In the northern part of the city lies the neighbourhood of Nørrebro, where edgy style has replaced dereliction without sacrificing a multicultural vibe. Locals still call it Nørrebronx in honour of its reputation for gangland shootouts, but the area has gone through a transformation over the past decade. The best place to witness this is on Jægersborggade, where The Coffee Collective set up its first open roaster and coffee shop in 2008. At that stage the street was better known for drug dealing than café society – let alone the Michelin star that now adorns Relæ (another pioneer). Now the area is a haven for ceramics and artisan homeware, handcrafted clothes, good food and, of course, great coffee. The surrounding streets are the city’s highest-density residential areas, and contain Denmark’s biggest mix of cultures. Hip young locals call it home, but clever urban planning has ensured that it hasn’t become over-gentrified. Vacant land has been turned into a green bike route that snakes its way through Superkilen Park, where there are 57 everyday objects that represent the area’s 57 different cultural backgrounds. There are still dive bars, kebab shops and graffiti to be found, and in summer, when the likes of Manfreds and Mikkeller set up their street furniture, the cobblestones come alive.
You’d be hard pressed to find a more ‘self-centred’ wine shop than Solfinn Danielsen’s Rødder & Vin – or a warmer welcome. Danielsen only sells wines he likes (about 80 per cent from the Gamay grape variety) made by winemakers he knows, and he has set up the store so that it feels like home. People wander in and pull up a chair at the round, smoked-oak dining table where there’s always a bottle or two on the go. “When I go home I don’t feel like I’ve been at work,” Danielsen says. The link is even stronger because the chairs are “borrowed” from home and his friend, designer Søren Ulrich, made the table. The “rødder” part of the shop’s name means “roots” in Danish and refers to many things, including the pop-ups that he and partner Esben Grundtvig run, for which they cook a lot of root vegetables. Grundtvig runs the food side while Danielsen is more of a travelling sommelier, teaming up with chefs from all around Scandinavia for special dinners and the like. Events in the shop include “8-for-8”, an eight-course meal with eight wines for eight guests, as well as noodle nights and freshly shucked oysters washed down with a spritzy pét-nat (natural sparkling wine), the sommelier’s favoured bubbles.
From this small space, the quartet behind The Coffee Collective became the caffeine kings of Copenhagen, supplying numerous cafés with beans, training baristas and leading the way on direct trading with growers to ensure fairer deals and better quality beans. Roasting is now done at their large headquarters in Frederiksberg, and they now operate two othercafés. But the original home remains the sentimental favourite, with a mellow playlist and super-informed staff always happy to chat about the latest cuppings. There’s even a lovely garden view from the backroom. If the coffee isn’t proof enough of their skills, the shelves are lined with barista awards and sometimes Rasmus Gamrath, 2013’s Danish barista of the year, is manning the machines. In keeping with the Nordic style, the beans are lightly roasted, with espresso made from a 60:40 Brazilian and Guatemalan blend for a sweet andbalanced coffee that works well with or without milk. On the AeroPress there’s a rotating selection of the best beans from coops in Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya or Panama. It’s all about the coffee, but there’s usually a sweet treat – such as a hindbærsnitte, a classic Danish raspberry slice – on offer.
Nørrebrogade, the area’s main drag, is lined with kebab and shawarma joints. But only Kebabistan has an international reputation for sating the appetites of world famous chefswith the late-night munchies – Momofuku’s David Chang famously ate here after a meal at Noma left him feeling shy on protein (there may have been a few beers consumed in between). From the laminate tabletops and booths to the mockbrick wallpaper this place is the real deal, complete with bright lights and plastic serving receptacles. You can tell they’re serious about their shawarma by the bowls of green chillies and deep red tomato-based chilli sauce on all the tables. There’s a huge backlit menu offering pizza and burgers, which are best ignored in favour of the shawarma sandwich and crispy French fries. There’s lamb (lammekød), chicken (kylling) or Chang’s preference – “mix” – in a Turkish rollor pide-style flatbread. Wraps come loaded with salad greens and the mayo that’s ubiquitous in Danish fast food, and it’s left to the customer to spice it up with their chilli of choice.
Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, the crown prince of craft beer, also has a deft touch with bars, creating just the right ambience to keep the beer geeks happily supping alongside less serious (though just as dedicated) imbibers. Mikkeller & Friends, a partnership between Bjergsø’s craft brewery group Mikkeller and another microbrewer, To Øl, is so highly regarded it was voted fourth best bar in the world in 2015 by Rate Beer’s ale aficionados. There are 40 beers on tap, and bar staff who encourage trying before buying. They don’t mind if you start safe with a Nørrebro Pils and then work your way up to the likes of To Øl’s “Fuck Art, Let’s Dance”, or Mikkeller’s “Jackie Brown”, one of the coffee-laced beers with whichBjergsø made his mark. Catering to all, there’s even a gluten-free beer, the Peter, Pale & Mary. The basement bar’s turquoise-toned Scandi minimalism is charming in winter, while in summer all the activity takes place on the street outside, where people vie for a bench in the late afternoon sun. The bar also sets up mobile taps in the park across the road and invites their food-truck friends along.