Copenhagen: 6 of the best Places to Eat by Christian Puglisi
Over just a few years, Copenhagen has grown from a city with a traditional (and, let's say, not very fascinating) gastronomic culture, to a food lover's dream, making Denmark one of the most sought-after destinations for those who love to eat well. It was the city that catapulted New Nordic cuisine to worldwide fame, thanks to restaurants like Noma and Relæ, which changed the game, focusing on local, regional, and sustainable food.
Chef Christian Puglisi is one of the characters responsible for transforming the gastronomic fortunes of Copenhagen through his innovative use of the Nordic larder's seasonal ingredients. When he decided to open Relæ in 2010, on a residential street Jægersborggade, he had no idea that he would revolutionise the neighbourhood of Nørrebro - and his career.
Born in Messina, Italy, he arrived in Denmark in the 1990s and attended the Danish Hospitality College. After Relæ, which has a Michelin star, Jægersborggade has become a hip spot in the city, attracting shops, cafes, and other cool businesses. So Puglisi himself decided to cross the street, to the corner right opposite Relæ, to bet on a modern wine bar, which he named Manfreds. And then he opened a bakery (Mirabelle), and an organic, Italian-inspired restaurant (Bæst), and now a vermouth bar (Rudo).
One of the most prominent chefs and businesspeople in Copenhagen, Puglisi knew the city well before it even became a gastronomic hotspot. Here he tells us his favourites, from fine-dining tables to street food.
Copenhagen is the city that holds the highest number of Michelin stars in the Nordic region - Geranium tops the Danish list with three Michelin stars. So the gastronomic level of the city is always high, with fine-dining restaurants serving amazing meals.
One of Puglisi's favorites is Jordnær, which, according to him, "brings heart to the plate." Housed in the historical, 350-year-old Gentofte Hotel, the menu merges French traditions and Danish ingredients – most of them foraged by the largely self-taught chef Eric Kragh Vildgaard. "They fought to get where they are, and it's very clearly displayed in the food," says Puglisi.
With New Nordic cuisine, and the many tourists it has brought to the city, Copenhagen seems to be more open to new concepts and new cuisines. Chef René Redzepi has bet on some of the talents that emerge in his kitchen and given them a chance to take off on their own. As it was with Rosio Sanchez, Noma's former pastry chef, who has just opened Sanchez, a Mexican food restaurant, where she serves some Mexican classics, such as tacos with a refined touch. “Sanchez is great for her great flavours and vibe. I truly feel I am leaving Copenhagen when I am there," says Puglisi.
“I am biased, but 99% of my coffees and breakfasts are at Mirabelle - and its pretty damn good,” says Puglisi. His organic bakery and coffee shop is located in the trendy Guldbergsgade neighbourhood, and it’s a good option for breakfast, lunch, or just to hang out. They serve croissants and Danish pastries, and the kitchen also supplies sourdough bread and pizza doughs to all other group places like Bæst, Manfreds, and Relæ.
The quest for sustainability in food is another feature that has become increasingly strong in Copenhagen. Even small restaurants have sought to include in their menus the maximum of organic ingredients and to follow other environmentally-friendly practices.
Even in hamburgers, as is the case with Gasoline Grill, the former gas-station-turned-burger-joint. With four units already in town, the focus is on serving good and sustainable burgers. “It is the best burger and best street food in town - and it’s organic, of course,” Puglisi points out.
For traditional Danish food, Puglisi guarantees that Palægade “makes the best Smørrebrød in town.” The 'open-faced sandwich' is a local icon and finds its best version (according to the chef) in the kitchen of this restaurant in the heart of the historic city centre of Copenhagen. The young team running Palægade tries to retell the story about the good, classic food traditions of their country, proving that heritage is important.
Puglisi also recommends a trip to Søllerød in search of traditional food. “It can also give you something special,” he assures.