COPENHAGEN: Restaurant Gammeltorv

One of the great pleasures of traveling is discovery. During our visit to Copenhagen, we discovered a charming little restaurant that, on another day, we might have just walked on by.

When our walking tour of the city ended about 1:30 one Monday afternoon, we were understandably hungry. It was well past our usual lunch hour, and we’d been pounding the pavement on top of that. However, as it was Monday, many of the area’s restaurants were closed, or at least closed for lunch.

Retracing the steps of our tour, we walked by what looked to be a nice little pub: the Restaurant Gammeltorv. “Well, at least it’s likely to have decent pub-grub,” we said to each other.

In we went.

We immediately noticed that it embodied “hygge,” the Danish expression for a mood of coziness. The place has about 35 seats situated close, but not claustrophobically close, together.

Beef smørrebrød

The lone waiter welcomed us warmly, then ushered us to a two-top toward the kitchen. The menu offered small plates as well as a variety of smørrebrød, which generically means open-faced sandwiches. My thoughts went to the small sandwiches I’d seen in food stalls at the Malmö Central Train Station, which were on little circles of bread about three inches across. With that as my reference, I thought the offerings a bit pricey at around 100 Danish kroner (DKK) each, but we were hungry and ordered anyway.

Much to our delight, we’d misjudged what the place was offering.

We started with glasses of the house red: a very pleasant Sangiovese-Merlot blend, which was a nice surprise. In most pub settings like this one, the beers can be quite good but wine can be a bit of a crapshoot. As we waited for our meals, our server brought dishes to a large group on the other side of the restaurant. They looked luscious! Portions were modest, but they were beautifully presented and looked quite appetizing indeed.

When our orders arrived, they were equally impressive, and not at all like the sandwiches I’d seen in Sweden.

My wife ordered the lune frikadeller – three meatballs made of beef and pork – accompanied by a side of red cabbage. Although described as an open-faced sandwich, her bread was on the side and served with butter. I had chosen the roast beef, which came as a nice portion of medium-rare meat atop a slice of dense brown bread, which I wouldn’t find until I’d worked my way through some of the greens and shredded fresh horseradish topping the meat, as well as the meat itself.

Portions were more than adequate but without being over-the-top huge, as is often the case in the U.S. And the prices were quite reasonable: two glasses of wine and our entrees came to less than US$55. Notably, our server did not even present us with the credit card machine so we could add a gratuity. That was not totally surprising, as tipping is not expected in most of Scandinavia. However, a few units of the local currency are always appreciated and Western guests are usually given the option of adding a small gratuity to their credit card charge.

Exterior of the restaurant with outside seating

Should your travels take you to central Copenhagen, pop in to Restaurant Gammeltorv for a bite, a sip, or a bit of both.

Restaurant Gammeltorv is located at Gammeltorv 20, 1457 København.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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