Travel/Food 2017 – Copenhagen

Monday 20th March – Friday 24th March, 2017 – Copenhagen, Denmark

After a week in January and three in February it was a pleasure to be back in Copenhagen in what theoretically should have been better weather and more daylight. You would not have thought it on my arrival. It was absolutely throwing it down with rain when we landed, and the taxi rank outside the airport resembled a small lake rather than Tarmac. With the Documentary Film Festival in town it was also horrendously busy, at least by Copenhagen standards, and it took a while to get to the front of the queue. I finally arrived at the hotel (the Radisson Blu Scandinavia yet again – I’d really like to try somewhere else next time) at around 20:30 and couldn’t face eating in any of the three restaurants, or ordering room service so I did a quick unpack and braved the torrential downpour to search out somewhere (anywhere) that was actually open on a Monday night and close to the hotel.

I tried several adresses but they were all firmly shut or – in the case of the one place that was open – so empty and bleak looking that I really didn’t fancy going in. I eventually hit on the sushi place nearest the office, Hatoba. A couple of tables were occupied and it was warm and welcoming inside, possibly too warm. The friendly waitress seated me towards the back of the room, facing into the main area so I could watch what was going on, and left me to study the menu for a while. I opted for the Chef’s Choice so I didn’t have to make any decisions, something that is always preferable at the end of a day’s travel. This would include 2 pieces of nigiri, 4 pieces of uramaki and 8 pieces of kaburimaki. It duly arrived and looked beautiful, the presentation making me want to dive straight in!

Actually there was an extra nigiri, and I wasn’t about to complain. They were lovely, the rice just the right level of sticky with the hint of vinegar running through it, and a generous sized-piece of fish (tuna, salmon, prawn) topping each one.

The uramaki were impressive too, with mango, avocado and salmon running through them, but the piece de resistance was the gorgeous plate of kaburimaki, with smoked salmon, a crunchy coating to the seaweed, and a sticky, decadent mixture of a mayo-type sauce that I would have happily licked off the plate had I been in private. I wonder if it’s available on the takeaway menu!

By the time I’d finished my meal I was rather more full digestively than I’d expect and the walk back to the hotel was an essential. As it had stopped raining finally I went the long way round just to try and walk off some of dinner.

Tuesday night was taken up with a team dinner and thus does not concern this blog, although it’s fair to say the work canteen does an excellent job.

Wednesday I was staying on while the rest of the team involved in Tuesday and Wednesday’s planning meetings went home, and the team I’m actually part of assembled for meetings in Thursday and Friday. This meant I was on my own for the evening and night, and as we’d finished by 16:30, which was fortuitous, because it meant I could revisit the David Samling as it is open till 21:00 on Wednesdays! It really is the most stunning collection, or at least the Islamic art is.

DAVID SAMLING, COPENHAGEN 016

There are fabrics, jewellery, painting, fragments of korans, weapons, and the details are intricate, beautiful, fascinating. The museum provides a tablet for each visitor which provides masses of information, probably more than most of us can take in, and – best of all – both the loan of the tablet and entry to the collection is free. I spent a couple of hours getting round the parts I’d not managed on my previous visit, with the Islamic art spread over the top two floors of the building, before hitting the first two floors, which I must admit did nothing much for me. The collection on these floors is of furniture, and pottery – and there’s only so much Meissen I can take before I want to run screaming from the room!

On the way to the museum I’d gone via the Parliament building, and was both fascinated and educated by a set of display boards in the grounds that told of the history of the Danish West Indies (sold to the USA in 1917 after a referendum in Denmark, the first time women were allowed to vote in Denmark). I knew nothing about them and found it a very interesting read, and cam highly recommend the Danish National Archives on the subject (and other matters Danish for that matter).

DANISH WEST INDIES EXHIBIT 012

And so, after a lot of walking (in very uncomfortable shoes that would end their week in the hotel room bin) I decided to head towards Copenhagen Street Food and see what I could find on the way in the way of dinner. I walked towards Nyhavn which is the only sensible direction from Rosenborg, and managed to find some streets I hadn’t previously walked down, before hitting the harbourside near to the Standard building. Now not only is it a very lovely building, but it also harbours the Almanak restaurant, somewhere that was on my radar after I’d tried for a table around the weekend of Lynne’s birthday but had not been able to get in. A Wednesday in March seemed a rather different proposition to the Valentine’s weekend, and I was soon seated at a splendidly placed table overlooking the water, from where I could also survey the entire restaurant.

Almanak is the brainchild of the man behind the money behind Noma (at least originally), Claus Meyer, so I was expecting good things. The serving of bread and butter. the butter whipped to lightness, the bread (from Meyer’s own bakery) wondrous crisp-crusted morsels of sheer pleasure, suggested I was right to do so.

ALMANAK, BREAD AND BUTTER 002

As we’d had some good news that day (we’d received offers on both the houses Lynne and I inherited from our parents) I started with a glass of Champagne while I surveyed the menu. The waitress suggested 3 or 4 small plates would be sufficient so it was a case of trying to narrow the options down to the ones I really would regret not ordering.

I was intrigues by the idea of potato crisps, and so I ordered them, not knowing what to expect. What arrived were deep fried, slightly puffed confections, dusted in parsley and garlic, and served with a garlic mayonnaise. They were much bigger than I was expecting, and thoroughly enjoyable, in that moreish way that things like Pringles would live to achieve but don’t! The mayo dip was fabulous and could probably be smeared on almost anything savoury to make it instantly amazing.

ALMANAK, POTATO CRISPS WITH GARLIC DIP 001

Next up was a beef tartar. Now I know this doesn’t tell you much about the cooking skills on a restaurant, but it tells you a great deal about how they source ingredients, and how they prepare them and this was fabulous, served as it was with slices of beetroot and nasturtium leaves. It was tender, seasoned to perfection, and just the right choice for my mood that evening.

ALMANAK, BEEF TARTARE WITH BEETROOT 003

My next choice was a beautiful serving of Torbay sole, with charred leeks, some “caviar” and chives and wild garlic scattered over it. A lovely, lovely thing, especially accompanied by some Danish wine from the ubiquitous Mr. Meyer’s vineyards. Now Danish wine is a thing I hadn’t expected, and although there’s not a great deal of it, the shift in climate means it’s now well and truly possible on some of the more sheltered islands. The glass (a white combining a number of varieties of grape) I drank was excellent, so much so that I went hunting for a couple of bottles to take home the following day.

ALMANAK, TORBAY SOLE WITH LEEKS 005

After that all I wanted was some cheese! And cheese there was, served with sea buckthorn, and a sweet paste of dulce de leche, and some fabulous rye bread and equally fabulous friable crackers. These people know how to keep cheese. For that matter they know how to bake…

ALMANAK, CHEESE WITH DULCE AND SEA BUCKTHORN 006

And so I was finished I thought (after a brief case of cabaret from the chefs – they were teasing one of the youngster who thought Willie Nelson was a politician), but no, there was a surprise dessert, a Danish speciality of a flødeboller, which they were apparently experimenting with. Now I’ve seen these described as marshmallow filled chocolates but this was so much more than that. I don’t much like marshmallow – it’s not properly solid nor is it liquid and that’s not something I enjoy much. This, however, was lovely and light without having that rubbery texture, and the chocolate was a thing of beauty. Even if the chef wasn’t sure he could pronounce it properly (and I have no idea)!

ALMANAK, FLODEBOLLER 009

And so I went back to the hotel, happy in the knowledge that although I’d not be back for two months, I’d ended the trip on a high.

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