Welcome to the first in a new series on The Journal about some of our favourite people, places and events. Over the coming months we’ll be featuring some of the world’s most stylish cities; people who have caught our eye across the world of sports, music and art; and mind-blowing design from clothing to cars and furniture to tech.
First off, we’re just back from a trip to Copenhagen and we absolutely fell in love with the Danish capital. Denmark is the home of chic, modern design, most notably in furniture with major names such as Arne Jacobsen dominating post-war design. Jacobsen is a design icon, Danish national hero and a trip to see his witty, sleek designs in the Danish Design museum is a must when visiting Copenhagen.
The Copenhagen skyline is shared by the ornate spires of Dutch Renaissance-style palaces, glowering gothic gargoyles and stark steel and glass obelisks such as the famous Black Diamond Building. It is incredible that a city with such a rich architectural heritage has managed to continually move with the times and allow for expansive and decidedly ‘forward’ architectural styles - sitting side by side with the most opulent of historic buildings. The effect can be jarring but leaves the visitor in no doubt as to Denmark’s pride in its past and its forward thinking philosophy.
This pride in tradition but focus on the modern is something of a Danish trait and is equally apparent in the new wave of Nordic cuisine. Once crowned the best restaurant in the world, Noma is still a global culinary institution but importantly has also acted a training ground for the next generation of Danish food revolutionaries. The alumni from its kitchens have gone forth and continued the gastronomic reinvention of traditional Danish cuisine which it heralded and which has been such a major influence on the world’s leading chefs.
One of the best of these graduates is Radio (Julius Thomsens Gade 12), close to one of the city’s largest concert venues The Forum. The restaurant offers a five course tasting menu of modern Nordic food invention which, on our visit, presented a series of incredible dishes featuring wafer thin slices of raw langoustine with pickled vegetables and smoked chicken dusted with burnt liquorice powder. The tasting menu is available for as little as 400 Danish Kroner (about £40 / €53) and is available with an individual wine pairing course for an additional 200DK (£20/€25).
You can’t go to Copenhagen and not have a smorresbrod - essentially an open sandwich, this traditional Danish lunch staple have reclaimed the zeitgeist and have now been elevated to an art form. The best we found was at Hallernes Smoresbrod in the city’s best food market Torvehallerne (Frederiksborggade 21), the beef carpaccio with pickles and horseradish was incredible.
If you haven’t eaten your way to an early night, the city’s nightlife is varied and interesting. The major detractor that British and Irish audiences might note is the relaxed attitude venues have to the smoking ban. Venues with an area of less than 40 square metres are exempt but on our visit smoke free bars were the exception rather than the rule.
Try Jolene (Flæsketorvet 81) in the hipsterish Vesterbro area if you want to go where the in-crowd goes. Jolene has a “no cocktails” rule which keeps service fast and efficient which is one of its saving graces as this venue packs them in at the weekends! Despite being one of the city’s most fashionable venues, the atmosphere is very relaxed and welcoming and the music policy will have you on your feet all night long.
Moose Bar is also a highlight – more centrally located but not as trendy as Jolene, Moose attracts a lo-fi crowd of locals who flock here for the grungy graffiti-and-gig-poster décor, the simultaneously surly but charming service and the affordable booze.
Other highlights included a trip to Streetfood Copenhagen (Trangravsvej 14) – the Danish version of popular night time food markets such as Shoreditch’s StreetFeast, this is definitely worth a trip to its fairly remote location. Come here for a range of Danish and world cuisine served fresh from one of the many stalls, as well as cocktails, craft beers and artisan spirits from a number of great bars. All consumed on long communal benches or canteen style seating areas and sound tracked by a roster of local DJs.
A new bridge across the harbour, due to open later in 2016, will make Streetfood Copenhagen much easier to reach from the city centre (but even now it’s worth the taxi fare!).
The most stylish hotel in the city is Hotel SP34 (Sankt Peders Stræde 34). Located in the historic Latin Quarter, this upmarket boutique hotel is not cheap (very little in Copenhagen is) but worth every penny to enjoy the superb lobby bar for a free glass of wine between 5-6pm (yes, FREE wine!), one of the three a la carte restaurants (“Work In Progress” was our favourite, serving delicious but affordable nouveau Danish food) or the superb Danish design on display in every room.
It’s no wonder Denmark has been regularly cited on the list of the world’s happiest places to live. If you’re a sucker for incredible architecture, design and food, then Copenhagen has to be high on your city break wish list.
We’re always keen to hear more about extraordinary places, people and design, so please drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to tell us about your discoveries @remusuomo