Bar nights and gastronomic royalty
But food is really only one half of the story. There is no Fiskebaren without the bar. The long counter bar, running the length of the dining room, is the central hub of energy in the room.
This is where you pop in without a reservation, order half a dozen oysters and enjoy a glass of wine that expresses its terroir and is made without unnecessary chemistry. Behind the bar, the cocktail shakers are full of ideas and ingredients that hail from the kitchen. Pea pods and wild herbs. Even root vegetables have found their way onto Fiskebaren’s cocktail menu in an effort to explore new flavors and curb kitchen waste.
If you really don’t want to call it a night after last orders at Fiskebaren, you just go next door. Here you’ll find Mesteren & Lærlingen, Fiskebaren’s rumbustious sibling.
Mesteren & Lærlingen (the master and the apprentice) is an old pub where butchers used to gather after work for open-faced sandwiches, chain-smoking and way too many pints. As Bagge and Anders prepared to open Fiskebaren, they got whiff that the current owners of Mesteren & Lærlingen saw no future in running the place, and so they took over the bar. They kept its name, its 80s WordArt logo and typeface, the retro-style wood paneling and the smoke-faded interior and injected the bar with young blood from a group of DJs and bartenders.
On Sunday 12 July 2012, culinary royalty turned up at the bar when Fiskebaren threw together a last-minute private dinner party like no other at Mesteren & Lærlingen.
The final of the European football championships – between Spain and Italy – was played in Kiev that night, and Ferran Adria, the Spanish chef behind El Bulli who changed the course of modern cooking, was in Copenhagen and wanted to watch the game.
The impromptu dinner, which also included the revered chef Daniel Boulud, was orchestrated by “the Franks” – Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli from Spuntino in New York – who knew that Adria needed a place to watch football. And that Fiskebaren was mad enough to throw this together with short notice.
The dinner guests sat on folding benches and huddled around a makeshift camping table in the old pub. They were served scallops with cured lardo and horseradish reduction, hake with green and white asparagus, langoustines, lobsters and razor clams. On the football pitch, Spain won 4-0 and retained the European championship.
“I remember that day perfectly,” says Ferran Adria. “We spent an amazing night in Mesteren & Lærlingen. The result and the atmosphere were fantastic. Really an unforgettable night.”
These are memories of a night less ordinary, but a night very much in the spirit of Fiskebaren. And Kødbyen.
No two nights are quite the same, whether you pop in for a quick pint, a bowl of mussels, a seven-course meal, or end up going into labor in the toilets (yes, it happened, and the baby was delivered safely at a local hospital).
The last 10 years have transformed Copenhagen’s meatpacking district into a freewheeling haven of gastronomy, clubbing, and food markets. From techno nights to internationally acclaimed tacos.
And in the middle of all this, underneath that concrete bull, Kødbyens Fiskebar is still open for business. Ten years old and as hungry as ever.
Staff in the early years.