On the corner of Istedgade and Absalonsgade is a café – or is it a restaurant? Well, it’s both. “You don’t have to eat,” says Mehmet Kantin, the owner of Ca’Fish. “You can sit with a coffee, a cake, your computer … No-one is going to make you eat.”
But if what you want is healthy fish – without spending a fortune or donning fancy restaurant attire – Ca’Fish is where you belong. Serving catches from the Baltic and Mediterranean seas, Kantin hopes to help Danes re-think fish, without the extravagance or priciness found in restaurants such as Noma that can often be dissuasive.
The result is Ca’Fish: a place that will welcome you in blue jeans and a t-shirt, where you can select the exact fish you’d like to eat (if you want to eat one at all) and still leave satiated, satisfied and, importantly, with something healthy in your stomach.
For Kantin, who is inspired by Jamie Oliver and his health-orientated overhaul of the food in Britain’s school system, as well as by a nagging question of his own – ‘How do I get my kids to eat fish?’ – the healthiness of the food he serves is paramount.
“We eat beef three, four times a week,” says Kantin, “And fish once, maybe twice. The balance in our diet needs to shift towards fish. We need to reverse that ratio.” Kantin’s idea to open a ‘fish café’ – a place patrons could go to relax, hang out and, if they want, enjoy a wide selection of fresh and affordable fish – has been a long time in the making.
Ca’Fish isn’t Kantin’s first culinary enterprise in Copenhagen: in the late ‘80s he opened a pizzeria and caught the craze as it began. But business had dropped off by the early naughties, when pizzerias became a corner-fixture in the city.
Now, Kantin is waiting for his newest trend to catch fire among the Danes. “This is Denmark,” he says. “We’re surrounded by sea, but we don’t eat enough fish.” Not only is fish better for you, providing nutrients hard to find in such quantity elsewhere, such as heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, it physically makes you feel better – at least, when you eat it right.
“When people think of fish, they either think they have to sit in a restaurant with candles and wine for three hours, or they think of fish and chips,” Kantin says. “But why bother eating fish if it’s not healthy? It’s possible to eat healthy fish quickly, too.”
I stand at the counter studying the fish, fanned out on a platter in the glass display case and, when I make my selection – Pagello and horse mackerel, both from the Mediterranean, as well as a handful of crispy anchovies, one of Ca’Fish’s many delicious ‘snack’ menu items (Kantin plans someday on selling them in a takeaway box) – the fish are taken from the platter to the kitchen to be prepared.
In ten or 15 minutes – as long as it would take to check your e-mail or read a chapter in a book – the food comes. The fish, presented together with a side salad and a small pile of sliced and roasted spuds, has the same crispy, crunchy golden texture of the potatoes.
I fork off a bite of the Pagello which, underneath the satisfying crunch of the pan-seared skin, is so light and tender it barely withstands the pressure of the prongs. Mixing in the mouth, the meat melts completely and the sea seems to seep out, so fresh and clean is the taste of fish throughout the palate.
The Horse Mackerel, a smaller fish, had the same light and juicy composition, with an equally crispy outer layer. And the anchovies – eaten whole in no more than two bites – packed an addictive punch of bones and brine, both sweet and salty.
The salad crunched so freshly and, with an organic cranberry juice, one of five flavours offered, left the palate cleansed.
Kantin was right. I left satiated but not stuffed, full but not fat. I felt light and energised. I felt – if it’s something you can feel right after a meal – healthy.
With offerings for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and a kids menu that’s free for children under five years old – isn’t it time you treated yourself to a meal you can feel good about?
Istedgade 60, Cph V; 3324 3303;
Open: daily 10:00-22:00,
Fri & Sat until 23:00;
Top Dish: The Horse mackerel
Price Range: Main courses 89-169kr, sandwiches 49-89kr