Copenhagen's Kødbyen district offers artistic and foodie delights aplenty
The former meatpacking district is home to trend-setting eateries like Fiskebar and Karrierebar
Copenhagen’s rejuvenated Kødbyen district is packed with some of the best food, drink and art in town. Malcolm Jack takes a look at what’s on the menu
In the neighbourhood where much of Denmark’s famous bacon once came from, there now exists Copenhagen’s coolest cultural and nightlife quarter: Vesterbro’s Meatpacking District. Property developers long since ran the butchers out of its New York namesake – the inspiration for this city-encouraged regeneration project – but Kødbyen (literally ‘the meat town’) partially retains its historic industry, as evidenced during the day by men in dirty white overalls, cigarettes invariably hanging out of their mouths, drifting around premises emitting unsavoury smells. Morrissey, this one probably isn’t for you.
Wander into Kødbyen by night, among container vans and industrial-looking brown, grey and white buildings, and, save for the sight of a fashionable young Dane whizzing past by bike every so often, you could be forgiven for believing the whole thing’s a wind-up. Finally two wood-burning beacons outside a doorway reassure us that we’ve come to the right place – Kødbyens Fiskebar, based pride-of-place beneath the giant bas-relief cow that crowns the district’s central building Flæskehallen (‘The Pork Hall’).
Founded by one of the guys behind the world-famous Noma eatery, this upscale, dress-down seafood restaurant – white-tiled walls, a giant fish tank in the corner and rustic chopped wood piled beneath the windows – does the Danish capital’s lofty reputation for dining out no damage whatsoever. Their bespoke, Scandinavian-larder-centric taster menu has to rank among the best meals I’ve ever enjoyed, from Norwegian king crab and halibut to squid, Kattegat cod and Nordic cheeses. Wine pairings range from an arse-kickingly strong red – made, we’re told, by ‘a French rock star’ – to one of Denmark’s only indigenous wines, the cherry Nielstrupmark from the southern island of Lolland. So knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the fare is our tattooed, black T-shirt-clad young waiter that he even names the man who hand-dived the sea urchin (Roderick). He could probably have told us the names of the urchins if we’d asked.
When we step out into the crisp night air three hours later, the streets are suddenly alive, as music booms from nearby nightspots Jolene and Bakken (with no residential property in the immediate vicinity, they can afford to be loud). Close by, marked by just a pink neon sign, is cocktail bar Karrierebar, where mixologists craft strong concoctions flavoured with seasonally changing homemade juices, fruits, marmalades and infusions. It’s decorated by local artists – the clustered hanging light installations are by Jeppe Hein, the bar’s co-founder – but retains a strong butcher’s shop feel, with strips of thick plastic sheets shrouding the doorway and more white-tiled walls (by regulation, many original features of Kødbyen premises – tiles included – have to be preserved).
Lunch the next day is at BioMio. Situated in an old Bosch shop, and still retaining its huge, garish sign, this organic/biodynamic canteen-style eatery is a vast, colourful place with a no-fuss self-service model: order food at the open kitchen and drinks from the bar – delicious handmade brews from Nørrebro Bryghus ahoy – on a swipe card, then pay at the end. It breaks up a day of breezing around the several galleries concentrated within Kødbyen. At the spartan Gallery Poulsen, an exhibition of American Aaron Johnson’s bright, textural and very weird collages made from paint-dipped old socks – donated by strangers via social media – has just opened. The sprawling Galleri Bo Bjerggaard hosts minimalist drawings and sculptures by British artist Anna Barriball, who exhibited at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery last year, while at V1 hangs Toot Toot Tootsie Goodbye, an amusing group exhibition satirically pricking Nazism.
Time for a refresher. Paté Paté, so called because – you guessed it – it used to be a paté factory, is the kind of uber-hip place where tapping absent-mindedly at a MacBook while sipping wine seems mandatory. Yep, more of the fermented grapes – this vibrant bar bistro is owned by two wine-trader brothers, and boasts one of the best lists in town. The Danes don’t really do wine, of course, but if they did – well, you get the idea.
Stay: Hotel Axel Guldsemden is a stylish and very comfortable Balinese-inspired four-star hotel conveniently situated nearby the Meatpacking District and Copenhagen Central Station. Double rooms start from around £100 per night.