16 September 2015

Copenhagen Day 3: Louisiana and Christianshavn

The mediocre Copenhagen weather couldn't last. When I woke up on Sunday morning, it was rainy and windy, which was somewhat unfortunate as I had planned to take the train up the coast to a modern art museum and sculpture park famed for its beautiful, scenic views. But when you only have a few days in a city, the show must go on and I headed out in search of some coffee to spur me on. I forgot to check the Sunday opening hours for Kent Kaffe Laboratorium in Nørreport and it was closed, so I nipped around the corner to my back-up: the Torvehallerne Market branch of Coffee Collective.

I should note that Coffee Collective was only a back-up because I had planned to go to its original branch in Nørrebro on Monday and was worried I might not get another chance to visit Kent. Torvehallerne is a gourmet food market, split over two, glass-walled halls, each of which contains dozens of food shops and eateries. Coffee Collective had a few different filter coffee options, but I went for a pourover with the Guatemalan coffee (38 krone), which was very good.

Louisiana is located in the town of Humlebaek, a 30-minute ride north of Copenhagen on the Øresund suburban train line. I think the journey costs about 90 krone each way but, without wishing to sound like a broken record, it is free with the Copenhagen Card. So too is entry to the museum, which costs 115 krone otherwise. The museum is a ten-minute walk from the train station, which is probably windy even on a sunny day, but the rain was really throwing it down and I was convinced my brolly wouldn't survive. I arrived just as the museum doors opened and was happy to escape into the dry.

As well as an impressive permanent collection (including works by Danish artist Asger Jorn, shown below), Louisiana usually has a couple of temporary exhibitions. When I visited, there was a fascinating exhibition on Africa, encompassing art, society, politics and health. I was less interested in the Lucien Freud exhibition (I'm not a fan of his work). The building is beautiful: huge glass walls looking out onto the sea, accented with wood and black metal. It looked a lot like the setting of Alex Garland's Ex Machina or a Michael Haneke film, in fact, which was a little eerie.

There is a sculpture trail in the museum gardens, but the rain was so bad that I only managed to sneak out for a couple of seconds before retreating inside. Eventually, though, after I had browsed the excellent gift shop, which sells stylish clothes and accessories as well as homewares and books, the rain subsided and I ventured outside. It was still extremely windy but I enjoyed the stark coastal views.

Back in the city, I warmed up with an Aeropress brew at Kent, which had finally opened. The coffee was great — they offer pretty much every hand-brew filter coffee method you can think of and a choice of two beans — and the café is decorated in a casual, homey style.

Refreshed, I hopped on the metro to Christianshavn and walked along the canal until I reached Papirøen ('paper island'), so named because they used to print newspapers here. The small island now hosts Copenhagen Street Food in a giant warehouse with dozens of food trucks and eateries. It's more on the scale of Smorgasburg than Maltby Street Market, and they even had a few vintage clothes and accessories stalls at the front. There wasn't much in the way of Danish street food, other than one lone smørrebrod vendor, so I went for fish and chips. I felt that I hadn't had enough fish during my time in Denmark, anyway, and 50 krone for two pieces of cod, chips and a salad was probably the most reasonably priced meal I had had since arriving. The market opens late morning and closes late at night. There are a few seats outside if the weather is nice and the indoor seating is full.

After lunch, I walked west through the neighbourhood of Christiania, an autonomous neighbourhood within Christianshavn. It's an interesting place to walk through, notable for its DIY houses, colourful street art and, of course, the infamous 'Pusher Street'.

Christianshavn felt even fancier and, perhaps stuffier, when I left Christiania. I headed for Vor Frelsers Kirke ('the Church of Our Saviour'), which has a beautiful, helter skelter spire that you can climb to the top. It costs 35 krone to go up the tower (free with a Copenhagen Card) and it is a pretty steep and often narrow climb. It's worth it, though, when you are standing at the top on a step that's only 30 cm wide looking out over the city. Possibly one to avoid if you have vertigo — or a weak stomach.

I walked back to my hotel via the Cirkelbroen ('circle bridge') and then rested my aching feet before heading out for dinner in the meat-packing district.

There are a dozen or so restaurants and bars in the former warehouses just off Halmtorvet in Vesterbro. I had my eye on Nose2Tail, but it's closed on Sundays, so instead ended up at Kødbyens Fiskebar, a Michelin-listed restaurant in an old fish factory. If you want a table, you usually need to book, but I managed to score a seat at the bar. I ordered a Flemming Collins (105 krone) — gin, buckthorn, lime and licorice — and almost didn't recognise it when it arrived, orange and spotty. It was delicious, though, and went well with the cod (265 krone) I ordered for my main course. The cod was beautifully cooked and came with tarragon potatoes (they looked like green olives from a distance) and vegetables. It was an expensive meal, but the food was excellent and the atmosphere was great even on a rainy Sunday night.

My final destination of the day was Lidkoeb, the Vesterbro cocktail joint I had had my eye on all weekend. Located inside a courtyard off Vesterbrogade, Lidkoeb is spread over three floors of the building, as well as a fairy-light-accented patio. The indoor space is the definition of hygge: comfy leather booths with reindeer pelts for extra warmth and a long, low-lit wooden bar. It actually reminded me a lot of Huckleberry in Brooklyn. The bar tender was very friendly — it was relatively quiet on a Sunday night, but the place is rammed on Fridays and Saturdays. I perused the leather-bound cocktail menu and picked one of the Nordic cocktails: the Skovens Julep (110 krone), which combines walnut-smoked akvavit with fresh chervil, birch syrup, horsetail and nettle tea. It was unlike any cocktail I had ever tried before, but the flavours worked very well together and it really did feel as though I was drinking the essence of Denmark. < / cliché >

Coffee Collective. Vendersgade 6D, Torvehallerne, Nørreport. Website. Twitter. Other locations.
Kent Kaffe Laboratorium. Nørre Farimagsgade 70, Nørreport. Website.
Copenhagen Street Food. Trangravsvej 14, Papirøen. Website. Twitter.
Kødbyens Fiskebar. Flæsketorvet 100, Vesterbro. Website.
Lidkoeb. Vesterbrogade 72B, Vesterbro. Website.

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