In recent years, one of the most traditional and well-known concepts in Spanish cuisine has gained a strong foothold in Copenhagen. Trendy fast food that everyone can enjoy, I am of course talking about tapas!
That is why last week I decided to visit El Méson restaurant, the oldest Spanish restaurant in the whole of Scandinavia, to hear a bit about the history of the place and try some of their great food.
Elvis has blessed the building
I found the restaurant in a small square called Hauser Plads, right behind Kultorvet in the centre of Copenhagen. I was met by the owner Elvis in the door, who greeted me with a glass of champagne and a warm welcome to the place. Right away I was seated in front of the warm and cosy fireplace that gives the charming little restaurant a nice, homely atmosphere and washes away any memory of the grey, snowy January evening outside.
When I asked for recommendations on what to try on the menu, Elvis suggested I should try their four-course anniversary menu with complementary Spanish wines. This menu is only being served for a limited period of time until February 13 to celebrate the 40-year anniversary of the place.
Serving tapas since 1976
In 1976 this Spanish restaurant opened its doors for the first time to invite the Copenhageners inside to enjoy the kind of meal served on any pavement terrace in Spain. The founder of the place was Spanish, and to him it was very important to create a restaurant with an authentic and strong Spanish atmosphere, bringing a piece of his country and its warm southern feel to the cold north.
For 39 years, he enjoyed great success, but last year he decided to pass on the business to a friend of his. The new owner has made some alterations to the interior decorations, including the addition of a beautiful bar area for guests to enjoy a drink or a coffee. Also, he has opened an outdoor terrace that is accessible in the summer time. However, the restaurant retains its Spanish expression to the fullest.
In Madrid every mouthful
The first course was a cold Spanish soup called Salmorejo, and this was followed by a tapas plate with five different servings of seafood, which was served with an amazing Spanish white wine from the Ribera del Duero region in the north central part of Spain. All the food was beautifully presented and explained in detail by the kind and professional waiters.
The main was a piece of lamb cooked according to an old Spanish recipe, which was unbelievably tender and tasty and took us to Madrid in a mouthful.
In Grenada with Gonzalo
While waiting for the dessert, the Madrileño guitarist and musician Gonzalo came down to the table to play a Spanish chant and asked if I had any particular song requests. As he played the guitar and sang the theatrical Spanish lyrics, I was once again taken straight to Spain in my imagination.
Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, the guests at El Mesón can enjoy the tunes of Gonzalo and his guitar, which really adds a traditional flavour to the ambience of the restaurant. Since most of the waiters in the restaurant are Spanish and the current owner is Italian, many languages are spoken with the guests. On our visit we counted six: Spanish, Catalan, English, Danish, Italian and Polish. The waiting staff are all very professional and do their absolute best to give the customers a friendly and unique Spanish experience.
A menu full of classics
Other than the 33 different cold and warm Tapas dishes on offer, you can find other Spanish classics on the menu, including different meat and fish dishes, two types of paella and the Jamón Bellota, which is one of the house specialties.
If you go to El Mesón prepare for a tour around Spain that is going to show you every corner of its supreme gastronomy, but for a fair price. Most importantly, go there with an empty stomach to leave plenty of space for as many of its specialties you can sample.