Nothing was rotten in the state of Denmark

I had some vacation days that I had to use before the end of April and as hubby had enough frequent flyer points to get us two return flights within the Nordic countries we decided to take a short vacation in Copenhagen, Denmark.

We arrived early on Sunday morning, took the train into town, dropped off our bags at the hotel (The Square/) and headed out to explore the surroundings. We decided to walk to Rundetaarn or the Round Tower. The tower was inaugurated in 1642 making it the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. It is most noted for its equestrian staircase, a 7.5-turn helical corridor leading to the platform at the top at 34.8 meters above ground, and for the expansive views which it affords over Copenhagen. By the time we got back to street level we were hungry so we decided to go get something to eat. A place I wanted to visit called Paludan Bogcafé was a couple a blocks away so that’s where we headed for brunch. Paludan combines the traditional bookstore with a functioning eatery and it was a really cool place, plus the food was good.

Inside Rundetaarn
My delicious goat cheese sandwich for brunch
Hubby’s ham and mushroom omelet
Inside Paludan Bogcafé

Next we wandered around for a couple of hours and stopped for a beer at The Taphouse. The place offers 61 beers on tap and the selection may actually change during the day. After enjoying our beers it was time to head to the gathering point for a walking tour we had pre-booked with Viator. It was a 2.5 hour guided food tour during which we would visit five different food/drink stops and learn about food history and culture from our guide. We were a group of 10 people plus the guide. The tour started with a traditional Danish hotdog in Rådhuspladsen or City Hall Square. The Danish hotdog is served with apple ketchup, mustard, remoulade, chopped onions, fried onions, and crisp, sweet pickles. The sausage or pølse is distinguished by a very bright red color and called Røde Pølse (red sausage). I really enjoyed the hotdog. Then we actually went to The Taphouse that we had visited just before the tour and had a little beer tasting of two beers and tried to guess which of the 61 beers we were tasting.

The city hall
Rådhuspladsen
The Danish hotdog
Our merry tour group at The Taphouse

Next we walked to a restaurant called Godtfolk where we were served smørrebrød and some more beer. Smørrebrød is an open-faced sandwich that usually consists of a piece of buttered rye bread (rugbrød), a dense, dark brown bread, topped with commercial or homemade cold cuts, pieces of meat or fish, cheese or spreads, and garnishes. The smørrebrød we were served was a shrimp and egg one and it was super delicious. Our next and final stop of the tour was Torvehallerne. The history of TorvehallerneKBH dates back to 1889, when Grønttorvet (greens market) was established at Israels Plads. Grønttorvet closed in 1958, and only in 2011 when Torvehallerne opened did Copenhagen again have a fixed marketplace in the middle of the city. Torvehallerne is a marketplace that offers Danish delicacies, local vegetables, fresh fish and meat, chocolates, baked goods, pizza, etc. Torvehallerne consists of more than 80 shops located in two buildings and an outdoor stall area in between the buildings. We had a look around the “savory” building and then got to taste the local fishcake with some remoulade sauce, which was quite nice. To finish off we strolled through the “sweets” building and ended with a small dessert, flødebolle, which is a chocolate-coated marshmallow treat with a marzipan biscuit base. This was not to my liking as I do not like marzipan. All in all, the food tour was a great experience and good value for money.

Shrimp & egg smørrebrød
Flower stall at Torvehallerne
Produce stand

After the tour finished we made our way back to the hotel and got our room. We unpacked and took it easy for a couple of hours. As the food tour was quite substantial we did not need a big dinner so we headed around the corner from the hotel and ended up at a place called Rosie McGee’s and had some pub grub. The food was nothing to write home about and the place in itself was quite an experience.

Second post on Copenhagen will include, e.g. a canal cruise and a visit to Tivoli Gardens.

Escaping Christmas

This year we decided to escape the Christmas hype and stress and travel somewhere warm. We chose Dubai as the weather is guaranteed to be warm, the flight time (around 7 hours direct flight) is bearable as is the time difference (+2 hours). Our flight took off in the early evening on December 19th and arrived in Dubai at 3 am. We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel, Intercontinental Dubai Marina and we got a taste of the lifestyle in Dubai right away as the taxi was a Tesla Model S. After checking in we headed straight for bed.

Super comfy king size bed to sleep in
…and a glass-box bathroom

We woke up around 11 am the next morning, got unpacked and headed out to check out the neighborhood. After grabbing a late breakfast and some coffee at a nearby Starbucks we explored part of the Dubai Marin area. After strolling around for a few hours we decided to spend some time at the hotel pool just relaxing and recovering from the early morning arrival.

Part of the Marina was lined with food trucks
Dubai Marina Mall ceiling decoration
Time to relax at the pool

Then it was time to think about dinner. While walking around the Marina area we had spotted a place called Pier 7 that houses seven restaurants. After checking out these restaurants online we decided to try out Asia Asia. Before heading out we made a pit stop at our hotel’s bar Ginter for some G&Ts. Luckily we were early enough (a little before 7 pm) to get a table without a reservation. The place was almost full by the time we had eaten and left. We started with an 8 piece dim sum basket and chili garlic edamame. My main was steamed sea bass in a soy broth with bok choy and bamboo shoots, hubby ate ribeye teriyaki with roasted kabocha, parsnip miso & glazed ancho chili. The food was delicious, service really good and the restaurant décor was interesting. While walking back to our hotel we stopped at Pinkberry for some frozen yogurt.

View from Ginter’s terrace at dusk
Entrance to restrooms at Asia Asia
Some of the dumplings
Ribeye teriyaki
Inside Asia Asia
Terracotta soldiers in the elevator lobby of Asia Asia

We had booked a desert safari for Friday afternoon/night. We kicked off the morning with an excellent brunch at Bistro des Arts. The brunch was delicious and affordable. For AED 99 you got the cold buffet, one main course, one crêpe and a hot beverage. You could also add AED75 to select three cocktails but we skipped this option. First we picked various cold breakfast foods from the buffet and some juice. Then we both had a variety of eggs benedict for the main and shared a crêpe to round it all off. Once we were fortified we jumped on the metro and headed to the Mall of the Emirates. While there we received word that the driver would come and pick us up at the hotel at 2 pm for the safari so it was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for our desert adventure. Safari post to follow.

Mall of the Emirates
Mall of the Emirates

St. George & Ventuno

This year to celebrate hubby’s birthday I booked a room at the new boutique hotel St. George that opened in Helsinki this past spring and a table at restaurant Ventuno that had opened its doors in September. The room I booked was a Sky Attic Studio at the top floor of the hotel with lovely views of the Old Church Park. The room was perfect for a short stay but would feel quite small for say a week’s vacation. The hotel offers a spa, Wintergarden restaurant and bar, restaurant Andrea – where Nordic and Anatolian kitchens meet, and the St. George Bakery café with the first ever Monocle Shop in the Nordic countries.

 

 

After checking in at the hotel we headed out for some lunch and shopping. We had lunch at Kamppi shopping mall’s Kortteli restaurant world at Beijing8, a dumpling restaurant. After lunch and shopping we headed back to the hotel and visited the Wintergarden bar for a cocktail. I liked the atmosphere in the bar and the cocktail was good too. Then we withdrew to our room to relax and get ready for dinner.

Dumplings with broccoli and edamame sides
 
Wintergarden had some nice private rooms
 

Ventuno was quite surprising, as we walked in, the place seemed noisy and slightly chaotic but when we were taken to our table, the atmosphere changed to a calm and relaxing place. So the front café/bar type area was really bustling, while the dining room/osteria was calm even though fully booked. We started with an aperitif while studying the menu. We ordered the Ventuno Degustazione tasting menu accompanied with the recommended wine package. The menu consisted of: Arancini /Lemon & thyme flavoured crispy risotto ball, thyme-parmesan dressing), Alici & N’Duja (Fennel cracker, spicy n´duja sausage, anchovy, dill, pecorino), Kingfish Bianco (Raw marinated kingfish, green olives, pistachio vinaigrette, lemon jam cremé), Casarecce al Ragù (Braised brisket ‘ragù’, confit garlic, toasted almonds, gremolata), Capesante & Gamberetti (Roasted scallops, dried tomato-shrimp dressing, saffron, trout roe), Pesce Piccata (Roasted fish of the day, olive oil hollandaise, salted halibut fritters) with Gratin di Patate (Potato, cabbage, caramel onions, parmesan) , and for dessert  Limoncello (Lemon pie, meringue, blackberries, blackberry sorbet, limoncello jus). The food was really good and we loved every course except for the Pesce Piccata, which seemed a bit too heavy with both hollandaise sauce, a fritter and creamy potatoes. It also did not seem very Italian to us. However, all in all the menu was really good as where the wines. The service was also good and the waitress followed our wishes regarding pausing between certain courses. The only small faux pas happened with the wine as we had to ask for the third wine when we were served the fish and this wine was supposed to be served already with the scallops. We will come back to this restaurant when the menu changes.

Back at the hotel when we tried to get to sleep we noticed that the control panel for the door was super bright so I had to drape a towel over it. Once the panel was covered we got a good night’s sleep in a bed that was slightly too soft. In the morning it was time for breakfast that on weekends was served until noon, which is a huge plus. The breakfast was quite good but I found the bread selection a bit disappointing. For a hotel that advertises its own bakery only being served a small basket of one type of bread with a small serving of butter was a letdown. Also, the selection of cold cuts was very limited. The omelets and home-made yogurt were a nice touch. All in all, I loved the feel of the hotel and the staff was really friendly but Hotel Haven still remains our favorite boutique hotel in Helsinki.