Star-spangled Copenhagen, the surprise culinary trend-setter

With 13 Michelin stars to its name and a restaurant recently crowned the best in the world, Copenhagen has become a surprise must for Europe's gastronomical pilgrims and a culinary trend-setter.

Up until a few decades ago, not many would have predicted that the small capital of Denmark would become synonymous with refined and exquisite cuisine.

Traditionally, the cooking has been heavy and Germanic, dominated by pork and syrupy brown gravies and an obligatory side of boiled potatoes.

But in the past 25 years Copenhagen has metamorphosed into a creative gastronomical Mecca, each year drawing thousands of amateur and professional food critics alike.

"What is exceptional is that a country of 5.5 million inhabitants in a region not known for its gastronomy in previous decades has become a barometre of global trends," food critic Adam Price marveled.

In a clear sign that culinary achievement is no longer limited to "old Europe," Copenhagen's Noma, already aglitter with two Michelin stars, was recently named "the world's best restaurant" by acclaimed British magazine Restaurant.

Another kudo came earlier this month when the prestigious Bocus d'Or Europe prize went to Danish chef Rasmus Kofoed from the one-star Copenhagen restaurant Geranium, which shut in 2009 because of financial problems.

Explaining the shift, French chef Daniel Letz - whose restaurant Kong Hans secured Denmark's very first Michelin star in 1983 - said that "Danes have traveled a lot and have learned enormous amounts during their stays abroad."

"They have become fine gourmets who are much more interested in wine and local produce than their Nordic neighbours, where food import regulations are stricter," he explained.

Since the 1990s, the Danish capital has counted "a large number of gourmet restaurants," Letz said, adding that "the plethora is disproportionate to the number of inhabitants."

These fine-dining eateries are flourishing and Copenhagen now counts the most stars for a city in northern Europe and more than Rome, Milan or Madrid.

And Noma is considered the jewel in Copenhagen's crown.

Headed by 32-year-old chef Rene Redzepi, the restaurant launched in 2004 has all but reinvented Nordic cuisine by returning to traditional roots while experimenting with unexpected produce.

Some critics go so far as to compare it to the Dogme 95 avant-garde and purist film movement - led by directors like Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg - that put Denmark on the international cinema radar.

Just as the Dogme 95 films were free of spectacular special effects, post-production modifications and other gimmicks, Redzepi has vowed to develop a pure cuisine "based 100 percent on (Denmark's) own local products and seasons".

The young chef, whose restaurant is in an 18th-century warehouse at Copenhagen port, insisted that he is only "rediscovering products used more than 100 years ago and preparing them in a different way."

His menu proposes musk ox with smoked bone marrow, wild berries, dried scallops and even unripe fruit.

"We continue to seek out new products and are planning to put beaver meat and seagull eggs on the menu," he said, pointing out that "a lot of the products that we put on the table today and that we consider exotic are part of our culinary history over recent centuries."

Despite his success, Redzepi remains a realist.

"When it comes to a question of taste, there is no absolute truth," he said. And while he is proud his restaurant tops international lists, "you really can't be the best in the world in our business."

His approach initially drew sarcastic comments. "Will they ask us to eat seal fat and black radishes and call it haute cuisine?" once wrote the daily Politiken, quoting sceptics from the culinary world.

Not all find the restaurant to their liking.

"Noma is not a gold mine," said restaurant manager Peter Kreiner, noting that in 2009 it made a profit of only 660,000 kroner (88,700 euros, 109,000 dollars) on sales of nearly 28 million kroner.

The global financial crisis has also hit Copenhagen's high-end eateries. It is "luxury that takes the first blow," said Kreiner.

Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing