Destination Copenhagen – restaurants and reflections

Delayed by deadlines – a belated account of my visit to Copenhagen a few weeks ago, for business and leisure. I had meetings arranged; I wanted to step away from my stressy life, and Copenhagen is one of my favourite places. I didn’t do much sightseeing, but I stayed in the centre and walked everywhere, breathing the fresh air and the atmosphere. Since The Killing has sparked an interest in all things Danish, I thought I’d share my impressions, reflections – and photos.

I start with a random flashback. One unlikely star of The Killing is Sarah Lund’s Faroese sweater, which can be found here http://shop.gudrungudrun.com/ The sweater takes me back to my childhood, and the Danish shop in London’s Brompton road which sold authentic Faroese sweaters and smørrebrød (Danish open sandwiches – not something else fashionable to wear) both of which are lovely, but surprisingly heavy. 

Getting around – and three clichés

The Copenhagen Metro, which is currently being extended, is modern, inexpensive and easy to navigate. It’s only about 15 minutes from Kastrup airport, to Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen’s largest city square. You can buy metro and train tickets in the arrivals area of the airport. Taxis are relatively expensive, but they are metered, the drivers generally speak English and you can pay by credit card.

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I got out of the metro at Kongens Nytorv, struggled up the escalator with my suitcase to find a cliché – Danish pastries! They smell as good as they look!

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I stayed at Hotel Skt Petri, a boutique hotel in the Italian quarter, near the university. It was clean and comfortable and featured another cliché:  Danish designer furniture – including Arne Jacobsen Egg Chairs

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However, Copenhagen has plenty of boutique hotels, and although the Skt Petri was conveniently located, next time I’m in Copenhagen – and there will be a next time – I shall probably stay near the harbour. The last time I visited, I stayed at the Scandic Front, where my room had a sea view. It is worth having a walk around the picturesque harbour area, where you can also see Copenhagen’s famous Little Mermaid. I took this photo on the way to one of my meetings.

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Strøget, which starts at Kongens Nytorv, is the world’s longest pedestrian street. I like this kind of thing – in Hong Kong I spent some considerable time riding up and down the world’s longest escalator. Strøget is rightly described as ‘the shopping street’ and that’s another of Copenhagen’s main attractions – a terrific selection of designer and other shops.

Walking along Strøget from Kongens Nytorv, I was rare brunette in a sea of Scandinavian blondes – a third cliché brought to life!

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Strøget has a massive selection of shops selling just about everything. One must-see for anyone interestested in design, and particularly Scandinavian style, is Danish interior design and accessory store Illums Bolighus  http://www.illumsbolighus.dk/uk/main.asp which sells classic and new Scandinavian designer products.

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Five minutes away, the Illum department store is a cross between Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, selling Scandinavian and international brands. Although Scandinavia is having a fashion moment, I particularly liked the homeware and stationery departments and spent some time looking at multicoloured Moleskine notebooks (as you would expect, Scandinavia gets all the new colours first) and ORDNINGANDREDA accessories http://www.ordning-reda.com/pages/?dom=1037

Like Sweden, Denmark has superb coffee, and coffee breaks are an essential part of any shopping trip. Cafe Europa, opposite Illums Bolighus serves a great-looking brunch. I like sitting in a window seat, writing on my iPad2 and people watching.

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Designer capuccino at Europa

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Lagkagehuset, also in Strøget, had terrific cappuccino and home made Danish pastries – and incredibly cheerful and friendly service! http://www.lagkagehuset.dk/butikker/42

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A traditional brasserie and two destination restaurants

I’m afraid the rest of this post is going to sound like a restaurant guide. This is because Copenhagen has become something of a restaurant Mecca with a reputation for creating some of the world’s best and most original cuisine.

My visit started with lunch at Café Victor http://www.cafevictor.dk/en a classy French-style brasserie just off the square. I was meeting my oldest friend in Copenhagen and one of his colleagues (to clarify: he is certainly not old in years; he was the first person I met outside of a meeting when I first visited Copenhagen). Although Café Victor is perennially fashionable, the cuisine is straightforward – perfect after a long journey. The waiter made a huge fuss of us. I have a feeling that my friend is a regular here…

I was taken to two very different destination restaurants. The first was Era Ora – a glamorous Italian restaurant that lives up to its Michelin star and fabulous reputation http://www.era-ora.dk/restaurant 

The portions are tiny delicious morsels – but each course is accompanied by a full-size perfectly matched glass of wine. The Danish wine menu is legendary, and as has happened before, defeated me after the first couple of dishes. Impressively, although it took rather longer to achieve this, it also defeated my dining companion – despite his elegant lifestyle – and we ended up having a rather fuzzy conversation and giggling a lot.

Era Ora is perfect for dîner à deux or a celebratory dinner for half a dozen people. Notwithstanding its Michelin star, the atmosphere is relaxed; the tables are spaced well apart and the acoustics are good, so the room is condusive to proper conversation, so long as you have a lot of self-control when it comes to the wine menu.. but it’s also completely brilliant if you don’t take it too seriously…

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Later in the week, I met up with two people I have seen relatively recently – a Danish friend who travels to London regularly and his gorgeous colleague who divides her time between London and Copenhagen, which strikes me as a perfect arrangement in many ways. She knows all the best places to go out in both cities! 

We went to Geist, an achingly fashionable bar and restaurant in Kongens Nytorv that attracts a hip media crowd http://restaurantgeist.dk/ On a Thursday night, it was kicking. It’s owner, Bo Bech, is apparently the Danish equivalent of Gordon Ramsay. If you sit the bar – as we did – you can watch what goes on in the kitchen. And everythng was perfectly coordinated – a bit like a modern ballet. There was music, but fortunately no drama. The food is a gastronomic oxymoron – deceptively simple, with touches of originality – innovative and arty-looking combinations like the candy floss that arrived with our coffee! It was delicious and delivered a delightful post-dinner sugar rush.

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The toilets offer more originality in terms of mirrored ceilings and sound effects! This may have been taking things a bit far…

Geist is eclectic. It is definitely worth a visit and be sure to make reservations. We had booked a table, but still had to queue for the cloarkroom and to get seated!

Designer everything! 

I can hardly believe that my waistline has survived being royally entertained by my lovely Danish friends – not all of whom I mention here – who transformed my business trip into a memorable and wonderful few days. And time to reflect – here I am in a hall of mirrors outside one of my meetings.

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Interior design is a theme that runs through Copenhagen like the stripes in a stick of rock, or Calais on the heart of Mary, Queen of Scots. The arrivals hall at Kastrup is full of egg chairs. Every cafe and office I visited combined classic elegance with different quirky touches to make it stand out from the rest. Here’s a staircase reminiscent of the Guggenheim museum.

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Even the flowers sold on the street are colour coordinated.

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Into the light

It occurs to me that Scandinavian design is about throwing shapes (a bit like dancing the focus is on finding a pure and compelling line) – objects that change, and change the shape of their surroundings – as the light falls on them in different ways. I’m signing off with another attempt at an arty photograph on the way back to the airport. I took this as the train emerged from a tunnel into the light – you can just about see me reflected in the window. 

 

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There is something cool and refreshing about Scandinavia – and something special about the light there. I returned feeling renewed in some way. But that was before things set me back again… I seem to have got into escaping to cold places to find clarity and direction…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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