When in Copenhagen, eat. With everything from bistros to Michelin-starred restaurants to some of the trendiest cafes in the world, there is really something for every taste. There is however one thing most of them have in common – smørrebrød. Rooted deeply in traditional Danish cuisine, smørrebrød are open-faced sour-dough rye bread sandwiches with a variety of toppings, traditionally including pickled herrings, thinly sliced cheese, cucumber, tomato, boiled eggs, cured or processed meat in thin slices, salmon and red onion. In our quest to find the best, most delicious smørrebrød in all of Copenhagen we booked a table at the famous Aamanns 1921.
When you are told that reservations are essential as the restaurant gets very busy, no one is lying. When we arrived for lunch at 13h00, almost every table in the deceptively large restaurant was occupied. Even though it was busy, it was relatively quiet inside and each table seemed private and comfortable.
From start to finish, the service was excellent. After entering the restaurant we were almost immediately met by a waiter who showed us to our table. Throughout the meal, the various waiters that served us were friendly, fast and very knowledgeable about the food, where the ingredients came from and why they were paired together. Each waiter took the time to fully explain each dish as it was served. One waiter was especially enthusiastic about the hundreds of different akvavit flavours available and helped us choose drinks perfectly suited to our chosen menu.
Lunch at Aamanns 1921 revolves around smørrebrød. The open-faced sandwiches, rooted in traditional Danish cuisine, has been redesigned and renewed under the watchful eye of head chef Adam Aamann who has incorporated new ideas and combination of flavour to offer some of the tastiest smørrebrød in Denmark. The menu at Aamanns 1921 changes every three months. With the seasonal change, different ingredients become available and with the restaurant’s deep connection with local, organic produce and products, the menu reflects what grows and flourishes at the time. The restaurant also grinds and mills their own flour for baking some of the tastiest bread you can imagine.
Spending the last bit of summer in the Danish capital allowed us to experience Aamanns 1921’s summer menu. With a wide variety of dishes and set menus available, we opted for the Favourites Menu – 3 pieces of smørrebrød served in three separate servings.
The first smørrebrød was topped with marinated herring, roasted beetroot, black onion, capers, buckwheat and a Parmigiano-Reggiano mayonnaise which changed my life. Topped off with edible flowers, it was one of the most beautiful plates of food I have ever had the privilege to enjoy.
The second serving of smørrebrød was decorated with chicken salad, bacon crumble, apple, celery and a sweet vinaigrette. It was by far the largest of the three servings and, not being a chicken person at all, my least favourite.
By the last serving we were both unsure if we could enjoy another bite, but being topped with beautifully pan fried plaice, hand-peeled shrimps, pickled tomatoes and a very zesty lemon mayonnaise, the last serving of smørrebrød was the perfect ending to a perfect menu.
What better pairs with great food than great drinks. Aamanns 1921 offers a large variety of quality beers, homemade akvavit, fruit and vegetable juices and beautiful cocktails. My personal favourite is the homemade sparkling raspberry and rose soft drink, also available in thyme and lemon, and blueberry and lavender.
As the smørrebrød was served, an enthusiastic waiter paired something special for us with our meal. Akvavit, more commonly known as aquavit, is a distilled spirit made from grain and potatoes. Mainly produced in Scandinavia, the drink is flavoured with spices and herbs, mostly caraway or dill. With a typical alcohol by volume of over 40%, akvavit is very popular in Denmark and definitely contributes to the Danish’s merry spirits. With our three smørrebrød servings we got to try an in-house distilled rye flavoured akvavit, Not being well acquainted with strong alcohol, sipping it neat from a small glass took my breath away. It does however greatly compliment the dishes served and contributes to the overall experience. Having a glass is a must.
Light, modern, open and very Scandi, the interior of Aamanns 1921 is simply beautiful. From the high ceilings decorated with impressive brass chandeliers, the terrazzo floors and old stone columns which gives the restaurant a church-like feel, every detail is perfect. Even the hand soap in the bathroom has been carefully crafted by Aamanns himself. During your post-bathroom hand wash you can treat yourself to either lemon, cedar, bergamot and thyme soap, or my personal favourite – the lemon, bergamot, orange and rosemary version. According to a New York Times interview done with Aammans, the soap compliments and refers to the food. He simply wants your hands to smell like the herbs used int he kitchen.
The Favourites Menu costs DKK290 (around £35) per person. Two glasses of akvavit, a small beer and a glass of homemade soft drink turned at DKK350 (around £42).
Even though prices might seem expensive for some open sandwiches and a few drinks, the price difference between ordinary and exceptional food in Copenhagen is small. I can highly recommend spending a bit more, if not for the food but for the experience.
AAMANNS 1921 IN STARS
Aamanns 1921 in stars
THE FAST FACTS
|ADDRESS||Niels Hemmingsens Gade 19-21, 1153 København K|
|OPENING HOURS||Lunch is servered Monday to Saturday betwen 11h30 and 16h30|
|NEAREST TUBE STATION||Nørreport Metro Station|
|PARKING||Don’t drive. Walk or cycle and enjoy the akvavit.|
|PRICE||Around £60 per person for the Favourites menu and two drinks.|