It’s been on my list for ages to take the handsome-and-talented husband to Copenhagen. Despite the initial drama and hiccup of missing our flight, which I wrote up below, we spent Thursday to Sunday in the Danish capital. We cycled around the small-compared-to-Berlin city centre, soaking up art, sunshine, Danish design, architecture and delicious food, and enjoying the very nice cycling lanes where, unlike Berlin, people are actually stable on bicycles and don’t look like they’re an accident waiting to happen.
I don’t typically organise every single detail of our trips, and rather organise around meals. However, with Copenhagen being full of eateries that I want to try out, I ended up booking all the dinners in advance. The whole process of deciding which ones were helped by the limited availability of each eatery.
I noticed right away that with the reservations that we only have our table for 2 hours, something you rarely see in Berlin. This policy would annoy me if my local eateries, like Bar Milano, Schwarzwaldstüben and Muret La Barba enforced it; in general, I’m in favour of time-limits on reservations paired with Stammkunden or regular customer tables. You gotta do something about your regulars.
So photos and trip write up below! Trigger warning for the food photos and the ridiculous Copenhagen photos. It is a very pretty city, with equally good-looking tattoo’ed inhabitants #DanishEyecandyFTW!
Thursday AKA Yasmina finally misses a flight
I have never, ever missed a flight. Not even close calls, considering I’m the type to show up at security quite close to boarding time because I figure boarding would take at least 15 minutes so I’m safe until 15 minutes AFTER the boarding time started. Friends (ahem, you yes you) have started to hide my airport check-ins on their Facebook timelines because my timing made them froth at the mouth, break out into a rash and/or have heart palpitations.
The Airline Gods had enough of my sass, and last Thursday, they clearly wanted blood sacrifice. Yeah, on my birthday, when we were supposed to be flying to Copenhagen and thus arriving in time for a Smørrebrod birthday lunch at Aamann’s, we spectacularly missed our flight.
No big deal, there’s always a next flight. Except it was a long weekend, with Monday being a public holiday. Everyone was trying to get out of town. There was one flight with 2 seats left but the seats were so ridiculously expensive, I might as well booked a weekend flight for me to Singapore. That is if they have seats left.
We made the quick decision to try to get to Copenhagen by other means. A fast online search showed that the airport car rentals were booked out. We jumped in a DriveNow and headed back into town while I got on the phone with EuropCar and Sixt. Sixt had one car left, in their station in Ludwigsfelde. 40 kilometres south of Berlin, in the exact opposite direction of where we were meant to drive.
Challenge accepted, Airline Gods! The Sixt pick-up station was out of the DriveNow range which meant we had to take a train to Ludwigsfelde. We abandoned the DriveNow at Südkreuz, hopped on the train, got to Ludwigsfelde, missed the connecting bus, hopped on a cab, got the car, started driving, got stuck in several traffic jams on the Autobahn due to construction works.
At this point, I realised that we need to take a ferry from Rostock to Gedser in Denmark. We missed the 15:00 ferry, but I managed to book return tickets on the 17:00 ferry. Fantastic. Now will we make the 17:00? If we miss the 17:00, we’d have to take the 19:00 and I’d have to kiss our dinner plans at Relæ goodbye. Also, did I mention that it was my birthday?
I wasn’t sure whether we’d actually make it to our 21:30 Relæ dinner reservation. As Robert sped down the Autobahn, I rang them to give them a heads up. “You missed your flight?” the guy on the phone asked. “Yeah, we’re driving there instead, and we hope to make the 17:00 ferry,” I answered, “Can you please hold our reservation? I know you don’t normally hold it beyond 15 minutes.”
So when we arrived, on time, I swear the staff did a secret cheer and the guy who had answered the phone led us to our seats, gushing, “I can’t believe you drove over!” They also handed over the AirBnb keys that our host dropped off earlier.
We had seats at the counter facing the kitchen so we could watch the chefs in action. This was less a personal decision than seat availability, but really, it’s the best seating for when you want to geek out over how the dishes are prepared and plated. Which is exactly what we did. It’s so fascinating to watch how they systemise the dish production and delivery.
We went for the eight-course Relæ Experience menu, both with drinks pairing; wine pairing for him, non-alcoholic pairing for me.
And so, it started.
Food dipped in batter and deep fried is always a winner for me (unless it’s a Mars bar). This one had an underlying earthy flavour reminiscent of tempeh, which is an Indonesian fermented soybean cake. It’s different to tofu in that it’s whole soybeans knitted together by layers of white fungus.
Oh my. This dish made me homesick. There was something about the way the grilled fish and leaves came together that reminded me of eating freshly caught fish grilled on a secluded beach on a faraway Indonesian island. They line a banana leaf with herbs and spices, lay the fish on it, cover up with another layer of herbs and spices, wrap it all up and toss it on the fire. The aroma that the dish releases when the banana leaf pack is opened is just heavenly. We’d eat it with our hands, with plain steamed rice and fresh sambal.
Even Robert looked at me and said, “This tastes so Indonesian…”
OK, I was really sceptical when the guy mentioned this was made from pickled pumpkin. He laughed my scepticism off and he wasn’t wrong. It was really refreshing and tea-like!
Wow, what a birthday dinner! So happy we made it! I liked everything about my birthday this year, even the missing our flight part.
Relæ is one of four Copenhagen eateries, founded and co-owned by Christian Puglisi. The others are the organic veggie-focused eatery Manfreds, across the street from Relæ; the bakery-and-pasta bar Mirabelle, and Bæst, an Italian-inspired eatery are located around the corner from our AirBnb flat. I’d reserved Sunday brunch at Mirabelle.
This is where I draw parallels between tech startups and the restaurant business. They work up the brand around the product (which may or may not be great), expand and sell off; an exit is how they make money, I guess, since it’s hard to make profit from daily operations, apart from merchandising. They even experiment in a similar way to how I’d run product experiments, in parallel to development sprints or as side projects.
As the crew cleaned up for the night, the head chef Jonathan Tam experimented with another chef, slicing rhubarb lengthwise and deep frying it. Making a dish is one thing, then you have to systemise it. Like design too. Making a design element is one thing, whether it’s a visual element or interaction pattern, then you have to systemise it into a language.
With that, I went to bed happy, with a full belly and my mind swirling with joy at the intersection of food and design.
Friday started nice and easy, with a walk through the park and breakfast on the run: coffee from The Coffee Collective and pastries from Meyers Bageri on Jægersborggade. We bought a selection of plain and filled croissants and sticky cinnamon buns. Copenhagen has made me fall in love with cinnamon and cardamom buns!
I thought it was hilarious that the name “Louisiana” originated from the three wives of Alexander Brun. He was a nobleman who built and named the original villa that makes up the current museum compound. All three of his wives were called “Louise”. When the museum’s founder Knud Jensen took over the property and converted it to a museum, he kept the name.
The current exhibitions were Gabriele Münter, a German painter I had not heard of but had impressively versatile styles, Ed Ruscha, an icon of American Pop Art, and Pablo Picasso ceramics, which I enjoyed a lot more than his paintings, if I may be so bold to say. In general I find the artist’s studies way more interesting than their final pieces.
Lunch in the Museum cafe. I know what you’re thinking. Museum cafe?! Yeah, no cafetaria-style food here. I kid you not. The Louisiana Cafe buffet menu had items like lumpfish roe with dill-potato cream and blinis, smoked top round of beef with lovage cream and pickled red onions, barley risotto with baked beets and Romaine lettuce, roast chicken from Hopballe Mill and salted pork.
It was packed, and we decided to not bother with the lunch buffet and instead grabbed sandwiches and sat outside in the garden with the rest of Copenhagen and their cousins. Then we wandered around the gardens and the permanent collection.
Dinner at Kødbyens Fiskebar.
Located in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district, Kødbyens Fiskebar occupies a large central hall in the industrial building complex. Its neighbours include Warpigs Brewery, Hija de Sanchez (which Andreas told me to visit and review but we didn’t manage to, sorry!), NoHo bar and eatery, Tommi’s Burger Joint (which we also have around the corner from our flat in Berlin), Mesteren & Lærlingen club, and the intriguing Nose2Tail Eatery which sounds right up Andreas’ alley.
When we cycled up to the venue, beautiful bodies were out front on benches and beach deck chairs for sunset. The clientele was a mix of trendy 20-somethings all the way up to 50+ hipsters, if there is such thing, and family groups out for dinner. Well-heeled, well-dressed, in their Valentinos, Miu Miu, Proenza Schoulers, Alexander Wangs. I only found out afterwards, through Berlin foodie friends, that this was THE place to be.
I wasn’t sure what to expect apart from fish and seafood. With the well-heeled clientele, it felt like a mash-up of the KaDeWe oyster bar regulars meeting Markthalle Neun. Overall, this was just an OK experience. Our food wasn’t well-spaced/-timed at all, the friendly service was generally slow, they mixed up our orders, and it was a little too loud for an eatery. The food was great, just everything else was not up to par.
Saturday morning was threatening to be a lazy one like Friday, so I quickly ushered Robert out of the house. We grabbed a quick breakfast of coffee and pastries at Mirabelle around the corner. The black filter coffee was great. I had the almond croissant, which was unexpectedly heavy. It was stuffed with almond paste, similar to the Dutch amandelstaaf that my parents-in-laws would serve at the breakfast table during Easter and Christmas holidays.
Then off we went on our merry way!
This was just OK. It felt a bit like a lecture session from art school. The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art was way better. In hindsight we should’ve gone to the Danish National Gallery or the Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek instead. Oh well, next time!
Then we hopped back on our bikes and cycled around the city. Photography really is better to do while on foot. I observe more things when I don’t have to navigate on bike; I had this really annoying upright tourist Dutch-style “Omafiets” with a single handbrake and pedal brakes. After a while I hopped off and walked the bike with my camera on hand.
I’d known Vera since our uni days in London. Last time we saw each other was in Barcelona, at Sonar Festival. No partying or clubbing this time for us, just an easy catch up over ice cream, sitting in a sunny park, cycling round the city trying to find a bar to drink at. We ended up at a nice sunny corner of Christianshavn with a street food market, just across the bridge from Nyhavn, basically across the canal from where we were meant to have dinner later. So good to have two locals show us around a little bit of their city.
Housed in a beautiful Art Deco building designed by Kristoffer Nyrop Varming in 1937, Almanak is one of two eateries under The Standard’s roof, the other being Studio in the other wing. There is also a jazz bar upstairs. The building is located next to Nyhavn and looks across the water at the old industrial buildings in Christianshavn area of town. Almost directly opposite The Standard across the canal is the building that used to house the old Noma.
This was just an easy, delightful dinner. Way nicer than Kødbyens Fiskebar, and better for couples. Fiskebar is really for pre-clubbing upscale dinner with a group of friends. I’d love to try Almanak for lunch one day.
Sunday was lazy, and rightly so. We packed our stuff and walked over to Mirabelle. Yes, the same place for our breakfast-on-the-run on Saturday. All of happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast and we take this principle very seriously on Sundays.
While Robert’s eggs Benedict was a nice variation on the eggs Benedict theme, it was my Bud Spencer eggs that was surprisingly delightful. It was a warm bowl of porridge-like whole white bean and ham ragout, with two poached eggs and shavings of dried ricotta. It was hearty and comforting, and I very nearly asked for maple-syrup cured bacon on the side. Served with a slice of their sourdough, I did a Renzo-style scarpetta on my dish.
Juno the bakery. Ash asked me to bring back Juno’s cardamom buns back to Berlin. Oh, delicious buns! Wow, was it ever worth the trek over to Østerbro from Nørrebro. Next time I’ll get a couple of dozen to bring back to Berlin. We couldn’t stop eating them and the entire car smelled like a bakery.
Beach time! Google told me about the stretches of sandy beaches on Denmark’s southern coast, located on our way to Gedser. The perfect way to spend Sunday afternoon: me, the handsome-and-talented husband, secluded beaches for catnapping and sunbathing. I really miss the sea, the sound of the water against the shore, the ebb and flow.
The water was too cold for me to swim, although some crazy Danes were swimming in their bathing suits, not even a wetsuit, and I missed my Bali beach more than ever. On my favourite white-sanded Bali beach, during low tide, a sandbar appears about half a mile from the shore and the water in the bay would be super calm. I’d swim out and lie flat on my back, and let the waves gently bring me back to shore. I catnapped, thinking of my Bali beach.
Thank you for a lovely birthday weekend, Copenhagen!
We’ll be back to explore you some more! Thank you for reading, and for all the birthday wishes.