Copenhagen, in collaboration with the city’s tourist office, hosts citywide culinary festival Copenhagen Cooking, launched in 2005 and held annually since.