Monday, 22nd/Thursday, 25th May 2017 – Kødbyens Fiskebar, Færgekroen Bryghus, Copenhagen
May in Copenhagen made a welcome change as otherwise I only seemed to be getting there when it was cold and dark, and while the place has its charms even in those conditions, it’s far pleasanter in the summer months. The difference was noticeable even on the drive from the airport with Danes everywhere outside cafes and bars and on bikes, and running, and walking and in the harbour swimming pool! In January some evenings you can start to wonder if you’re the only person crazy enough to go outside your nice warm environment, be that an office, your home, or a hotel room. Now, there were signs of life everywhere you looked. It was remarkable what a difference it made.
And for good measure I’d found a better hotel. The Radisson Blu Scandinavia is all well and good but I’ve never managed a good night’s sleep there, largely because the 25 storey building is hit by every wind gust out of Siberia, and it whistles through the structure. And Copenhagen is very windy. Since my first visit I’ve tended to avoid it as much as possible, because if I can find a hotel at a similar rate elsewhere, that’s what I will do. It being summer and business travellers being rather thin on the ground given how many public holidays there are across Europe in May, the splendid Scandic Palace had rates that were comparable. I went for it, and on arrival was very glad that I had.
The rooms live up to the exterior and there are some fabulous decorative touches too, the interior having been lovingly restored not so long back.
Settled in and realising that it was going to be a very pleasant evening, I headed out in search of dinner. My plan was to barrel towards the Meatpacking District and see what I could find. I’d had a bit of an inkling that Kødbyens Fiskebar might be a possible option, and I could always revisit Gorilla if not. That inkling had been reinforced by Rick Stein who ate there on one of his long weekend programmes for the BBC. Lynne and I had tested most of his other recommendations, and they hadn’t let us down, so it seemed likely this would be a safe bet too, especially as they specialise in fish, as does he.
On the way I was accosted by a young person with a clipboard. It turned out that there was a CPR record breaking attempt going on in the main square outside the Town Hall. I broke off long enough to participate, and was given a sticker for my troubles. Whether they broke the record or not I have no idea…
I had hoped to sit outside, but the terrace area was heaving so I wandered in and the waiter found me a seat at the bar, initially, and then at a table. A study of the menu suggested there were many things of interest to enjoy, but that the first port of call should be the startlingly green (and frothy) Spring cocktail, made with vodka, parsley and peas. The peas gave it sweetness, and the parsley toned that sweetness down with bitterness, and it was very good indeed, if somewhat off the wall. I’d certainly have had more than one if I’d been on my own dollar and not the company’s.
An excellent small sourdough loaf was forthcoming, with some whipped butter. On a later visit this was just as good, but I had to share it with my colleague. On this occasion it was all mine and I probably shouldn’t have eaten all of it!
The waiter suggested I start with a couple of things and then maybe order another couple afterwards. I went for what seemed to be the more interesting small plate fish/seafood options starting with king crab, with seared cauliflower, mead and wild roses and it was brilliant, with lots of lovely sweet crab flesh, a seasoning of chilli, and a pile of cauliflower “rice”. It was an impressive start.
I enjoyed what followed even more, so much so that I have had it again on my subsequent visit (though it had been slightly varied). This was some squid, cooked perfectly so it was tender. with fried celeriac, and inky puree of black garlic, pickled seaweed and blueberry powder. It’s a fabulous thing and I suspect that as long as it’s on the menu on future visits, I’ll be going for it. It’s just too good.
Between these dishes and the bread and butter I was starting to fill up. I’d also fallen into conversation with the waiter who came out and asked me if I’d like a tour of the kitchens. I wasn’t about to refuse! I was more than slightly amused to find the chef, like me, was from Yorkshire. I was even more amused by his obvious obsession with rhubarb, which is of course entirely geographically appropriate. And was proven in the dessert I had afterwards, which was described as rhubarb, buttermilk, oats and marzipan, and was altogether lovely, despite the fact that I would normally run a mile from both buttermilk (I’ve never understood the Dutch fondness for the stuff) and marzipan. This worked gloriously though.
Eventually, as the light faded completely from the sky, I wandered back to the hotel.
Tuesday was a full day in the office, including eating dinner in the canteen, followed by a short session in the company bar afterwards. Wednesday was much the same during the day but it was topped off by the work summer party, which was an absolute blast. I normally avoid work-based social events, but this was completely different. All I can say is that my Danish colleagues know how to party! There was a buffet and a barbeque, a free bar, a variety of fun events like a dining in the dark competition, and a brilliant band who kept the dance floor full right up to the end of the event.
Thursday was a bank holiday so my colleagues and I had a breakfast meeting at the Scandic, and then having had to check out of the hotel but with no office to go to, I left my luggage in the care of the concierge, failed to find an open cafe, at least that wasn’t rammed to the rafters, it being a public holiday, though I did find this rather fine cinema.
However, almost nothing was open, apart from Tivoli, and that only opened at 11 that morning. With no other real options presenting themselves, I went over to Tivoli Gardens for the remainder of the morning. It’s very attractive, and it’s entirely possible to relax and enjoy the gardens, though you do have to blank out the sound of thrill seeking children on the rides as they scream themselves to hoarse exhaustion. Oddly, this seems to be very easy to do.
I wanted to find somewhere to work and sit in the sun and also to have lunch, and eventually happened on Færgekroen Bryghus, a brewery and restaurant on the edge of one of the lakes.
Basking in the unaccustomed (and far too bright) sunshine, I ordered a beer – well it would have been churlish not to when sitting on the over-water terrace of a brewery after all, and decided what to eat.
It wasn’t brilliant but it was solidly decent cooking. I chose the fish platter because I just couldn’t decide what to go for otherwise, and this way I got choice of more than one thing!
It arrived quickly (though not suspiciously so), and I tucked in with enthusiasm. Inevitably, there was herring…
But there was also smoked salmon…
And prawns with hard boiled egg…
And fried fish and plenty of tartare sauce to help it all down.
And then I tore myself reluctantly away from the sunshine, retrieved my luggage from the hotel, and caught a taxi to the airport.