Monday, 6 June 2011
Sublime Smørrebrød at Aamanns in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is now officially one of my favourite cities. Not because of the snazzy design shops. Not because of the Wild West feel of Christiana. Not because it is home to Noma. Not because of the unforgettable meal we had at Geranium. Not because of the architecture. Not because of the crazy café culture that makes you want to while away the hours with an IV drip of latté and a good book. Or even their amazing hot dogs. But because of a sandwich shop called Aamanns.
Aamanns serves some of the world’s finest open sandwiches. They are mini works of art, like tiny installations at the Chelsea Flower show. They aren’t just tasty and well made, but are architectural flourishes of breathtaking beauty.
The Danes are well know for their open sandwiches which are locally known as smørrebrød which translates as butter and bread. They are a relic of the Medieval “trencher” which saw stale bread used as an edible plate and can be found in various forms across Scandinavia. But it’s commonly accepted that Denmark is their spiritual home. The team at Aamanns have mastered the art of balancing flavour, texture, appearance and whimsy to create a spread of sandwiches that makes you want to kneel down and do a Wayne’s World.
A venison tartar with crisps, watercress, capers, crème fraîche and gherkins was truly magnificent. The rye bread added a sweet and sour note that brought out the richness of the silky meat whilst the crisp crunch of the precarious toppings elevated this to “favourite sandwich ever” levels.
An egg and cress sandwich with prawns and a rich mayonnaise was a classy riff on the classic M&S sandwich. Whilst a bit bland, it was beautiful to behold and was still in a different league to normal sandwiches.
A smoked haddock number with caviar, shallots, chives, dill, game chips and crème fraîche was magnificent. It looked like a latticed Viking sailing boat being sent out to ravage a northern European rival. Again, the textures were as important as the flavours as the crisp game chips, crunchy shallots, soft fish and poppy caviar playfully charmed their way to greatness.
Rare roast beef with piccalilli, shaved horseradish, deep fried shallot shards and parsley wasn’t half bad either. It makes a standard roast beef sandwich look incredibly average by comparison.
And a cod sandwich with a poached leeks, crisped onion sprinkles and a pea puree was an unexpectedly delicious delight. The soft, pure textural experience of the fish contrasted with the sweet jaggedness of the crisped onions and mellowed with the cool leeks. And all dialed up to the next level by a smidgen of mint and tarragon
This quality of sandwich experience doesn’t come cheap. But, at about £7-8 a sandwich, you can nip into Aamanns for one of Denmark’s most iconic culinary experiences and walk out feeling like you’ve won. Aamanns is a high class bargain in a city that's far from cheap. For there can’t be anywhere in the world that serves sandwiches as majestic as these.
Aamanns captures the spirit of Copenhagen that I’ve fallen in love with. It is down to earth. It marries form with function without making a big deal about it. It’s considered. It’s international. It’s the best it could possibly be. But above all Aamanns excels at what Copenhagen excels at: elevating the humble to the glorious.