According to The Economist’s “Bringing Home the Bacon” article on the Danish pork industry, Denmark is home to more pigs than it is to humans—a whole 24.4 million more. In fact, according to The Salt’s “Pork Politics: Why Some Danes Want Pig Meat Required On Menus,” pigs outnumber humans two to one. With these statistics in mind and the growing political controversy over pork, I had to see what all the hype was about. With Danish flags lining the outside of the building and its cottage-looking exterior, it seemed like Det Lille Apotek would be the perfect place to try a good plate of Danish pork.
Upon entering Det Lille Apotek, I immediately felt a sense of coziness. Looking only from the outside might lead someone to believe that this is a hole-in-the-wall type of place, and maybe it is, but it certainly seemed a lot fancier than that. With “reserved” signs on every table, I was scared we wouldn’t even be able to get a table. Luckily, we came before the rush of tourists like ourselves (without reservations) and were seated with ease. The restaurant seemed like a maze, with a lot more rooms and tables in relation to the overall size of the place. With such little space, the tables were substantially close together, but it contributed to the warm and cozy feeling. Every wall was filled with old photographs and art pieces, topped with shelves of antique books lining the ceiling. It reminded me of a Buca di Beppo, except, instead of large portraits of Frank Sinatra, Det Lille Apotek had large vintage paintings of Carlsberg advertisements.
Table mats told the history of the restaurant, with its start in 1720 as a local pub home to artists and writers. Even Hans Christian Anderson frequented Det Lille Apotek! With this piece of history at our disposal, the look and feel of the restaurant made a whole lot more sense. Its vintage petroleum lamps gave the entire restaurant a warm and intimate atmosphere and its unaltered interior design, dating back 150 years, made it feel like you had been transported back in time. Without the typical light music you usually hear in the background of most restaurants in America, all that could be heard were different conversations in languages from around the world and hearing the roar of conversation only fostered more conversation. Of course, there were Danes there as well, but many patrons were visitors to Copenhagen. Hearing the roar of voices throughout the restaurant only fostered more conversation.
The food consisted of traditional Danish meals, appetizers, and desserts. There were traditional meals for every part of the day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The servers were very accommodating and let us know exactly how to eat our meals when they served us. They were ready to help and give suggestions, often helping other foreigners around us navigate the menu.
I have to admit, I am not usually a huge fan of sliced pork. I can be quite picky when it comes to pork chops at home and usually opt out of even ordering pork unless it’s a good rack of ribs or sausage. Now I know I simply was not having the right pork. I ordered roasted pork served over a slice of rye bread with pickled red cabbage on top. As soon as I bit into the pork, I was in heaven. The outermost part of the pork slices were lined with a crispiness that reminded me of chicharrones (except even better). The crispy, salty outer layer along with the perfectly cooked meat made me melt. I finally knew what all the hype was about, and I couldn’t be happier with my meal.
Det Lille Apotek certainly has its own little culture, which truly brought home the feeling of tradition by fostering an atmosphere of conversation and connection over food. From the tourists to the locals, the restaurant provided happiness in the form of good food and good people. You could see the contentment on every person’s face (especially mine) when the food came out and, with the soft lighting, conversation, and coziness, it brought the Danish phenomenon of hygge right to your table. Looking toward the proud history of the restaurant and the care that went into crafting the menu, it was evident that Det Lille Apotek was, and still is, a little treasure of tradition amongst the streets of Copenhagen.