Denmark: A Smörrebröd Tour of Copenhagen

Denmark: A Smörrebröd Tour of Copenhagen

Mhe “Schønnemann” has absolutely nothing to do with the modern designed and light-flooded pubs that Copenhagen now has in abundance. Here is everything without exception old school: the pressed white tablecloths, the walls paneled in dark wood, the stale china and the mostly older waiters in their starched white shirts and black ties.

No doubt it lives on here, the old, middle-class Copenhagen gastronomy, which is so very different from the hip New Nordic restaurants and burger joints that have all helped the Danish capital to grow over the past two decades has become a hotspot of the global food scene.

To anticipate: The trip to the traditional restaurant can definitely keep up with the modern – the wonderful Scandinavian custom of smörrebröds is cultivated in the “Schønnemann” more stylishly than almost anywhere else. And it proves that exciting traditional Danish cuisine beyond meatballs, fried onion hot dogs and fat tartar sauce existed long before tattooed young chefs began roaming the Nordic countryside in search of unfamiliar edible wild plants and insects.

In Denmark, smörrebröd is served at lunchtime

Good Smörrebröd is served up in a dozen or so restaurants in Copenhagen these days. Despite the low-level name, which literally means “bread and butter”, these are sometimes extremely artistically topped breads. They are almost exclusively served at lunchtime in Denmark when Lunch – literally translated, the term means breakfast, but in Danish it means lunch.

Not even Ole Troelsø has an answer as to why this is so. The journalist and author is a proven connoisseur and has already written several books on the subject of Smörrebröd. “In the olden days it was also eaten in the evening, but somehow it seems that we Danes prefer a warm evening meal after all,” says Troelsø with a shrug.

In any case, travelers should beware of those restaurants that also offer smörrebröd in the evening, because in most cases these are tourist traps, says the expert. “Traditional Smörrebröd restaurants close in the afternoon, while the more modern ones offer their own evening menu with completely different dishes.”

In “Aamann’s 1921” the chef set new standards

One of the “modern” ones is undoubtedly “Aamann’s 1921”, which chef and host Adam Aamann opened in 2006, in the early days of Copenhagen’s gastronomic miracle (the leading top restaurant “Noma” was just three years old then). “Adam Aamann is a key figure in the smörrebröd renaissance,” emphasizes Troelsø, “a quality that he offered was hardly known until then. He set new standards.”

In fact, it was the declared goal of the then 32-year-old chef to polish up the outdated image of the traditional Danish lunch menu. “Hardly anyone was interested in Smörrebröd at the time,” says Aamann, a slim, personable man in his late forties. “Not least because it often consisted of industrially produced ingredients of inferior quality.”

With his style of Smörrrebröd, Aamann managed to polish up the outdated image of the traditional Danish lunch menu

Source: Aamanns

Aamann, on the other hand, relied on home-baked sourdough rye bread, home-pickled vegetables, Baltic herring and otherwise only the highest-quality, organically produced, predominantly home-made ingredients. With which he created a new, more contemporary version of the Smörrebröd restaurant.

In his well-frequented “Aamann’s 1921” in the center of the capital, guests sit on modern furniture under heavy designer chandeliers and eat extraordinarily moist wholemeal bread, topped with dry-aged beef tartare, fresh horseradish, mustard emulsion, fermented radish and crispy potato chips. This is usually accompanied by beer, which costs 13 euros per glass, which is not unusual in Denmark.

An institution in Copenhagen

A completely different ambience awaits the guest at Slotskælderen hos Gitte Kik. The comparatively unspectacular translation of the local name, which at first glance seems so demanding, is “Schlosskeller bei Gitte Kik”. Whereby Mrs. Kik is a former owner. “The ‘Slotskælderen’ is probably the best remaining example of what our lunch restaurants used to look like and what atmosphere prevailed there,” enthuses Ole Troelsø.

As the name suggests, the “Schlossskeller”, like many other long-established restaurants in Copenhagen, is located in the basement, with windows at sidewalk height. In this veritable institution of an inn – bread is said to have been served here since 1797 – the seating has a fine patina, the atmosphere is lively, the quality of the food is excellent, although not quite on the level of “Aamann 1921” and “Schønnemann”.

The sandwiches can be ordered or selected from an attractively arranged buffet. Most are classics that have remained unchanged for decades, such as herring with onions, dill and capers or liver pâté with bacon.

Between a traditional restaurant and a hip bar

A more contemporary and elegant take on the Smörrebröd eatery is Møntergade, a restaurant that has just opened in its current location. The setting is dignified, borrowing from Art Deco, you sit on leather benches or on the iconic Y-chair by Danish designer Hans J. Wegner and order artfully draped sandwiches, for example with poached cod, mustard cream, bacon and egg; or with North Sea shrimp, lemon mayonnaise and fresh herbs. There are also daily changing “specials” and in the evening a French-influenced brasserie menu without any sandwiches.

While various forms of herring are standard fare at Møntergade, one establishment has downright specialized in Nordic fish: the magnificent Lumskebugten is housed in a former sailors’ tavern, a gleaming white wooden building near Copenhagen Castle. You dine in the elegant ambience of a Scandinavian country house.

In addition to Smörrebröd, a selection of variously pickled, deep-fried, smoked herring, the so-called sildebord, is served. If you like, you can also order three types of bread with beef tartare combined in different ways, as well as fresh oysters.

Copenhagen: In “Selma” you can eat Smörrebröd until 9 p.m

In “Selma” you can order Smörrebröd until 9 p.m

Those: Selma Copenhagen

Selma, which is just around the corner from the Torvehallerne, a market hall, manages the balancing act between a traditional Smörrebröd restaurant and a hip foodie bar. The decor is reduced, with lots of light wood and colorful chairs. Elaborately designed, delicately decorated bread is served on colorful plates or wooden boards.

The toppings are seasonally changing, often original, sometimes unusual ingredients, including wild duck with porcini mushrooms or plaice in rye breading with whitefish roe, always garnished with Far Eastern products such as yuzu (a citrus fruit) or ume kosho (a fermented plum paste). Also exceptional is the large selection of draft beers, most of them from the local star brewer Mikkeller.

Copenhagen: Depending on the season, the toppings at “Selma” are sometimes unusual

Depending on the season, sometimes unusual ingredients are used as toppings in the “Selma”.

Those: Selma Copenhagen

However, the most unusual thing about “Selma” is that the sandwiches are served here until 9 p.m. Which is at least an indication that it is not just tourists who are unfamiliar with tradition who also feel like eating smörrebröd in the evening.

Tips and information:

Sandwiches-Local: Traditional: “Schønnemann” (; “Slotskaelderen hos Gitte Kik” (; “Lumskebugten” (

Innovative: “Aamann’s 1921” (; “Møntergade” (, “Selma” (

Reading tips: “Insiders guide to Smørrebrød” by Ole Troelsø, (available as an e-book in English, 8.81 euros)

Copenhagen Tips:;

Participation in the trip was supported by Visit Denmark. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at

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