Best of Wine: Bars in Copenhagen
‘Terroiristen’ is an intimate little wine bar just off Norrebrogade on Jaegersborggade. Its interior is soft, stylish and hygge (hygge is Danish for ‘cosy with friends’), with a clear emphasis on the hygge. Imagine walking into a sommelier’s living room and you aren’t far off the vibe this place gives. The man responsible for this project is Stephan Jensen, a well respected importer in the Copenhagen wine scene. He is the sole importer of Frank Cornelissen in Denmark, a producer who’s wines are very much the vogue with the trendy young hipsters of Copenhagen. Behind the bar is a small team of dedicated and extremely knowledgeable sommeliers led by Maria, Stephan’s Hungarian born manager. The selection of wines is pretty eclectic but represents the geekiest list in Copenhagen at the moment. There are not many places where one can drink Inferno, a ‘cru’ of Valtelina from Ar.Pe.Pe in 1999 vintage side by side with Tokaji in several styles. This representation of Europe’s lesser known, perhaps forgotten, vineyards really presses all my buttons as a wine geek. I absolutely love snacking on the amazing charcuterie while thumbing through Stephan’s impressive bookshelf and sipping on Slovenia’s superstar wine makers.
Try – the Osso Bucco and a bottle of Valtelina from ‘Ar.Pe.Pe’.
‘Bar’vin’ is the concept started by sommelier Nils Thygge. He represents the old guard of Copenhagen’s scene with a number of extremely popular restaurants under his belt. He started this project with the intention of creating a vibrant hub smack bang in the centre of town, attracting industry professionals on their day off looking to sip the same wines from the high end wine lists, yet at a fraction of the price and in a much less formal environment. Fear not as an amateur the staff is on hand to walk you through the more esoteric sections with gusto. The food is ridiculously good, not much can match Nils’ choice of single vineyard Barolos with a juicy 800g ‘Cote de Boeuf’ steak for two people. The tartar is an absolute must. Do not hold back on the food – while the wines may definitely be the focus, Head Chef Cecilia’s culinary creations keep the customers coming back again and again. Fresh from a long renovation the restaurants newly expanded premises are sharp, well designed and with great acoustics. There are private dining rooms available for those special occasions. Understated and charming, ‘Bar’vin’ is welcoming and cheerful with the option to buy certain wines on the list at cost price, as long as you take them home.
Try – the ‘Beef Tatar’ and a bottle of Burgundy from the ‘Domaine Fourrier’.
‘Den Vandrette’ is Copenhagen’s premium ‘Nature Wine’ importer Sune Rosforth’s bar. He is the man who arguably originally opened Copenhagen’s collective eyes to the qualities of ‘Bio’ wine. The dining room has an open, uncluttered feel, with memorabilia and posters accrued from years of exploring wine regions and drinking with vignerons. The cellar is always open for guests who prefer a tactile experience when picking bottles and there is extremely knowledgeable and friendly staff on hand to guide you through the selection. The guests are coddled by Emily Spencer, a young British manager who has no qualms in getting her hands dirty in the cellar, constantly updating the wine list in an effort to coax the cognoscenti into making a smart purchase. Her team tend to be focused on the ‘natural’ aspect of wine with an unparalleled selection of such wines. For those not into ‘nature’ wine, there is a selection of ridiculously good classical wines, you need to ask the staff to bring you the list of ‘Soren’s and Sune’s’ classical offerings. Note – it is not advertised and without making your intentions clear you probably will end up drinking something ‘bio’ so if that is a point of contention, broadcast it and the staff will know how to take care of you best. When visiting the bar, be sure to ask for recommendations on literally everything. They really know best and as the wine list and menu are constantly changing, making a good choice out of all the delicious options can be really hard. Probably no longer on the menu but nonetheless worth mentioning is their bread and butter. Not many places take the time to nail such a foundation of the European meal. Chef Anders has created a truly epic serving consisting of bread from Mirabelle (a top notch bakery run by the guys at Restaurant Relae) and fresh churned butter with scallops, all topped of with a medley of dried marigold flowers with salt and crispy pork crackling. Delicious. The location is ideal, right on the main canal with a small outdoor section for those craving a bit of sun while they sip and nibble. In the evening the chefs arrange a selection of warm dishes that should not be missed out on.
Try – the dish of the day with a recommendation from Emily or her colleagues.
‘Ved Stranden 10’ is a small boutique wine bar and eatery run by a fine gentleman named Christian opposite the stock exchange alongside the leafy canal there. It is a unique place, no wine list, just highly educated and knowledgeable sommeliers there to assist in picking a good wine. The selection is sourced from several importers, not least the two mentioned previously – Rosforth & Rosforth and Terroiristen. The wines are edgy and avant-garde but firmly grounded in reality. There is the option to go into uncharted territory with hippie wine pressed by gnomes in the furthest depths of Jura but there is a bunch of less intense wines to pick from too, if drink-ability is your choice rather than geekiness. In regards to the food, I doubt anyone could fault their ‘Croque Monsieur.’; that classic of French comfort foods, however the real stars in my eyes are the constantly updated selection of hot dishes and the charcuterie. With some cool music playing in the background, I had Chopin last time, a lovely hum of energy in the restaurant, a nice mix of antiques and modern decorations scattered around, Ved Stranden 10 makes for one of the most pleasant locales to relax, unwind and chill with a few friends over a delicious glass.
Try – the ‘Croque Monsieur’ with ‘Les Bulles du Comptoir’ from ‘Charles Dufour’.
‘Manfred’s og Vin’ is the baby sister of Restaurant Relae from Christian Puglisi, which is currently ranked 40th in the Pellegrino annual ‘50 best restaurants’ awards. It oozes classic Copenhagen hipster vibes, not twenty meters from the previously mentioned Terroiristen. Cosy and always bustling with energy, Manfred’s, as is it known, regularly packs out the restaurant with tourists as it is seen as one of the must-visit bars in the centre. It offers mostly vegetarian fare in the form of a 7 course tasting menu with the option to add meat if desired. The dish of the day is offered in carnivore and vegetarian options and is highly recommended. The menu is seasonal, fresh, well thought out and at times it challenges the guests. The wine selection is mostly imported by themselves and is overwhelmingly organic and biodynamic; the wines are almost without exception funky, edgy and boisterous – typicity seems to be a vague afterthought. This is a divisive approach which scores really high marks with those looking for an ethical glass of wine or purity of fruit, however, for those looking for a classic Bordeaux or to blind taste specific grape varieties it can be extremely difficult to find a glass. This in itself can be uncomfortable for those not used to, or unaware of the ethical dilemmas that plague the Danish drinker. The quality in all their products is high, the concept is on point and the staff are motivated. Reservations are a must as this place does brisk business, do not be surprised if you are perched on the edge of the bar on half a stool if you arrive without a reservation. This is standard and should be accepted as part of the buzz that surrounds this place, there is physically no room for pretensions here, in that aspect anyway – they do have a ‘manifest’… As their tag line says: “(probably) the world’s only veggie-focused restaurant famous for its raw meat”. Nonetheless Manfred’s will leave you feeling like you really experienced the stereotype of Copenhagen’s food scene without breaking the bank.
Try – the tasting menu, add the ‘Tatar’ for carnivores and ask for a pairing with each dish.