Think of Copenhagen and you’ll no doubt conjure up images of Noma and René Redzepi, good looking Danes pedalling around the city and of course, hygge. There’s no denying the influence Redzepi has had over the global restaurant world for the past decade, as well as putting Copenhagen firmly on the gastromap. From Los Angeles to London, chefs and restaurateurs have been making the pilgrimage to the Danish capital to check out the food scene.
I’m embarrassed to admit that this was my first time to Denmark. As well as trips to noted restaurants Fiskebar and 108, the main reason for my journey to this Scandi capital was to visit a hotel about 20 minutes outside of the city centre, which specialises in food and fitness. The rise in the prominence of health and wellbeing over the past few years is starting to be noticed on the menus across our restaurants.
Diners are far more knowledgeable and demanding as to the provenance of their food, and it’s not just the most adventurous restaurant goers who are open to vegetarian and vegan dishes. It’s not necessarily the case that this form of cooking can’t be fun and full of flavour. ByChloe in New York, that is soon to open an outpost in London, and Gizzi Erskine and Rosemary Ferguson’s pop-up-to permanent Pure Filth, are good examples of this.
The Kurhotel Skodsburg maintains a particular focus on promoting a healthy approach to life. The spa hotel was founded in 1898 and was highly acclaimed for its physiotherapy. Its founder Dr Carl Ottosen had six simple principles for a healthy life; light, air, water, nutrition, exercise and rest. Fast forward more than 100 years and the hotel, now run by Mai Kappenberger, still revolves around Dr Ottosen’s founding principles.
Right on the coast, the main building is classically elegant Danish architecture, with manicured grounds to stroll around. Attached is a more modern wing to the side, complete with a rooftop terrace – all dazzling white.
The spa at Skodsborg draws in both locals and tourists, thanks to its 16 different cooling and warming fitness experiences – with the highlight being the ‘SaunaGus’. The aromatherapy sauna sees the slightly intimidating ‘Gusmester’ Tina Anderson take you through a 45-minute session. The air in the sauna is infused with pure essential oils and, along with some aggressive flicks of a towel that circulate the air, result in blasts of hot air raging over your face and body.
Despite Tina’s matron-esque warnings that this is going to be tough, the first three minutes in the sauna seem to last forever and a cool-off in a walk-through grotto shower is a welcome respite. After another three minutes in the sauna with different scented oils, we’re then led outside and down to the jetty to jump into the Baltic sea. Daunting but deeply invigorating.
It’s then back into the sauna for a final blast before being submerged into a large tub of water even colder than the sea. Your skin is left with a bizarre sensation – tingling but with a sensational glow. If the Danes did hangover cures…
Despite its focus on wellbeing, the Skodsborg isn’t like certain other hotels that restrict guests to boring, faddy meals. They have three restaurants to choose from, including ‘The Restaurant by Kroun’, which is the hotel’s most formal dining experience. Chef Eric Kroun’s healthy interpretation of haute cuisine has a strong emphasis on seasonal and local produce.
The cosy restaurant has a glass wine cellar at one end and is decorated with antler chandeliers. Standout dishes included Norwegian scallops with yellow beets, pine and kaffir lime, and Danish lobster with pumpkin, lovage and muesli sauce.
The brasserie, on the top floor of the hotel, is more casual and serves dishes such as beef tartar, fish soup with mussels and monkfish, and a pan-fried duck breast. On a two-night mini-break, it’s possible to try both restaurants and also have lunch in the cosy lobby space. Velvet sofas and a selection of design books to flick through make this a place to linger.
If you’re after something a little different from a visit to Copenhagen, or a break from the city centre, the Kurhotel Skodsburg is a fine spot to spend a couple of nights away from the fray: exercising, relaxing and eating well. I left feeling refreshed and recharged. For me, Copenhagen was more new-man than Noma.
This article was first published in Issue 13 of CODE Quarterly.