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An unprepossessing entrance across a car park, but an utter delight inside: Kodbyens Fiskebar, Copenhagen (photo: Adam Chandler/Flickr)

The builders of London have stopped whistling, and the silence left behind roars like the absence of birdsong. I used to like getting whistled at, that moment of walking past the scaffolding and hearing “Hello, darlin’”. It didn’t make me feel oppressed or intimidated, it put a spring in my step and a wiggle in my behind, a cheering little hiatus of flirtation between the business of getting and spending, but now the builders cast down their eyes and move respectfully aside, lest the foreman give them a lecture on slut shaming.

I don’t like the fact that someone has decided that being whistled at ought to make me upset, not least because as well as the implied infantilisation — are women really too delicate to walk past a building site? — it seems to be bound up with class. Builders can’t look at Page Three on their teabreaks any more, because Chanelle from Croydon’s tits are debasing porn, but having a perv at Lena Dunham’s increasingly-psychotic self-exposure on Instagram would presumably be fine, since that’s feminism. Registering attractiveness, noticing and being noticed, are among the adult pleasures of adulthood, and London is the poorer for their absence. Not so Denmark, Europe’s happiest nation, where the girls on their bicycles make every traffic light an erotic adventure and the men just look like, well, heaven.     

Don’t visit Copenhagen in summer unless your self-esteem is feeling robust. This flat, compact city might have been designed to make Anglo-Saxons feel like poor relations — which, of course, as craven payers of the Danegeld, we once were. Paris may flaunt its ineffable chic and New York its impeccable cool, but Copenhagen quietly and oh-so-unassumingly throws a great flob of superior DNA in your face. The people are so beautiful, the interiors so inviting, the architecture so understatedly ingenious that it takes considerable confidence not to cross the city without feeling like a badly-dressed, insufficiently blonde troll. 
And then there’s the food. Copenhagen is home to René Redzepi’s Noma, the world-beating flagship of New Nordic cuisine. Good luck with that reservation, but it’s possible to experience the influence of the Scandinavian revival without selling your organs. One of the finest dinners I tried was at Kødbyens Fiskebar, in the former meatpacking district on the water. The location is fairly unprepossessing — access is through a car park — but once indoors, firebowl, fish tanks and low wood tables deliver just the right amount of hip. We began with simple Marennes oysters, in a dilled variation of shallot vinegar, accompanied by Scottish razor clams with fennel, hazelnut and tarragon, exquisite in speckled pastry shells. Then Norwegian langoustine, crisp with cucumber and creamy centred with cured egg yolk, and pike perch poached to an intense, smoky, caramelized spiciness with golden beets and anchovy.

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November 14th, 2015
8:11 AM
"This flat, compact city might have been designed to make Anglo-Saxons feel like poor relations — which, of course, as craven payers of the Danegeld, we once were" . Please spare me the British self-flagellation.. People have now started talking about "virtue signalling" and they are right. You may as well talk about when Nelson destroyed their navy. Pointless.

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