This will not be the first or the last time that a non-Dane in these pages ponders the true meaning of that great Danish concept of ‘hygge’. But as the first snow of the year starts to appear, thinking about it here is topical, if not revolutionary.
Not only does a grasp of hygge provide both an insight into some of the values that Danes hold dear, but it’s also a cautionary tale about the perils of translation, because it’s a concept that can be tricky to pin down. While it most definitely translates as ‘cosy’, ‘hygge’ can imply so much more than just cosiness. And this complexity extends to the physical too, as a place needs to do a lot more than simply light some candles to be ‘hyggeligt’. Because ultimately ‘hygge’ is a state of mind, rather than anything tangible, and as with all feelings, you can tell straightaway when it’s there without necessarily being able to pin it down in words.
So, just because you can spot a few candles in a cosy looking bar when you cycle past, it’s no guarantee that the feeling inside will be ‘hyggeligt’. Too often with some of the more, let us say, ‘fashionable’ bars on Vesterbro, there can be a frosty feeling when you walk in that is only highlighted by the candles that line the windowsills and tables, so it’s a great relief that the atmosphere when walking into Lundgren Torvet is immediately as warm as the flickering flames that might entice you in.
In some respects, this tucked-away wine bar can consider its location both a blessing and a curse. Sitting on the far corner of Vesterbro Torv, almost obscured by the bright lights of Café Obelix, the more noticeable cafes on the square will most likely sweep up any casual customers, leaving the snug Lundgren Torvet with a feeling of being for those ‘in the know’. It’s by no means hidden, but just doesn’t shout itself across the square, which feels like a blessing for its customers. The front door leads straight into the bar area and its large armchairs and sofa, and a scattering of bar stools against the classic French bistro-style bar. While it doesn’t take more than 15 or so people to fill up the front bar, there’s a decent-sized dining area behind it, with simple wooden furniture, exposed brick walls and blackboards displaying the menus.
Although the food selection at Lundgren Torvet is modest, what it does serve is appropriately chosen and served well. The selection of plates will do away with the need to venture elsewhere for food, while ensuring that the wine selection can be enjoyed to the maximum. On offer is a Fish plate for 95kr, Cheese plate for 85kr and Tapas plate for 165kr – all of which are ideal with wine. The Tapas plate is the highlight, and ours included a selection of dips (the tomato, goat’s cheese and almond dip is an inventive winner), succulent meats from Fanø, cheeses, a crayfish quiche, thickly-sliced smoked salmon with wasabi sauce, and a rabbit terrine with Dijon mustard, plus bread. There is also a single hot dish available, rotated daily and sourced from the Hungarian restaurant Bock near the US Embassy to get around Lundgren Torvet’s lack of a hot food licence. The choice on our visit was a warming beef stew with peas and mashed potatoes for 125kr, something that shouts out to be enjoyed with a big glass of Burgundy.
Our wines were chosen by our helpful waiter Mark, who recommended two perfect fits for us and our food – an always-drinkable Bourgogne for the white, and an Austrian Pinot Noir for the red, which was a light and (literally) cool alternative to some of the heavier reds on offer.
Good food, good wine, good surroundings and good service – yes, this definitely qualified as a ‘hyggeligt’ evening. And even on a cold and wet Monday night, many of Lundgren Torvet’s candlelit tables were occupied, with the locals being joined by British, Dutch and French customers who were all proving that it isn’t just Danes who can appreciate a hygge little bar when they find one.
Svendsgade 29, Cph V;
Open: Mon-Tue from 16:00,
Wed-Sat from 12:00
Top Dish: TapasPlate
Price Range: snacks 20-50kr,