Christiania, an autonomous 1,000-strong community in Copenhagen, was once known predominantly for its tolerance of drugs (production, sale and use of), not for its artisan bakeries, but the scene is changing.
These days you’re more likely to get a whiff of organic bread baking than wacky baccy, as I discover on a food tour of the Danish capital.
Other areas have cleaned up their acts, too. Vesterbro, located just outside the city centre, was once dense with slaughterhouses, butchers’ shops, market halls and brothels. It’s still gritty, but now brims with independent cafes, restaurants and micro-breweries, and can take much of the credit for transforming this city into one of Europe’s most exciting food hubs.
Colourful: The hip community of Christiania is becoming well-known for its artisan bakeries. Pictured is the entrance to the district
A ‘smorrebrod’ at Aamanns 1921 restaurant – which Kate describes as ‘a sleek place tucked off the pedestrianised shopping street of Stroget’
I’m staying at Scandic Kodbyen, which has an interior that gives more than a passing reference to its meatpacking history.
Vegetarians and vegans might prefer to book elsewhere as you’ll find tabletops that look like sliced salami, illuminated glass wall panels of blood red marbled meats, and steak patterned carpets.
An early evening stroll takes me along the streets of Slagterboderne (meaning Butcher’s Stalls) and Flaesketorvet (Flesh Square) to the epicentre of the neighbourhood — the old meatpacking area of Kodbyen (Meat City), where you’ll find the Kodbyens Fiskebar restaurant. It was among the first eateries to move in and help transform the area, and its basic decor hasn’t stopped it making The Michelin Guide.
‘In Denmark we say dum som en torsk (stupid as a codfish),’ my waiter tells me. ‘But for a stupid fish, it’s delicious and our special for today.’ My lightly smoked cod comes with hand cut chips and a spicy remoulade.
Nearby Fleisch is a working butcher’s shop with a restaurant that offers a meaty seven-course tasting menu and, for hardcore carnivores, a homemade organic bourbon infused with bacon.
Elsewhere in the city, I go in search of the Danish staple — the smorrebrod (open sandwich), discovering it being dragged into the 21st century at Aamanns 1921, a sleek place tucked off the pedestrianised shopping street of Stroget (don’t miss designer Georg Jensen’s beautiful shop and Royal Copenhagen’s flagship store and museum), where I order mine with a cured salmon and blackcurrant topping.
Graffiti-sprayed Norrebro was ranked by Time Out as one of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods, now more gourmet than ghetto thanks to places like Kiin Kiin, the only Thai restaurant (outside of Thailand) which has a Michelin star.
A street in Norrebro, which was ranked by Time Out as one of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods
No food trail would be complete without a graze around high-end Torvehallerne covered food market.
These twin glass halls are a showcase for Danish fare from small-scale farms and producers.
Try mild liquorice slathered in dark chocolate at chocolatier Xocolatl; head to Glean for velvety vegan cream buns; and at Surroundings & Friends, a Nordic deli, you can pull up a stool, order a charcuterie board, a local Borghgedal beer and watch the hungry world go by.
Between the halls is a flower market where well-heeled ladies come to buy elegant bouquets and buskers strum guitars.
Back at Scandic Kodbyen, I order a Sweyn Forkbeard Nr. 3 (a Viking inspired cocktail made from fennel-infused gin, mead, milk thistle and honey) in Bar Mor. Skal (cheers), the bartender calls to me, as I worry briefly about the kilos I surely must have gained.
Strangely though, my belt just needs the smallest of adjustments — testament not to the quantity, but to the quality of all I’d devoured.