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Copenhagen: Elegant escape with a fairytale twist

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Copenhagen is renowned for its high-class restaurants and an evening of fine-dining is a must during a trip to the Danish capital, writes Ian Heath.

EATING OUT – MIELCKE & HURTIGKARL

Situated in the beautiful gardens of Fredericksberg, a district lined with designer clothes outlets and first-class eateries, is the stunningly elegant Mielcke & Hurtigkarl restaurant.

It is puzzling that this place has not yet been awarded a Michelin star as it feels every inch the part.

Following a complimentary glass of champagne on arrival I enjoyed an exquisite 14-course meal, which was a journey through the world of Nordic cuisine.

It started with a cooling tomato and pecorino salad, langoustine wrapped in shiso leaf and cold cuts of pork, goose and duck.

The evening was interspersed with delicious snacks such as pumpkin, roes and butter, and peaked with the main course of pheasant accompanied by rhubarb and truffle.

The biggest surprise of the night was the sea buckthorn wafer served on a bed of flowers and herbs, the sweet delicate flavour of which was unforgettable.

The meal was rounded off with birch ice cream with celeriac and tonka beans, followed by a coffee-ice cream meringue.

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Overall the menu was a deeply satisfying blend of delicate herbs and fruits, fresh seafood, game meats and elegantly crafted desserts.

The chandeliers, beautiful gardens, white walls bedecked with contemporary art and highly attentive, friendly service make this a perfect setting for a special night out.

Following the champagne, I was treated to four different types of wine to complement the different stages of the meal, culminating with the rather familiar sweet Madeiran wine which accompanied my dessert.

HOW TO GET AROUND

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Like all good cities, Copenhagen has a hop-on, hop-off bus service, as well as a barge tour which takes you around the city’s extensive waterways, including its huge harbour and network of canals.

Copenhagen is small enough to get around on foot, with walking made all the more pleasant by the abundance of parks and the relatively quiet traffic levels.

The best mode of transport, for me, was bicycle. With outstanding lanes, abundant parking spaces and the relatively small size of the city, Copenhagen is a casual cyclist’s dream.

Note, cycling is mainstream in Copenhagen and people get around casually on ‘granny’-style upright bikes with baskets on the front. It is, thankfully, not a frenzy of lycra-clad time-trialists hurtling around on expensive racers!

TOP ATTRACTION – TIVOLI GARDENS

I have the impression that there may not be any place in the world which is better to be a child than Copenhagen – well, for kids who like fairy stories, magic kingdoms and Lego anyway.

Copenhagen was the birthplace of Hans Christian Anderson and, of course, Lego and the magic of the former’s fairytales are clearly firmly entrenched in the Danish psyche, no place more so than Tivoli Gardens.

I chose a good time of year to visit – the Halloween weekend – and as soon as I entered the gates I was treated to the sight of more pumpkins than I had ever seen in my life.

Tivoli Gardens is essentially a theme park which makes as much effort as possible to focus on its theme of fairy tales.

It was founded in 1843 and is therefore the second-oldest amusement park in the world after Dyrehavsbakken in nearby Klampenborg, which is also in Denmark.

With a host of amenities, hair-raising rides and picturesque landscapes such as a pirate ship in the middle of a boating park, it is a first rate family attraction.

It is well worth a visit in the evening when it is illuminated and plays host to classical music and dramatic performances in its concert hall and pantomime theatre.

WATERFRONT AND NIGHT LIFE

The beautiful Nyhavn [New Harbour] district, which is the former home of Hans Christian Andersen, is an example of how waterfronts should be done.

Overlooking a central canal filled with wooden sail boats, the multi-coloured buildings of Nyhavn host a plethora of bars, restaurants and clubs.

The Danish national dish of thinly-sliced belly pork served with parsley and potatoes, known as Stegt Flaesk locally, is served pretty much everywhere and is worth a try.

Even better, however, is the delicious smorgasbords – meat and fish served on bread.

Hearty food like this is best served with a pint and the Danes seem to have a fondness for German, British, Irish and Belgian ales, and of course their own Carlsberg and Tuborg brands.

In Nyhavn and throughout the city you could easily mistake yourself for being in Edinburgh or Dublin, as the Danes have a penchant for live music, warming drinks like Irish coffee, hot toddies and whisky, and a relaxed friendly vibe in their candlelit, wooden-panelled pubs.

GREEN CREDENTIALS

Copenhagen is a city which seems to be led by people who have vision.

It proudly boasts of having the cleanest harbour water of anywhere in the world, as evidenced by the fact it has a public swimming bath in its harbour, in which hardy souls can be found going for a dip even in the depths of the Scandinavian winter.

Its green credentials are clearly important to its population, which is further evidenced by the most extensive network of cycle paths I have seen.

Cycling is the mode of transport of choice in Copenhagen, and even late in the evening its inhabitants feel safe enough to get around on two wheels on the broad pathways which span throughout the city.

The reduced traffic and cleaner air is noticeable and pleasant. Copenhagen’s example is one many other places would do well to follow.

The Danish capital is undoubtedly an affluent place and home to many wealthy families and plush neighbourhoods like Fredericksberg, but a sense of community, inclusivity and looking after the general population is evident.

PARK LIFE

Copenhagen is home to plenty of green space and, overlooking the city harbour, the textured landscapes of Churchill Park, named in gratitude for the liberation from the Nazis, is well worth a visit.

The park is also home to the world-famous Little Mermaid statue, inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen tale, upon which the 1989 Disney blockbuster film was based.

If ever there is an opportunity for a selfie or a family photograph in Copenhagen this is the spot, as is clear from the constant flock of tourists congregating around it.

WHERE TO STAY

Situated less than five minutes' walk from Copenhagen Central Station and a 15-minute stroll from the city centre, the Andersen Hotel is a great base for a trip to the Danish capital.

Its friendly staff, stylish decor and daily wine-tasting sessions are guaranteed to make any visitor feel welcome.

Bicycles are also available for hire from the hotel.

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