Vegetarian in CPH – it’s mad!

Update, 25 May: an article in Politiken (Gang i gadekøkkenet, offline only) is glad that CPH has now caught up with other cities where food trucks have been part of the cityscape for a while. The trucks on Gammeltorv almost drowned during Eurovision, but are a welcome addition to CPH’s food scene, which lacks decent fast food, and to street life itself. The council has recently given permits to 18 trucks and 250 Christiania bikes to sell food on the street.

Update, 6 May: ScandiKitchen’s guide to Danish party food illustrates the issues, but Swedish veggie fast food chain Astrid och aporna now open at Jægersborggade 39, Nørrebro, and we’re having an ongoing convo with @copenhagencvb, so consider awareness raised!

I’m a vegetarian in the country with the highest meat consumption per capita in the world, but hey! Nordic food (aka mad) is a thing, with noma just crowned the universe’s best restaurant again. I’ll concede that options have improved slightly since I moved here, but in most eateries the choice is still on a scale from limited to non-existent – for example, the annual CPH Dining Week remains closed to non-carnivores.

Here’s our Eurovision survival guide, mainly covering options around the city centre and out to Eurovision Island – for full listings try Happy Cow or WoCo’s effort.

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spotted on Eurovision Island, August 2013 – no wheels…

Fan Mile

Eurovision Village sees the launch of a new organic food truck concept, organised by Copenhagen Cooking, WoCo’s eating arm. Despite my Pavlovian sceptical response, @copenhagencvb tells me there will be a pretty reasonable range of options, including open sandwiches with avocado or mozzarella, braised aubergine, Danish delicacy karrysuppe (curry soup) and the rather less dansk bretzel with dips. I’ll be there next week!

Huset, just off the ‘top’ end of the Fan Mile near Rådhuspladsen (Town Hall Square) and home to the Euro Fan Café, houses a restaurant called Rub & Stub. Based on a concept which becomes ever more troubling the more you think about it, it does offer vegetarian mains:

2014-04-08 18.34.29
1) lasagne and salad 2) pearl barley salad with felafel and polenta

Hotdogs or felafel?

I’ve never eaten one, but Den Økologiske Pølsemand, who has stands by Recreation Square in the middle of Strøget (Fan Mile) and at the Rundetårn (Round Tower), claims to have a vegetarian sausage in his range of organic delights. Why can’t these hotdog stands just do decent chips?

2014-04-08 16.00.58
the ubiqitous pølsevogn

Felafel are the chicken tikka of Denmark. No complaints herfra.

Wienerbrød and brød

Danish pastries in these parts are called Wienerbrød, or Viennese bread. Vegetarian, obv, butter laden and ever so tasty the first few times. Expat blogger Diane has done a guide to the various types, many of which pander to the Danish sweet tooth. I favour a frøsnapper or the healthy option of a grøvbirkes.

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Lagekagehuset on the fan mile

Bread, well, it can be very good but a loaf may cost the price of a small car, in particular in upmarket chains Emmerys and Lagekagehuset. How high will you go? The good news is that couple of boller (rolls) on their own may well be enough to tide you over – which is lucky, as the concept of just grabbing a quick sandwich is yet to catch on.

New (and very welcome) are in-house bakeries in the discount supermarkets. One of my all time favourite CPH Post articles is on how Danish supermarkets can free you from desire, but it’s worth remembering that most offer water and juice at reasonable prices, even if you have to pay a returnable deposit the same price as the drink elsewhere…

Bonus tip: poundshop-alikes Tiger and Søstrene Grene sell savoury snacks and drinks too, although you may well have to make your way round the  whole maze clutching your swag to find the tills. And finally on the subject of water, yes you can drink the tap water, but many restaurants will charge you for the privilege.

Raw and organic

For vegans and healthy types raw is definitely an option, ranging from 42 Raw and simpleRAW to Botaniq for fine dining. Botaniq is just across the road from Torvehallerne, the market that isn’t (more free samples wouldn’t hurt). There’s a lot of chewing involved but it’s the closest thing to a gourmet vegetarian experience in CPH.

Kødbyen, in ‘hipster’ Vesterbro just behind the central station, translates as Meat Packing District, but never fear, organic mecca BioMio has some vegetarian options. Prepare for a long wait while they cook your meal before your very eyes!

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it’s a thing – fruit and surplus packaging

Old school veggie

In the city centre, RizRaz (not exclusively veg) has two outlets and is a brilliant default offering – a keenly priced buffet, and cute little pita breads. You’ll go back for more!

Eateries in Christiania, home to the alternative lifestyle, tend to the how many carbs can you cram on a plate approach, see in particular Morgenstedet and Månefiskeren.

Ethnic

Pizza and pasta may well, as so often, be your friends. The food in CPH’s Indian restaurants resembles neither that in Blighty or on the Subcontinent, best avoid, apart from Bindia if you can spare the cash (poppadoms and pickles? DK 45). Gastro god Claus Meyer’s new restaurant complex, The Standard (the green building at the foot of Nyhavn), includes Verandah, which looks fab if too posh for poppadoms.

As someone who doesn’t like either rice or noodles I can’t really comment on the Asian offerings but many people rate the likes of LêLê…think tofu in all shapes and sizes. There’s also a fair number of places which offer pizza/felafel/kebabs (even on the same plate), which will fill you up just fine.

Nordic mad

Efforts are being made to wean your average Dane off the pig but it’s an uphill struggle. If you want to try celeriac baked in straw or weeds prepared in inventive ways Restaurant Relæ (one Michelin star, 2012) has a vegetarian menu – go them! Here’s a review.

Note for the sensitive of spirit, it may not come as a surprise that it can be a bit robust out there – the paleo diet, aka stenalderkost (Stone Age food) with a stress on the hunter rather than the gatherer, is a thing too, and several restaurants have found new ways to glorify the consumption of the pig and its friends.

New! Copenhagen Street Food

If you are taking the bus option, or fancy a nice excursion on the way to the show, there are several options on Holmen, a short hop from Nyhavn once the bridge is complete.

The Danish Architecture Centre, round the corner from noma, offers a “Danish inspired lunch menu” with herring, salmon and stewed red berry fruits with cream (the famously unpronounceable rød grød med fløde) for an OK DK 199 inc 1 drink. Strike that then…maybe they have cakes.

Copenhagen Street Food, a ‘sustainable food market’ with more stands/trucks, can be found in an old red dairy building on Papirøen (Paper Island – from 1958-2013 it was a newspaper warehouse. Geographically speaking it’s Christiansholm). It’s just opened, and early reports on vegetarian options weren’t promising, but the whole thing may well perk up over the next few days:

Copenhagen Street Food
Copenhagen Street Food

A bit further on, just before you get to #bogwhallerne and your final destination, is the scenic 56 Degrees (so 12 up from 42 Raw), with a pricey Eurovision menu (DK 350, involves ox). Can’t help feeling they’ve misjudged their audience.

Eurovision Island

Made it! Already in situ are Amass (or in my mind, Avoid) from the noma stable and beach bar cum restaurant Halvandet, who are doing the catering through Eurovision fortnight. I’m hopeful – reports from the press centre say the food is good, if veg options limited to salads.

fish in a barrel
fish in a barrel

And finally…

Awareness of vegetarian choices (and animal welfare issues) is low among the populace at large – heck, bestiality is legal.  Vegetarians are largely viewed as knit your own yoghurt sandal wearing types – think 1970s Britain (in many areas, actually), with options interpreted as vegan, or conversely containing fish. Please do your bit to raise awareness for expat vegetarians and make your voice heard. Free us from the salad bar!

Do leave a comment or tweet @annonescdk with a pic of your meal. Best of luck out there!

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