After the dark winter months, Danes are clearly eager to heed the call of the lengthening days and warmer sunlight. Even in a decidedly grey March, Sønder Boulevard in Vesterbro was often populated late into the evening with people chatting, drinking and hanging out.
It’s a sign of things to come, as the spring slowly turns to to summer and the city once again comes alive. And Vesterbro residents are lucky to have one of the city’s best food markets, Kødbyens Mad & Marked, right on their doorstep beginning this April.
Located in the meatpacking district known as Kødbyen, and sandwiched between the train tracks and Istedgade, the market showcases local produce from around 50 vendors. From tacos to burgers, and from moules frites to fish and chips, the food can be eaten at long, sociable tables in the middle of the action.
Established in the late 1800s as Copenhagen’s epicentre for meat sales and processing, Kødbyen used to be a bustling marketplace and thriving hub of activity. It witnessed a steady decline in fortunes in the late 20th century until the municipality decided in 2005 to transform the area into a creative district.
It has since become home to a cluster of nightclubs, exhibition spaces and exciting restaurants, but it continued to lack a daytime atmosphere. But Kødbyens Mad and Marked put the market back at the centre of the action, taking inspiration from Spitalfields in London and the meatpacking district in Manhattan, which re-established the hustle and bustle of social trade and have capitalised on the modern desire for local produce and human interaction around food.
While the market responds to Copenhageners’ appetite for socialisation and novel experiences, it also taps into the growing awareness of the value of local foods. This movement was perhaps most aggressively championed by New Nordic cuisine and its emphasis on supporting sustainable and locally-sourced produce.
Kødbyens Mad og Marked likewise focuses on supporting small and local producers, with the majority of the stall holders coming from Zealand. It takes the local, fresh, made-in-front-of-you aspects of New Nordic cuisine, and puts it in food trucks rather than fancy restaurants. But while street food vendors used to choose a mobile existence to avoid paying unaffordable rents, food trucks are now home to some of the most innovative and high-quality foods in the city.
Breakfast and cream
Two particularly exciting innovations are coming to the market this year. The first is breakfast day, to be held on the last Sunday of each month, that will tap into the success of the ‘build your own breakfasts’ available at Vesterbro spots Mad og Kaffe and Wulff & Konstali. Buy five breakfast tokens and gather items from stalls around the market – a broad and constantly-changing selection will make return trips worthwhile.
The other new venture is the introduction of themed days. In previous years, there have been days devoted to wine and smørrebrød, and this year will see some new additions, including beer, bread, and berries. On May 7, cream day, expect to find a focus on flødeboller, cheese, ice cream and toffees, for example.
This is also the first year that Kødbyens Mad and Marked will expand its reach through that most Danish method of transportation: the bike. The market was originally intended as a destination for fresh ingredients, in line with the British concept of the farmer’s market. But rather than limit its reach to Vesterbro, five specially-designed bikes have been commissioned to take fresh food and vegetables to squares in five Copenhagen neighbourhoods: Østerbro, Nørrebro, Vesterbro, Sydhavn and Amager.
The idea behind the bikes is to fill a gap in the distribution chain, so that small producers can get their food to consumers without buying into the regulations enforced by supermarkets. Food can be purchased in small batches, and can vary from day to day. Furthermore, the bikes will be staffed by people who understand what they are selling, putting knowledge and care back into the way we buy food and the way we eat. Customers can be assured that the food they buy hasn’t been covered in plastic and transported thousands of miles – in fact, it’s most likely to have been in the ground just days before.
This project has grown out of a popular and political movement advocating a more eco-friendly food market, recognising the need to shorten food supply chains, and encouraging local biodynamic production. They bikes are supposed to enable people to easily maintain a healthy diet by making affordable, local and organic ingredients an everyday essential, not a luxury.
Kødbyens Mad og Marked is, ultimately, a very human and personal project to create and sustain the vibe that makes Vesterbro such a dynamic social hub. It will be a place for good food and great conversations, where tasty, sustainable food is part of a daily habit of “eating out, eating together, and eating better”. M