In a city of an estimated 600,000 bicycles, the concept of ‘meals on wheels’ takes on a whole new meaning. You can go almost anywhere on a bike in Copenhagen, and everyone does, although locals like to say they are not cyclists as such – rather they are A-to-Bers who are blessed with a local government that sees cyclists’ needs as a priority. The City of Copenhagen aspires to be the best bike-riding city in the world, so it has created hundreds of kilometres of cycle lanes and built stunning bicycle bridges, as well as coming up with other cool innovations such as synchronised traffic lights and special rubbish bins for cyclists. Combine that with dozens of city parks, cemeteries that double as parks, and huge swathes of reinvigorated harbour front, and it’s picnickers’ heaven. So hire a bike, pack a lunch and pedal off. If you’re more of a four-wheeler than a free-wheeler, there are lots of other mobile food options: a motorised hotdog stand run by a chef cum alchemist, an entire warehouse full of street food trucks and a van loaded with organic fruit and veg bound for the best restaurants and home cooks.
So you’ve got your wheels, and now you need your meals. For some locals, a picnic is as basic as sparking up a disposable grill and cooking a packet of sausages bought from the corner store. But there are plenty of places where you can procure an outdoor feast as well. Meyers Deli, which has several outlets around the city, does a box with baked Faroese salmon, potato salad, coleslaw, hummus, pickled vegetables, cheese and rye bread. If there’s no time to order in advance, Meyers has plenty of goodies in-store for a do-it-yourself repast. Løgismose, a delicatessen and wine emporium run from an old customs office on the harbour front, has the city’s most luxurious baskets, replete with tapas-style dishes, bread, dessert, wine, water and cutlery. And if you fancy a modern take on the classic smørrebrød, Aamanns in Østerbro sells the likes of curried herring, smoked cod and beef tartar on organic malt sourdough rye to go. If you’d rather go fishing – so to speak – and get out on Copenhagen’s myriad waterways, Go Boat will put together a picnic as part of its rental. To keep your conscience clear, the boats are powered by solar energy and partly made from recycled plastic bottles.
There’s something peculiarly Danish about Copenhagen Street Food, a series of stationary food trucks housed in two old newspaper warehouses at Papirøen (Paper Island), on the remoter side of the harbour. Here, serving good, cheap food for the people is coupled with the loftier ambition of creating a cultural environment underpinned by the values of “genuine, honesty and aesthetics.” Still, as they say themselves, everything is possible and in a city where dining out can be prohibitively expensive, the requirement that each vendor serve at least one meal costing between 50 DKK and 75 DKK (£5 – £8) is commendable. But is it even street food, some wonder? The indoor stationary set-up means the food market can run all year, albeit in 6 reduced hours during winter when everyone hovers around seats and tables made from pallets and other junk wood. The interior style can only be described as unrefined, and in summer people vie for the row of deck chairs along the pier. There’s an atlas of food available, from South Korean bulgogi to Colombian empanadas and stews, Indian butter chicken and Moroccan barbeques to pulled pork and fish ’n’ chips. Plus, there are lots of other activities aside from eating including salsa dance nights, DJs and a regular flea market.
Three times a week Martin Mo Kvedéris drives from Sjællands Odde, a peninsula on the northwest coast of Zealand, to Copenhagen with a truck full of pristine organic fruit and vegetables. They come from Jesper Andersen’s Birkemosegård, a pioneering organic and biodynamic farm with such a reputation that restaurants such as Noma sometimes create a dish around its produce: this winter Relæ had a “beet steak” made from a monster beet that was roasted for 14 hours and served with a red wine sauce. While most of the produce is bound for restaurants, on Thursdays Kvedéris ferries a weekly box for home cooks. Depending on the season, there are crisp holsteiner cox apples, green and black kale, multi-coloured beetroot and in spring the most delectable new potatoes. These are all augmented with organic fruit including blood oranges or pink grapefruit sourced from coops in Italy. Order online and collect from one of several locations around town, and then ferry home the prized produce on your bike like a true Copenhagener. To encourage city folk to visit the source, Kvedéris is overseeing the building of a new shop at the farm and a permanent kitchen where urban chefs can act the role of true locavores.
In a city fuelled by hundreds of hotdog stands (what Danes call pølsevogn), John’s Hotdog Deli stands apart. Besides serving superior sausages sourced from two different producers, John Michael Jensen makes all the toppings himself. His kitchen in Kødbyen can resemble a science lab, as the former pastry chef experiments with mustards made from hops, or all kinds of fermented chilli sauces, employing anything from mangos to sea buckthorn. A typical hotdog of the week might be an organic pork sausage made to John’s recipe, topped with onions fried in duck fat, Mikkeller beer mustard and a remoulade of minced pickles, mayo, cornichons and fresh herbs. Jensen took over the 95-year-old hotdog cart ten years ago after a back injury forced him out of the kitchen. “I was the first one to make everything by myself,” he says. “I wanted to run a hotdog stand where I would want to eat.” Outspoken and uncompromising, Jensen claims many of his fellow hotdog sellers “hate me really”, especially after he scooped the prized location outside the central train station. He’s there every second week, and during the other weeks his pølsevogn sometimes pops up somewhere else.