Copenhagen is currently home to 18 Michelin stars across 15 restaurants, many of them offering tasting menus that cost up to $500 – wine excluded. Accordingly, it enjoys a reputation as a world-class destination for high-end dining. But locals in the Danish capital seldom fork out these stately sums to eat out on the daily. That’s because this city has a hidden cache of accessible eateries, specifically designed to appeal to even the most ardent of gourmet enthusiasts. Here’s how one such food-obsessed citizen suggests cramming the most into every krone.
‘Foodie’ is far too pedestrian a title for Rasmus Palsgård. The Copenhagen native is a bonafide Food Concierge at the Nimb Hotel, a luxury hotel attached to the city’s largest attraction — Tivoli Gardens. “My main task is to handle the food tours for the guests at Nimb,” he explains. “A fairly big part of my job is to constantly test out different restaurants to make sure they are performing at the right level. I have an ongoing correspondence with the chefs in order to improve all the time.”
A prominent Danish food and wine writer, he has documented how both visitors and locals here came to expect the tasting menu experience. Laying claim to the most acclaimed fine-dining restaurant in the world helped fuel the association. “I think we have become used to it due to Noma and similar restaurants,” he notes. “But they only do tasting menus because it makes it much easier, to make sure they don’t end up with produce that they cannot sell on an a-la-carte menu.”
For a full sense of this style of Danish dining, dressed in a more moderate price tag, Palsgård recommends Mes. It’s sleek eatery with moss-adorned walls, and succinctly-arranged seasonal menus. A five course dinner hovers around $55, all in.
Comparable experiences can be enjoyed at Melée, a French-inspired bistro, or the Italian-driven Enomania – both in the hip Frederiksberg neighborhood. “Dietary restrictions aren’t as bad here as in the U.S., so less people worry about having the tasting menu,“ adds Palsgård. “But if there are any, the restaurants always have alternatives.”
On the opposite end of the dining spectrum are outsized, family-style dishes; always a good deal thanks to economy of scale. Copenhagen has quietly climbed aboard that popular American trend to great effect. Pluto stands out as a shining example. Here you’ll encounter a parade of share plates, encompassing comfort food from across the globe – everything from Peruvian-style ceviche to tempura-fried vegetables, served in an informal setting just off the city center.
When it comes to street food, Copenhagen is full of yet more surprises. It turns out, the Danes’ fastidious approach to presentation and design carries over to the realm of low-fuss fare. Even the hot dogs and kebabs are Instagrammable in this part of the world. “Do not miss out on Döner Symfoni [in the Nørrebro neighborhood],” warns Palsgård. “Freshly baked flatbread, homemade dressing and a meat spit made freshly every morning – [$8] for the best kebab I’ve ever had!”
Back near Palsgård’s home-base – adjacent to the lobby of the Nimb – is the city’s new high watermark for fast casual gourmet: Tivoli Food Hall. A collection of 15 stalls offers everything from the native Nordic of Bobbabella to Roman style “crunchy pizza” from Gorm’s. The outpost is a tasty testament to Copenhagen’s under-heralded informality.
Of course, you can’t leave Copenhagen without devouring the city’s classic open-faced sandwich: the smørrebrød. Palsgård introduces guests to artfully-rendered renditions at Fru Nimb — along with a half dozen other indulgent surprises on his culinary tour across the hotel’s 20-acre property. “I know what people are looking for when they’re traveling to experience new places to eat,” he proudly asserts. In a city as broadly flavored as this, that’s no small task.