COPENHAGEN, Sept 10 — While other tourists are waiting for their turn to take a selfie with the Little Mermaid statue, perhaps the most famous landmark in all of Denmark, we decide a day out with other Copenhageners would make for a more enjoyable (and less stressful) experience.
Copenhagen has been a culinary hotbed since the 2000s with chefs René Redzepi and Claus Meyer (of Noma fame) spearheading what was known as Det nye nordiske køkken or New Danish Cuisine.
Founded on the philosophy of reviving and adapting traditional Scandinavian techniques such as smoking and salting, the use of local and seasonal produce is paramount.
To source for these fresh produce, ordinary folks who aren’t professional chefs visit Torvehallerne, fondly known as Copenhagen’s Pantry — to the tune of more than 115,000 Copenhageners a week.
The modern market at Nørreport showcases Danish cuisine and produce from over 60 different providers in its covered halls. (“Torvehallerne” means “market halls” in Danish.)
Some market-goers gather early in the morning before the indoor market even opens, as there is also an outdoor urban farmers market. The produce and products here — from fruits and vegetables to sausages and artisanal beers — all hail from Danish farmers. While the selection is highly dependent on the season, everything is local and sustainably produced.
When the indoor market opens, most will make a beeline to their favourite butcher or fishmonger to hunt for ingredients for their lunch and dinner. For the best cuts of meat, the most popular stop is Slagter Lund, a fine butchery (or gourmetslagter) first founded in 1952 in Frederiksberg.
Beef, veal, poultry, lamb, game — you name it, they’ve got it. Meat lovers will go wild over flæskesteg (roast pork with crackling) and medisterpølse (spicy pork sausage).
If freshly shucked oysters are more to your taste, the place to visit is Fiskerikajen (“Fishing wharf” in Danish) run by fisherman Kim Christensen.
We are greeted by a display filler brimming with all manner of seafood, including lyssej (pollack), rødfisk (redfish) and even the fearsome head of a sildehaj (mackerel shark) stuffed oddly with an apple in its jaws. The freshness of the fish is unparalleled as they work closely with local fishermen to source directly from the boats.
Grabbing food to go is one of the best parts of the market experience. At Smag, a healthy take-away bar, we are tempted to make our own salads from toppings such as hummus, red chilli crème and cashew nuts. There are even sandwiches for special dietary needs such as lactose intolerance.
We wander back to Fiskerikajen where they make fish and chips to order using the catch of the day. Crunchy, moist and extremely fresh — the perfect match of fish and batter.
Their lakse (salmon) wrap is rather good, too. Heading out into the sun, we discover there’s nothing quite like eating in the open air, with plenty of benches and tables for an impromptu picnic.
For a proper sit-down meal, there is grød, which is Danish for porridge, at the appropriately named GRØD. Toppings include organic almond milk, apple-vanilla compote, roasted coconut flakes and Danish skyr (a type of strained yoghurt).
Copenhageners are fanatical about their grød and one of the most popular types is øllebrød, a traditional porridge cooked with rye bread and a Danish white beer called hvidtøl.
Another good bet is Gorm’s, a gourmet pizzeria named after Gorm Wisweh, a Dane who brought the concept of traditional Italian pizzas to Copenhagen.
Using superb ingredients from both Italy and Denmark, Gorm’s pizzas are known for their creative combinations such as Lissners Lam (salami of free-range southern Funen lamb, celeriac purée and crudité) and Sweet Truffle (chilli crème fraîche, delicate Toma Piemontese cheese, sweet potato, sage and truffle tapenade).
For some simple hosting at home, free from the hassles of cooking, oste (cheeses) and røget sild (smoked herring) are excellent for creating some very Danish hors d’oeuvres.
At Bornholmer Butikken, a delicatessen that showcases local treats from the island of Bornholm, we are spoilt for choice. There are chocolates and caramels from Svaneke, liquorice from Johan Bülow, and all manner of cheeses.
One stall sells nothing but olives and olive oil. Another is a pickle purveyor, yet another focuses on cured meats and spreads. The adventurous can try leverpostej, a pâté made from pig’s liver and lard; perfect for spreading over a toasted slice of sourdough bread.
Beyond everyday delights, Torvehallerne plays host to the Copenhagen Cooking & Food Festival in the last week of August, making it a good time to experience even more of Denmark’s local produce and delicacies.
Expect plenty of fun and educational activities too, such as the Østersskole (literally “oyster school”), where experts will teach market-goers how to open oysters properly.
After a long day of shopping for groceries, there’s nothing quite like resting our weary feet while enjoying a great cup of coffee. We head to The Coffee Collective for hand-brewed drip coffee and pastries such as their basic but oh-so-flaky croissant.
This celebrated Danish coffee roastery also has two other cafés in Jægersborggade and Gothåbsvej, but their Torvehallerne outlet has a livelier, village-like ambience thanks to the other market stalls.
In fact, here at Torvehallerne, everyone is a neighbour. Often you’ll see the very stall owners who had served you earlier — who sold you a stellar sirloin steak or let you sample their local oste — dropping by for a caffè latte to go or an espresso while catching up with the baristas.
There’s this sense of hygge — the Danish word for a feeling of cosiness — with this charming community.
Yes, here at Torvehallerne, everyone is a neighbour. Everyone is family. And just wandering around, taking part, we feel welcome too. There’s no market quite like it.
Frederiksborggade 21, Copenhagen, Denmark
Open Mon-Thu 10am-7pm, Fri 10am-8pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-5pm