Monday, 29th October 2018/Tuesday, 22nd January 2019 – Kodbyens Fiskebar, Copenhagen
If you ask me to pick a favourite restaurant in Copenhagen I’d be hard pressed to give you any answer that wasn’t Kødbyens Fiskebar. I have been several times, and I just keep on returning for a variety of reasons. One of the main ones is that it serves brilliantly good fish, seasonally chosen, and cooked in imaginative ways that bring out the best in the main ingredient. One is that the staff are unfailingly friendly, and well-informed, and know what they’re doing. There are other reasons – they’re open till late which means if you get in to town on a late flight, you can still get a good dinners; they’re open on a Monday which can’t be said of many places in Copenhagen that aren’t aimed squarely at the tourist market; they’re a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel I prefer. All of these contribute to make me very grateful that I heard about the place early on, largely thanks to Rick Stein and his Long Weekends series, where he ate there and at Kadeau, prompting me to try both on my first long stay in the capital. Since then I’ve been back a few times, and have also managed to convert my colleague A to the joys of this place – he was previously a man who tended to stick to the steak/beer place round the corner, or the in-hotel restaurants and didn’t go out much. I’ve persuaded him to change his ways!
It’s not the most salubrious of buildings – or of locations really – being settled in the middle of the meat-packing district, and occupying and old industrial unit. The bar is made out of old skirting board and such like, the walls are white tiled and the furniture is pretty basic. None of that is why you should go. You should go for some of the best fish you’ll find anywhere, including their stalwart dish of their take on fish and chips, with the chips served in a paper cone no less. Anyway, on the last two visits the food as ever has been brilliant.
Back in October 2018 I was first there because I’d caught an earlier flight. I hate having to do a full day’s work and then add travelling on top so I caught the mid-afternoon SAS flight from Heathrow and was on the ground and checking into the hotel by 17:30 which seems far more reasonable than arriving three hours later, which was what A was planning on doing. We’d arranged to meet at the Fiskebar and so I headed down there to try and secure a table. It being a Monday I was somewhat surprised at how difficult that proved to be and we ended up seated at the bar. Now I’d prefer a table personally but the bar does allow you to watch the bar staff making some of the rather brilliant cocktails, which was how I was persuaded – after not very much resistance it’s fair to say – to try a punningly named Happy Quincidence! A sweet/sour combination of two gins (Ophir gin, Copenhagen Orange gin), with quince, hibiscus, cherry and lemon, it slipped down far too easily, and as I was still waiting for A to make it, I had to have a second one!
A finally appeared just as I was considering starting without him! Along with him came the bread and butter offering, a whipped butter with seaweed complementing a splendid sourdough roll that was more than enough for both of us.
The wine list is long, with lots of interesting choices, and sticks to “natural” wines, including a selection of “orange” wines. I chose a glass of cremant from the Jura, from Jerome Arnoux, to start with, finding it light, pleasant, and ideal with some of the fishy starters, and in fact the “snack” that I couldn’t resist, a tiny brioche bun stuffed with crab.
A was happily tucking into some courgettes, which looked incredibly beautiful. He said they were delicious. I believed him but didn’t test them myself. I did test the scallops with cucumber, horseradish and oyster leaves, which I am told is related to borage, and topped with some other leaves that tasted very much like nasturtium leaves, with a peppery tang to them.
While A was tucking into sea trout, with a lovage sauce, I tackled one of the things they do best here, the squid, on this occasion served poached, with lemon verbena, white asparagus preserved by pickling, and the most fabulous roasted chicken dashi. The squid was meltingly tender, and cut into long strips of “tagliatelle”, and with the dashi you could almost convince yourself you were eating Japanese noodles. It’s a lovely, lovely dish.
While that was going on, A got a portion of chips to go with his sea trout and seemed to be very happy with that. On finishing my squid, the final dish I’d ordered appeared, the aforementioned fish and chips, which seems to be the one constant on the menu here. A portion of lightly smoked, and then breadcrumbed and fried, cod, with hand cut chips and a raw remoulade. It’s a simple but brilliant dish, and it’s rare that I come here to eat and don’t order it. The chips are perfectly crisp on the outside, and soft and fluffy on the inside, and they are seasoned just right.
With all of these goodies I drank a 2017 Weissburgunder “Ohne” from Thomas Hareter in Austria’s Burgenland. And after that, stuffed full of fishy goodness, it was time to walk back to the hotel, but not before A was offered a tour of the kitchen.
We returned at the end of January 2019, and again I was first in. This time I booked a table in advance, and was therefore happily ensconced at the back of the room, away from the icy blast that came in with each new arrival through the front door. A Happy Quincidence was again my first port of call, but this time I decided to try the Flemming Collins as a second cocktail while I waited for A to show up. He’d been delayed by the onset of snow at Heathrow, of which there had been no trace when I set off a couple of hours previously to him. The Flemming Collins consists of Tanqueray gin, seabuckthorn, lemon and little globules of liquorice oil. It’s a much sharper concoction than the Happy Quincidence, and I might perhaps have done better to drink them in the other order. It was enjoyably tangy though!
A ordered roasted cod roe, with turnip, tarragon and rye, not something you see much on menus, but apparently it was excellent, and it’s reminded me that I’ve got a smoked cod roe in the freezer and I really ought to have a think about what to do with it soon!
I’d been lured in by the promise of the whitebait with lemon mayo, a splendidly old-fashioned dish. Whitebait used to feature big time on menus in the 1980s in the UK, and I’ve always liked them. They seem to be staging something of a comeback, which I’m good with. There’s not a lot to them, of course, so they need to be perfectly crisp and with a really good mayo or tartare sauce – these really hit the spot.
A followed up with one of the handful of “large” plates, in this case haddock with jerusalem artichokes, spinach and green strawberries. It looked fabulous, and was accompanied by a risotto-type dish of pearl barley and buckwheat, with Vesterhaven cheese and roasted onion butter. On another visit (and I’m going to be back soon) I may have to try one of the large plates.
Meanwhile, I was reacquainting myself with the poached squid, which as it had in October was accompanied by ribbons of pickled white asparagus, and the deep, dark roasted chicken dashi but with parsley this time. It was as good as ever.
So was the fish and chips, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone!
I finished off with something I’d been looking forward to for over a week, in fact since they posted a picture of it on their Facebook page. I never normally order dessert but I knew I had to have this one. It is a black cardamom ice cream served alongside a light spongy cardamom cake, with pine cream and caramelised pear puree. It was pretty as a picture and very tasty indeed. If it’s still on the menu when I next visit, I’ll be making sure I have room for a dessert.
In conclusion, it was another more than satisfactory visit to one of my favourite places to eat.