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Where in the World to Eat: Copenhagen

Where in the World to Eat: Copenhagen
Smørrebrød could be seen as the perfect reflection of Danish - and more specifically Copenhagen's - culture. Vast in both number and flavour combinations, these famous open-faced edibles are quirky, often intricately design and come with a bread base that will leave a lasting impact.
Translatable literally as ‘butter and bread’, the origins of this Danish delight are rooted in humble home life. In the 1600s, families would use dark, homemade rye bread to sop up the fatty drippings from meat and fish . A slow energy-releasing lunch for the hungry populace, it was also a way to use up leftovers. 
With home-pickled or smoked vegetables, fish or meat atop, the sandwich has since established itself as a countrywide steadfast. Adding to its curious charm is that it’s absent from the cuisine of its Scandinavian neighbours.
Smørrebrød once occupied the throne here; now, in a multinational metropolis, the indiscriminate waft of sausages and pickled gherkins from wagons punctuates the crisp air. Kebabs houses and ethnic restaurants dominate some streets, and more and more restaurants are cropping up offering new Nordic cuisine. But this is Denmark - such a national emblem would not be left to die out, and so those with the nous can quite happily still sniff out some good ones in the city.
You can find both ends of the market. The more reasonably-priced smoørrebrød can be found in the bakers and sandwich shops dotted about the city. There are several good ones around the central station and on Vesterbrogade - one of two raking parallel thoroughfares leading towards the town square. The second, Gammel Kongevej, is home to Frederiksberg Smoørrebrød, a delightful and wallet-friendly joint offering classics such as two fried fish and tatar: raw
Where in the World to Eat: Copenhagen
minced beef, capers, onion and raw egg yolk.
At the upper end of the spectrum you can visit Hviids Vinstue on Kongens Nytorv or the slightly pricier yet unrivalled in quality Ida Davidsen close by on Store Kongensgade. The latest in a bloodline of nationally-fabled sandwich craftsmen, Ida works the floor and the smørrebrød counter at the restaurant herself. It is, literally and metaphorically a salad bowl of choice with over two hundred items on the menu. A menu which is worth a visit alone - a Guinness World Record scroll-like piece 140 centimetres long.
'The restaurant has always been very exact about what goes together (on the smørrebrød). You have to think about everything and what tastes good,' says Ida.
Perhaps the most famous at Ida's is the Hans Christian Andersen - one of a few to take their name from famous diners. 'My father Per discovered that Hans Christian Andersen was always going out to dinner, to friends' to castles - and so all the things that he liked to eat. He put it together because of that,' says Ida. For the record, the legendary author was partial to crispy bacon, tomatoes, pate, jellified beef stock and grated fresh horseradish. A mixture as clinically Danish as you're likely to find anywhere.
Danish cuisine may not be the most renowned export but that doesn't mean it's not valued in its homeland - and its homeland is where you need to be to treat yourself to what is a whole world more than simply half a sandwich. The invention, individuality and appeal of smørrebrød, reflected in the eating culture and breadth of places they're available at, make Copenhagen a star on the map of any travelling food fan. Just don’t forget to flush one down with Danish beer and snaps.
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24 September 2010
By: Simon Cooper
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