After getting back to Berlin hotel the night before well after midnight, we had to wake up at 5AM for a very cool day of sightseeing and one of the most anticipated food days of our middle aged lives. We were off to Berlin Schönefeld Airport, a leisurely 30 minute drive away for a 7:15AM flight to Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s an hour flight that seemed like mere minutes via the 1st class service we received from easyJet airlines. Our thinking was if we were going to eat at these fine establishments, we might as well go all out with the flight also. I was in line with a gentleman that cursed the world of easyJet, but I don’t completely get it. It’s pretty simple, easyJet and for that matter, Ryan Air, are the cheapest options between European cities. They usually fly out of the smaller, more distant airports and offers no frills. Everything is extra. So for $150 per passenger, we were allotted the following:
- one carry-on bag
- seating in the smoking section next to a heavy set Ukrainian
- a pair of shoes to be wore on the flight, but the total clothing allowance was four pounds
- We could only speak German or Danish during the flight
- $5 discount for serving drinks to the rest of the passengers
- three squares of toilet paper, but we could bring our own within the four pound clothing allowance
Once we landed at Copenhagen airport, the easiest option is to take the train to the city center. The ticket office for the train is located in Terminal 3 above the railway station and will drop you off at Copenhagen Central Station, across from Tivoli Gardens. The trip itself takes about 15 minutes.
Once we got off the train, it didn’t take long to realize that Copenhagen is a biking city. We had already booked our bike ahead of schedule via Copenhagen City Bike. We had a first class flight on easyJet and now we continued the trend with our bikes City Bikes include a tablet located near the handle bars that has a GPS, nearest bike return locator and attraction finder. There is a luggage rack, lights, battery operated when you need it and a built-in lock. It costs 25 kr (~$3) an hour. We spent about $30 each throughout our day.
Copenhagen City Bike
Scandic Palace Hotel
1550 Copenhagen, Denmark
No complaints from our hotel room. It was centrally located, charming, clean, roomy and all for about $175. It was one block from Tivoli Gardens and there was City Bike drop-off location down stairs. Later in the evening I stopped by Aamanns Etablissement to get some smørrebrøds for tomorrow’s flight back to Berlin. The hotel was kind enough to refrigerate the food until the morning and made our visit that more enjoyable. When we go back to Copenhagen seems obvious to just stay here, not so fast. During our research, there were a lot of charming hotels, many along the waterfront along Nyhavn that were slightly pricier in the $200 range. If we have a bigger budget in a few years, we may upgrade.
1051 Copenhagen, Denmark
Our Christmas shopping wasn’t solely regulated to Christmas markets. We thought we’d complement our search to include high-end department stores. Our first stop in Copenhagen was Magasin Du Nord’s flagship store hoping to find ornaments or some signature kitchenware. The Christmas decor wasn’t quite our taste. We did find some Pillivuyt serveware, but were fearful it may break en route to LA. Even though we left empty handed, I would recommended a stop for your shopping fix.
Magasin Du Nord
Kongens Nytorv 13
1095 Copenhagen, Denmark
Then it was off for some more shopping. This time we headed to Strøget, which is a band of protracted pedestrian streets with several flagship stores, including Royal Copenhagen and Lego. Royal Copenhagen had a good collection of traditional Christmas decor. Illums Bolighus was too modern for our criteria. But you could just watch around and just head to one of the many stores in the area. It could keep you busy for a full day. Our final stop was at The Lego Store where you can find a lot of unique products that are only sold at the Copenhagen location, a building station for kids and the ability to purchase individual Lego parts.
Royal Copenhagen Flagship Store
1160 Copenhagen, Denmark
1160 København, Denmark
1161 København K, Denmark
Per Henrik Lings Allé 4
2100 København Ø, Denmark
There is something extraordinary about Geranium. Situated in the most of obscure places, on the 8th floor connected to the Parken Stadium home to the FC Copenhagen and the Denmark national soccer teams. To bring light to the location, no three star Michelin NYC chef would even ponder having their signature restaurant within Madison Square Gardens. It lacks charm, the structure is inconvenient for patrons and staff alike and how would guests interact with drunken fans. But for Chef Rasmus Kofoed all that was irrelevant, apparently comfortable with the tension between the urbane and the natural. When I think about a football stadium, I picture passion. Players that are willing to exhaust themselves at all cost to win. Fans that will yell, dress up and fight in support of their cause. So maybe Geranium’s location is fitting.
It was lunch, but not for a second did we feel we were sacrificing anything. Chef Kofoed was in the kitchen working on dishes, professional directing his staff. The kitchen had an energy and rhythm from when they gathered for a photo within three seconds to presenting dishes you felt they were proud of what the restaurant was doing and what they were striving to become. You could sense that from the kitchen to the staff on the dining room floor. Our lunch concluded with a 30 minute tour of the kitchen, stadium, private dining room and wine cellar. If I had asked to see the rest room, I’m certain he would have explained every detail that made this rest room better than others and more comfortable for guests.
Lunch isn’t as busy as dinner, so it can be easy to get a table and it was about a quarter booked during our time. Two tasting menus are offered daily, served for the entire table. On our visit they had a Universe Tasting Menu (1600Dkk, $250) and the Geranium Dishes (1200 Dkk, $185). We went with the longer Universe tasting. To drink there was a wine and a juice pairing. We chose one of each for 1300 Dkk ($200) and 600 Dkk ($90), respectively. It was our first juice pairing and not the least bit disappointing. When they poured, our curiosity usually gravitated to the juice first then the wine. We started out with a glass of 2008 Larmandier-Bernier Champagne Terre de Vertus Premier Cru. A few dishes were presented and then each table has a course in the kitchen seated with the chef’s three Bocuse d’Or trophies. He placed third in 2005, silver in 2007 and gold in 2011. After our kitchen course, we headed back to our table to finish the meal. Some course were good, some very good and some quite exceptional. All in all, I would consider it a must visit. And if you don’t have enough time, extend your trip. There is something special going on at Parken Stadium and you may want to be a part of it. Do note they charged me $25 to use a credit card, but I wasn’t about to carry around $1,000 cash. Nor did I want to pull out any Danish Kroner for one day’s trip. We did manage to go the entire day without needing cash (Dkk).
Kitchen Table at Geranium in Copenhagen, Denmark
(In the Kitchen at Geranium in Copenhagen, Denmark)
Chef Rasmus Kofoed plating a dish at Geranium in Copenhagen, Denmark
1630 København, Denmark
We’ve wondered through four Christmas markets so far and one left in Cologne. What I thought would be the epic shopping spree; we’d amass all our Christmas decorating needs for life appears anything but that. We’re already over budget, I’m not sure we even have enough to decorate a room. And the bigger issue lies ahead. Going forward we can’t supplement with Home Goods or Marshall’s. I believe Jen has accustomed herself to the cream of crop. No more mass produced nutcrackers at $13 a pop. Everything needs to be handcrafted and signed by the artist. If it takes up more than a square foot and costs less than $300, I’m afraid it will not pass her quality assurance. She’s requested contact info for her most beloved vendors and inquired on their international shipping policies. She’s shopping like there’s no tomorrow and I have yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Next up was Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market. Outside of the holiday season, Tivoli is an amusement park in the center of the city that has rides, shopping, food, a concert hall and an aquarium. It covers over 20 acres and costs $15 for admission. There are about 30 rides and the cost is additional ranging from $4 to $10. You could also get an unlimited ride ticket for $30. We walked around looking for more Christmas décor. We shopped in 30 or so stores, but the quality just wasn’t good enough based on our previous experience. Luckily, we didn’t buy anything. If you have kids, this is a great stop regardless of what is on your shopping list.
In between Geranium and Noma we really had no room for a snack. We originally planned to visit Meyers Bakery and The Coffee Collective Jægersborggade. We did however still want to try smørrebrød, the Danish open faced sandwich, before we left Copenhagen. We had an opportunity to pick up some at a reputable restaurant called Aamanns in the early evening and eat them on the flight back to Berlin in the morning. So that’s what we did. While Jen was getting ready for dinner, I took my GPS bound bike and picked up some sandwiches and sides. The hotel was kind enough to refrigerate our food overnight.
Øster Farimagsgade 10
2100 København Ø, Denmark
(Biking at night in Copenhagen, Denmark)
When we were deciding what German cities to visit, we couldn’t help but notice how close Copenhagen was in proximity to northern Germany. We never really fathomed having an opportunity to get a table at Noma. But the more we looked at the map, Copenhagen never got any further away, oddly it was still the same distance and eventually we caved in and decided to give a shot.
For most foodies, Noma needs no introduction. But for those who’s culinary rationale is bound by the U.S., Noma has been ranked by Restaurant magazine as the #1 restaurant in the world for 2010 – 2012 and back again in 2014. The prestigious website Tripadvisor, known for its professional food photography, also donned Noma with the title of best restaurant in the world. Surprising, it only ranks #34 among restaurants in Copenhagen. Anthony Bourdain, who usually devotes a show to a city or country, spend an hour praising Noma and its chef René Redzepi. Michelin has even taken notice, awarding him with 2 stars for the past several years. And everybody is too familiar the infamous year of 2010, when Noma was on the verge of its third star, but then director Jean-Luc Naret stated that Chef Redzepi was not arrogant enough and was in the kitchen on too many a nights to receive the honor.
Nonetheless, getting a reservation is near impossible. They take reservations at the beginning of the month for two months in advance. On reservation day, they receive upwards of 20,000 requests. With 40 seats in the main dining room and seatings at lunch and dinner for five days a week, that equates to 300 to 400 reservations will walk away happy.
We began to plan out trip to Germany, booked flights, car rental, reserved the German restaurants that we wanted and left one day, December 4th open in case we flew from Berlin for the day. In September, we did a test run on Noma’s website and noticed some availability for lunch if you were lucky.
Now we were ready for the real deal. On October 6th at 10AM Copenhagen time, which was 1AM Monday morning in LA, reservation lines opened. They accept phone reservations, but we stuck with hopes of logging in online. If you’re on the Noma reservation site prior to 1AM, a countdown will start about 3 hours prior to opening. It states that come 1AM, all those on the site will be randomly assigned a number. The smaller the number, the better. Based on my math and the test run we did in September, you need a number of 300 or better just to get a lunch slot. December was a little different, yes it’s not the busiest travel month of the year, so that could make it slightly easier. But, they are also closed XMAS week, so 25% of the month is unavailable. You can use multiple browsers, so we had 4 laptops, two phones and an Ipad each on the website. Each laptop had Explorer, Safari, Firefox and Chrome installed. So in total we had about 20 draws in this raffle. When 1AM hit, Jen and I called out our numbers and mine didn’t look too promising. Between my two computers, Ipad and phone, my best number was 275 and the rest of the numbers were between 500 and 1,200. Jen on the other hand, had the usual misses, but she also got 78 and 110. She grabbed a dinner with the 78 and planned it safe and got a lunch with the 110 drawing, which we cancelled the same day once we realized the dinner was confirmed via an email we received. We were relieved and looked at the clock, 1:15AM. All reservations were closed for the month of December. Keep in mind, there is a shared table that seats 15, these seats open one month prior, so presumable you would check back on Monday, November 3rd for these seats.
The same night we logged onto Easy Jet and book our flight leaving Thursday morning and returning to Berlin on Friday morning, each round trip flight was about $150. We opted not to sit together as that was an additional $5 and we wanted to save that money so we could leave a tip at Noma. I’m curious if Easy Jet will purposely seat us separately once we check in. Turns out they didn’t, we were seated together.
1401 København K, Denmark
With all the sightseeing combined with some unforeseen construction work near Noma, we were a little late for our reservation. We were the last table seated and finally the anticipation would soon conclude. They offer one menu nightly at 1,600 DKK ($240), a wine pairing at 1,000 DKK ($150) and a juice pairing at 600 DKK ($90). We used the same strategy at lunch by getting one wine and one juice pairing in order to try everything being offered. One thing stood out from the beginning was how inviting the staff was. The classic 3-star paradigm of formal service is disregarded in Copenhagen and much appreciated. Even at the best restaurant in the world, you can unwind, have a drink, enjoy the waterfront view and just talk about the impression the city has made.
The room had an energy knowing they were lucky enough to sample René Redzepi’s cuisine. Guests were on the younger side, with a median age of 38. Which made sense given the internet reservation system. From the get go, the juice pairing was a hit. We liked both the lunch and dinner pairing, kind of gives you some inspiration to try some creative recipe at home. The wine pairing presented some affordable bottles with the clear highlight being the 2014 Happy Bulles Gamay – Isabelle et Bruno Perraud that you can find on-line for $25. As for the food, it ranged from very good to excellent. Was it the best restaurant in the world? Personally, I was fonder of Diverxo, Mirazur and Sushi Sawada. You could even make an argument that on this trip, Aqua or Geranium was better. But is that the point, not really. When we return we would gladly take a table at whatever reincarnation Noma is at the time. It was a great evening and like most anticipated events, it went by too fast.
(Dining Room action at Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark)
What a day and what a little side excursion. There’s a calming peace and subtle energy about Copenhagen. It’s easy to see why it was listed as one of the happiest cities on earth. You could rent bike and just go from sight to sight and take a break with the wealth of dining options. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have jobs to go back to and we would have extended our stay in Copenhagen. Just thinking about spending another week to try Amass, Ralae, Radio, Manfreds & Vin and AOC makes us want to book a flight, but I do find comfort in knowing that we will meet again.