Caroline Hurry
Caroline Hurry

Hanzó and Alabama Social are two restaurants in Copenhagen offering gourmet cuisine at (relatively) budget prices

Dining out in Copenhagen is always a treat. My husband and I stopped off at Nørreport station, where we picked our way across the cobblestones and the wide boulevards of the ethnically mixed Nørrebro district with its trendy fish market, lake, courtyard bars, and designer shops.

We decided to start at Hanzó and finish at Alabama Social.

View from our table at Hanzo
View from our table at Hanzo

With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lake and Queen Louise Bridge, Hanzó delivers edible snapshots of Japan, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, one delicate plateful at a time. Think Asian tapas with a Danish twist, as experienced in the cured cod – Denmark’s national fish – served with miso, cucumber and roe.

Each dish is beautifully constructed by practitioners of high culinary art. Fresh components appear to have been insouciantly strewn by elves in a bewitching melee of splodges and tiny, edible flowers. Everything is a feast for the eyes.

Hanzó  offered magnificent views, gourmet food and fantastic service. Our charming waitress talked us through the courses, elaborating on ingredients and explaining why Austrian wines went best with seafood – something to do with acidity. Who knew?

We kicked off with a crisp French champagne, Locret-Lachaud 1er crut, followed by a Gruner Strassertal 2013 from Kamptal, Austria and a Laisser Faire, Friedrich Becker riesling from Pfaltz in Germany. All this, before our main course! Small wonder the evening hurtled by in a laughter-filled blur!

Every dish was as enlivening as a dip in the Sortedam lake. We tucked into harakiri soup made with apples, ginger, peanuts, peppers and chili. Its flavor was fulsome with a tongue-tingling after-kick. Duck confit, red cabbage and pickles followed Vietnamese rolls filled with crab, cucumber, yam, cashew and coriander.

People chill out along the wide bridge in Norrebro.
People chill out along the wide bridge in Norrebro.

As the city lights twinkled and shimmered in the water it was hard to imagine Nørrebro as a swamp in the 1800s. Tall buildings were forbidden – locals needed to “see the enemy coming” then engineers connected five lakes to each other and Nørrebro became a working-class district in the mid-19th century.

Muslim immigrants moved here in the 70s and 80s and Nørrebro crackled into civil unrest following the attempted deportation of these second-generation immigrants in the late 90s.

Today foodies, eco-warriors, teenagers, media types and artists dance, smoke, and chill along the wide bridge, festooned with quirky sculptures and a sense of bonhomie.

As we make our way to the Alabama Social restaurant next door, also overlooking the lake, I’m a little unsteady on my feet. I recall doing justice to a BBQ chop, chicken wings with a blue-cheese dressing and a fish stew.

Snatches of memory come and go in flashbulb moments – a handsome young waiter, a strawberry and rhubarb something, then lurching into the last train home (after midnight). Comfy seats are perfectly conducive to a little shut-eye between destinations and snoring on the trains late at night is practically a Danish pastime, so don’t even think of drinking and driving in Denmark.

Unlike good ole SA, the cops here frown on spur-of-the moment monetary incentives. Tourists are better advised to get a 72-hour Copenhagen card that gives you access to all transport including canal tours, as well as free entrance to museums and Tivoli.

  • Caroline Hurry flew Club World to Copenhagen courtesy of British Airways, which offers 18 weekly flights from Durban, Cape Town, and Johannesburg direct to London