In Copenhagen, a counter of smørrebrød will probably be at the end of any lunchtime queue.
Smørrebrød literally means “butter and bread”. Danish rye — rugbrød — is buttered and heaped with any number of toppings. The dish is said to descend from 19th-century agricultural workers who used rye bread as a plate for the previous night’s leftovers.
It may not sound like haute cuisine, but smørrebrød today has become quite an art. René Redzepi, founder of Noma, the feted restaurant that arguably redefined Nordic cuisine, calls smørrebrød Denmark’s first big contribution to cooking. “It’s not just a sandwich, it’s a whole cuisine,” he says.
Toppings range from small mountains of cured meats, pickled herring and Rygeost (a soft Danish smoked cheese), to egg with a chopped vegetable garnish. It is a knife-and-fork sort of snack.
Restaurant Schonnemann, which opened in 1877, serves the city’s most elegant incarnations. Here rye is piled with pickled eel, scrambled eggs and caraway seeds, or ripe cheese with port aspic.
Another revered smørrebrød spot is Ida Davidsen. This historic lunch shop, in old central Copenhagen, was opened as a wine bar in 1888 by Ida’s great-great-grandfather Oskar. When drinkers became hungry, Oskar’s wife Petra would make smørrebrød. Today, the fifth generation of the Davidsen family runs this restaurant that offers 250 toppings — the world’s longest menu.
Photographs: Yadid Levy/Alamy; Maxim Tatarinov/Alamy; Dreamstime
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