Københavner Cafeen: High-class smørrebrød in Copenhagen’s old town
By Lena Hunter | Photos: Københavner Caféen
Tucked away on a cobbled side-street in Copenhagen’s old town, the unassuming Københavner Caféen might be hard to spot at first.
Petite red and white flags flutter above large, deep-set windows on an ochre stone façade. “We serve traditional Danish dishes and smørrebrød. Just as grandma made them,” proclaims the menu from a glass display beside a pine-green wooden door.
Unlike eateries that claim to be traditional, Københavner Caféen is authentically old. “It’s actually one of Copenhagen’s oldest restaurant locations,” says restaurant manager Sune Siestø Helmgaard. “It goes back to when there were bathhouses on Badestuestræde. This was the first place in the city where you could pay for a bite to eat,” he explains.
Traditional and down-to-earth
For the past 40 years, Københavner Caféen has occupied the spot, serving the highest-quality smørrebrød (open-faced ryebread sandwiches), traditional Danish lunch and dinner, and transforming the intimate space with warm red walls, wood panelling, and local, antique artwork.
The display makes for great dinner conversation. From a high shelf, a stuffed alligator eyeballs the dining room, a cigarette clamped between long teeth. “All I know is he’s always been there, and he’s always had a cigarette,” Siestø Helmgaard laughs. “The vibe is very informal and down-to-earth – it’s like coming home to your grandma’s kitchen.”
High-quality local produce
That said, the restaurant runs as tight as a ship. The back bar is a meticulous line-up of quality Nordic snaps and liqueurs. The set menu changes four times a year, and the head chef is uncompromising on quality. “We follow the seasons,” says Siestø Helmgaard. “We prioritise using local produce – meat, greens, fish, everything. All our pork comes from Glomsø Grisen – a free-range farm here on Sjælland, and we only use Danish-caught plaice. It costs a little more, but it’s better quality.”
An authentic Danish lunch
The culinary attention to detail is only half of the story. “A classic Danish lunch isn’t about sitting down and eating food… it’s about more than that: relaxing, being mindful, sharing one another’s company,” says Siestø Helmgaard. “Danes really get into the shared lunch concept – and that’s what we have here,” he continues.
It’s the reason Sune says Københavner Caféen is fully booked every weekend until Christmas. “We host a lot of big, festive lunch parties for businesses, groups of friends, and families. The energy is lively and high-spirited – nobody can do it like we can.”
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