Copenhagen with its booming bistro scene and great restaurants has earned the title of Scandinavia’s gourmet capital. Not only are there a growing number of Michelin-starred restaurants but there are plenty of other options right down to budget outlets.
While breakfast and dinner are eaten at home, most Danes eat lunch elsewhere. Generally lunch is a cold meal consisting of slices of rye bread buttered and covered with various kinds of sausage, sliced boiled egg or liver paste. Festive versions of the standard lunch have also developed.
Elaborate smørrebrød (open sandwiches) have been known since the 1880s. The classics include buttered rye bread with pickled herring salad, smoked herring, smoked salmon, smoked eel with scrambled egg, corned beef with pickles and horseradish, tongue with vegetable mayonnaise, roast pork with apples and prunes and over-matured cheese with meat-jelly and rum.
The cold buffet is another Danish phenomenon from the late 19th century. It is a buffet with several stages. First guests are served fish, for instance pickled herring, fried herring in vinegar, smoked salmon, warm fish fillets with remoulade, shrimps and other shellfish.
Then follow cold cuts such as sausage, smoked pork fillet, ham, roast beef and liver paste and a section with warm dishes such as rissoles, medallions of pork loin and at Christmas-time roast duck and roast pork with red cabbage. Then come cheeses and finally a section with puddings and fruit. Everything is accompanied by rye bread, white bread and butter.
Nordic food has been making something of a comeback in recent years. One of the driving forces behind the rising popularity of Nordic cuisine is the success of a small restaurant on the Christianshavn waterfront. Noma – a contraction of Nordic Mad (‘mad’ is food in Danish). The exclusive Michelin-starred restaurant was founded by Claus Meyer in partnership with head chef Rene Redzepi with the intention of reinventing Nordic cuisine – something he is now widely credited as having done.
Eating out in Copenhagen's restaurants is a costly affair, with the average price about 50% higher than in southern Europe. This is due in part to the country's high taxes, which are included in the cost of restaurant meals, and also to the comparatively high wages that the staff are paid. Because of the latter, tipping is neither required nor expected unless service is exceptionally noteworthy.