Danish Tasties

The good news is I've finally got my netbook working again (cheers Will). The bad news is the memory's too small to handle photos so the shots of some rather lovely food from wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen will have to wait a day or two to get posted.

So does the city live up to Danny Kaye's billing? Generally, I'd have to say yes. It's a very relaxed place - the lack of traffic is amazing, the friendliness of the locals a joy - and, while the weather's not always been kind since Friday, we've managed to walk a lot of its (wide) streets and absorb some culture and calories.

Friday saw us pop into The Paul, one of Denmark's many Michelin-starred places, for a chat with head chef Paul Cunningham. If that doesn't sound a very Danish name, it's because it's not. Like me, Paul is an Essex boy: I was born in Romford, he came from Grays. "I win," he declared, before pointing out that, actually, there's probably not much in it. And besides, I think we've both shrugged off the obvious Essex-isms - a need to drive a Ford, a love of white socks - and broken free of the county's boundaries and reputation. I bloody hope so anyway.

Paul was charming company though, full of stories about Danish cuisine and Copenhagen's up-and-comers and also provided one of the best bits of pre-dinner snackage I've ever had. A glass of Ruinart champagne - a clean, crisp, pure Chardonnay "blanc des blancs" for the men, a Pub Landlord-ish delicately fruity Rose for the ladies - fat green olives and something smaller, similarly coloured but slightly crunchier. We were bemused so Paul put us out of our confused misery. They were peaches. Pickled green peaches from Italy. Once we knew, it became obvious and their slight fruitiness shone through. Are these available in London, anyone? I really need more of these little treats...

Sadly, The Paul was fully booked on Friday, but Paul's charming right hand man Daniel suggested a table for Saturday night which we took and a close neighbour and traditionally Danish spot called Grafton for dinner that night. Portions were enormous, bread was great, food was simple but comforting: a chunky veal schnitzel for Mrs L, a local stew called "Skipperlabskovs" for me. The translation - "lobscouse" didn't mean a lot but suggested something hale and hearty, like that what Liverpool is famous for, er, innit? That was exactly what I got, indeed, the waitress - who, like everyone in Denmark seems to speak English better than our average teenager - described it as "a stew of meat, potatoes, onions that's never come off the hotplate." I'd describe it as a slightly more solid cottage pie, covered in chives. Though under-seasoned and crying out for some gravy (or a hearty slug of Worcester Sauce), a spoonful of Mrs L's wine-rich sauce and a very generous grind of pepper improved it tenfold. You wouldn't serve it at The Paul but bugger me, after a day of travelling it really hit the spot. With a big beer - and lots of water, so relax Giles - the only catch was the price.

If anyone ever says to you how expensive London is, point them towards Denmark. It's ludicrous. Yesterday we paid £4 for a half litre of water. That large beer on Friday was £7.50. Even the relative simplicity of Friday's meal totalled - two courses, two drinks - around 80 quid. It's a wallet crushing place.

I'll get onto Saturday's cracking dinner in another post - not at The Paul due to financial constraints but still really good - ditto tonight's dinner. We've left the City centre hotel behind for the joys of the coast and a much, much nicer hotel. Funny isn't it? The Skt Petri might have the reputation and the rockstars (75% of Metallica were in residence while we were there) but it felt understaffed and over-designed. If Ikea did hotels, they'd be like the Skt Petri. On the other hand, The Skovshoved, where I'm writing this, is older, slightly more battered but oozes soul and character. I'm so glad I left the City to come to this rather than the other way round. That would have just been painful...


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