Culinary chronicles: A foodie’s adventures through Copenhagen

Culinary chronicles: A foodie’s adventures through Copenhagen

The food scene in Denmark's capital is more diverse than you would ever expect.
01 Jun, 2024

On my cab ride from Kastrup Copenhagen Airport to my hotel, the driver asked, “Business or pleasure”, and I said both. My week-long trip’s itinerary was filled with places I simply had to visit in and around Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark.

The list of museums, castles, palaces, parks and visits to the old town was much shorter than my checklist of eateries. It was a pleasant surprise to me that Copenhagen is a food mecca with a plethora of options — from Thai to Italian, Lebanese to Indian, Argentinian to Turkish and not to mention umpteen burger joints, it was a never-ending list for a foodie.

The first stop to get myself acclimatised with the country’s food scene was a small Danish bakery called Skt Peders Bageri, which claimed to be the oldest bakery in Copenhagen, founded in 1652. A long queue at 8am was a testament to its reputation. The bakery was pretty small with barely three tables for seating. Most customers were either eating while standing in the cramped space, or getting recycled paper bags filled for takeaway. The aroma of cinnamon wafted throughout, and the room was stacked with buns called snegl — kind of like a Danish cinnamon roll — and pastries with different fillings, which were practically flying off the shelves.

The buns came with two options — iced or sugared. The warm doughy goodness, accompanied by tiny little sugar crystals, offered my tastebuds a slight tingle with every bite, and I could not pinpoint whether it was cinnamon or the chocolate hiding inside the dough which confused my palette in the best way possible.

My next meal, an open-faced sandwich called a smorrebrod, had the potential to be a snack or a main course. It could be served cold or warm with various vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. To be safe, I opted for fish smorrebrod. Although the dark rye bread used to make the sandwich was buttered well, it was slightly hard because it was made from sourdough flour. The toppings included pickled herrings, thinly sliced cheese, sliced cucumber, tomato, and cilantro garnish on a remoulade sauce base. The presentation looked like the work of an artesian rather than a pâtissier. However, for tourists, rye bread falls under the ‘acquired taste’ category as the whole wheat texture and flavours were more overpowering than the assortments on the top.

The one place I had marked as a ‘must go’ before even arriving in Copenhagen was Reffen — a food street made of shipping containers. Located far from the main downtown area, this dusty warehouse harbour-side lot in a shipyard is a compilation of more than 40 food kiosks from all parts of the world, making it the largest street food in all of the Nordic countries. The place came to life early afternoon and was buzzing till late night, with music, a scenic backdrop of the harbour, lively bars, bonfire, and traditional Danish artefacts.

It was a Herculean task to choose what to eat from this cornucopia of food. I decided to try one appetiser and one main to quench the thirst of a gastronomical wish list from different continents after a quick pilgrimage to this food Mecca.

North America was the first landing and the Mexican stall was the first one I hit. It was difficult to decide between nachos and quesadillas as both looked very tempting, however, I had no regrets at all once I took the first bite of the cheese and tomato quesadillas. The edges of the tortilla bread were crunchy due to the overflowing cheese, and boy oh boy, was it lip-smackingly delicious. My previous encounters had only been with properly manicured quesadillas, served on a ceramic plate with salsa on the side. This, however, was sinfully good. The homemade dip given to me was acidic and tangy but had a strong sweet punch.

The Horn of Africa has always been a fascination so the pull towards their culinary delights was magnetic. The main course dish domoda was on trial now. Known as a traditional Gambian dish, this peanut stew on a bed of rice came with several assortments — you could add chicken to make it meaty whereas carrots, onions, and sweet potatoes, were the regular stars. The stew was heavy and therefore balanced well with the white rice. With a squeeze of lemon, the domoda cast a pungent spell on the palette and could easily be baptized as comfort food.

According to my cell phone, the sun would set at 9:12pm, therefore I was in no rush to get back to my hotel. There wasn’t a single moment of boredom as I strolled along the harbour with a cool breeze flowing, music playing, mouthwatering aroma of the grills and picturesque scenery.

It was time for a light snack and the place to go was South America. A little Argentinian stall with just one big barbecue grill was enough to cause a beeline. Pepito, a steak sandwich was the perfect pick of the evening — big shanks of beef tenderloin, rib-eye steaks, and sirloin lamb cut under the chef’s knife being charcoaled with smoke was simply irresistible.

The baguette was filled with thinly sliced steak, refried black beans, caramelized onions and melted cheese. It was a bit hard and chewy, and in my opinion, a softer loaf would have been a better option. The meat, however, was melting in my mouth as each component fought to take the centre place on my palette.

After all these foreign delicacies, it was time to dig back into the country’s Danish gastronomical roots following an invitation from my Danish friend Simon Kjeldsen for a traditional Danish meal.

The venue was Christianhavn Faergecafea, a 150-year-old ferry cafe, known for its classic Danish cuisine. The rustic interior, crooked floor and dining boat were quite classic and my generous host ordered for the both of us.

For starters, we ordered a fish and avocado smorrebrod, and for the entre, he chose chicken tartlets called mormor-mad (which translates to grandma’s food) for me and butter fried fish for himself plus a lemonade for the teetotaler guest. The tartlets came in a pair and were a winner from the very first bite. The baked edges of the shell were lightly golden browned, but the protagonist was the filling — chunks of chicken slathered in mayonnaise, curry paste, chicken broth and the perfect blend of fresh herbs was a knockout.

An old café on the canal, authentic food, a serene environment, a classic interior and good company far away from home were indeed the grand finale of the trip.

However, as they say, it’s not over till it’s over and so it happened — the passenger sitting next to me opened a big box with homemade cookies baked by his mom and asked if I would like to try kammerjunker, a double-baked cookie. I guess my Copenhagen food journey was not over yet!


Taj Ahmad Jun 01, 2024 01:44pm
First Denmark Capital ‘ Copenhagen ‘ is a great city and the people of this city are very lovely and welcoming to visitors with open heart and mind. Foods industries are very famous with all kinds of taste you like.
Taj Ahmad Jun 01, 2024 01:57pm
‘Copenhagen’ truly a lovely city with delicious foods and hospitality.
M. Emad Jun 01, 2024 03:35pm
Denmark's capital Copenhagen very lovely city.
Rafik Jun 01, 2024 04:34pm
Beautiful, eco city copenhagen where people love to ride bikes instead of cars. However, I restricted myself to Danish pastries or fish due to my dietary requirements. Yes, Danish pastries taste more delicious there, no doubt.
John Malik Jun 01, 2024 06:06pm
What?? A visit to Copenhagen is incomplete without going to Christiania.
NYS Jun 02, 2024 03:33pm
The author authentic journey took my imaginary flight straight to Copenhagen no thanks for such beautiful stride rather do more
No Jun 02, 2024 09:23pm
I need to know what you think "sourdough flour" is.
M Jun 04, 2024 01:15pm
very insightful article
Alizye Jun 04, 2024 01:19pm
Love it! Incredibly informative and very well constructed. Planning a trip to Copenhagen soon and will definitely be adding all these places to my “must-visit” list, especially Christianhavn Faergecafea. Psyched!
Z. Jun 04, 2024 06:48pm
What a detailed and informative piece. I felt like I was roaming around along with the author in the “Refens” , and enjoying all the variety of cuisines. Wonderfully written!
Emaan Jun 05, 2024 01:08am
So well written! Makes me want to visit Copenhagen, how beautiful
A Jun 05, 2024 03:02pm
Love the article! The description is so vivid I felt like I was in Copenhagen myself.