Ah, gentrification, the perennial curse of migrants and the working classes. Imagine this: you migrate to a new country and establish your family in an inner-city area. More immigrants follow from your region and others, settling in the same place. Specialty shops, cafes and restaurants start to appear to serve the diversity of the growing population. Within no time, words and phrases like Â‘multi-ethnicÂ’, Â‘melting potÂ’ and Â‘dynamicÂ’ start to be thrown around. First the hippies come, followed by the students and hipsters, and finally the young professionals. Soon yummy mummies in wayfarers are chatting to their graphic designer husbands on the sidewalks. Ph. D dissertations on the post-structuralist readings of Kubrick films are typed on shiny macbooks over Turkish tea and kebabs. Suddenly your neighbourhood is expensive, over-hyped and full of trendy bars selling micro-brewed beers and shops that only seem to stock one item. Welcome to NÃ¸rrebro. Not that IÂ’m complaining of course.
In the haze of cosy cafes and bars that populate the side streets off NÃ¸rrebrogade, it is rare to find one owned by a local Â– or at least someone who hasnÂ’t moved to NÃ¸rrebro in the past decade. CafÃ© Arabica is a new addition to the area, but its owner certainly isnÂ’t. Naim Al Kassab, Palestinian by origin, was born and bred in NÃ¸rrebro – Â“one of the firstÂ”, he says with a smile. He opened Arabica in September and on first impression, the cafÃ© does not seem that different to any of the other design-conscious NÃ¸rrebro cafÃ©s. The use of restored second-hand and recycled furniture is prominent: there are picnic tables and benches, leather bar stools, green armchairs, table legs that look like Jenga blocks, and even a seat that is built into the woodwork of the walls. Music plays from a turntable, and record sleeves cover one wall; kitsch chandeliers hang from the ceiling, and candles and colourful flowers sit on the windowsill. The space is airy, spacious and uncluttered. The large windows make this a perfect place to look out onto the colourful BlÃ¥gÃ¥rdsgade street life.
However, after spending a little bit of time at Arabica, you begin to notice some subtle differences that set this place apart from the rest. You are acutely aware of where you are and the turbulent history of the area. A poster of the NÃ¸rrebro protests adorns the wall. Â‘Police out of NÃ¸rrebroÂ’, the text says. Locals wander in and out, greeting each other and the staff warmly. A group of teenage girls play board games in the corner. It looks like theyÂ’ve been there all day. A regular sits at the window reading his newspaper. A man comes in on a wheelchair. He is helped through the door and has a chat with the waitress. The cafÃ© has a community feel, itÂ’s unpretentious and it seems like everyone knows each other. The hip and modern incarnation of Cheers, perhaps, except they donÂ’t serve alcohol.
Yes, this is a cafÃ© that does not serve the hard stuff. Instead a dizzying array of organic juices and sodas are offered, along with exceptional coffee and speciality teas. They have one beer, if you must satisfy youÂ’re thirst for hops, but itÂ’s non-alcoholic. The simple food Â– soups, pastries, cakes and sandwiches – are all vegetarian. ItÂ’s obvious that Naim has a clear idea of what he wants Arabica to be, and heÂ’s not willing to make compromises. Like the cafÃ©, heÂ’s laidback and friendly. ItÂ’s not surprising that he knows everyone in the area. He points out of the window at the apartment block across the street: Â“I can tell you who lives there, and there, and there. This is my home.Â” Arabica is a family-run cafÃ© close to his heart – NaimÂ’s mother makes the soup and his wife makes the array of delicious cheesecakes that are on offer every day. ItÂ’s hard to imagine a place that could be more local, or as welcoming. Although it has only been there for a few months, Arabica feels like an old haunt already. Visit if you want a taste of authentic NÃ¸rrebro, but remember, itÂ’s on NaimÂ’s terms. Hopefully it will stay that way.
BlÃ¥gÃ¥rdsgade 12, Cph N
Open Mon-Fri 08:30-22:00, Sat-Sun 09:00-21:00