Wednesday, 23 January 2013

My morning coffee: Ordrupgaard

This weekend I took my son to a birthday party at a classmate's home in Ordrup, a leafy suburb north of Copenhagen, just inland from Charlottenlund. It was a chilly day (-5 degrees) but the sky was blue and the low winter sun beckoned me to enjoy my spare couple of hours (or at least part of it) out in the fresh air. And so, after dropping off my son into the gaggle of excitement and not knowing whether to laugh or cry as the hired party clown struggled up the steps with her fixed oversized smile but clearly ill practised at negotiating the narrow icy treads in her oversized circus shoes... I turned my back on the squeals of 6 year old mayhem and headed out for the peace and tranquility of Ordrupgaard. Although it was later in the day (not strictly 'morning'), I knew there would be a perfect opportunity to warm up with a coffee.

Since the job that brought us here ended, we are still looking for the next chapter to reveal itself. I am slowly adjusting to this interim phase of 'not knowing'. Christmas was a wonderful distraction and indeed the everyday chores and routines that it takes to keep the cogs of a family working smoothly play their part in providing purpose and direction to each new morning but the bigger picture sometimes leaves me gasping for air.

Times such as these are when rituals can provide immense comfort. I have found that my morning coffee is a place that I can return to every day and there is a space there that I recognise. I've also found that going for a walk is a great way to clear the head and because I've foregone my two feet for two wheels over the last couple of years, the novelty of the slower pace gives a different and refreshing perspective. Ordrupgaard offers a chance for both: a walk in the grounds in the crisp winter air and a cafe where I can settle down with a coffee and a good book.

The original stately home at Ordrupgaard was the summer house of a wealthy insurance magnate and his wife in the early 1900s. A quaint thought really when one looks at how Copenhagen has grown consuming the outlying rural landscape within its urban sprawl. Ordrup is now only a handful of stops north of Norreport on the s-tog (the suburban train). Notwithstanding this shrinking commute, there is a sense of the countryside in the grounds of Ordrupgaard and whilst the stately home still houses the extensive collection of French impressionist art, I'm afraid I have yet to set foot inside it as my attention is always drawn to the other two notable buildings nearby.

In 1942 the Danish architect and furniture designer, Finn Juhl, built his home (above) on a plot adjoining Ordrupgaard and today it is preserved to look as it was when it was inhabited, showcasing his iconic furniture in its natural setting. I'm no architecture buff nor do I pretend to know anything about furniture design but one cannot spend any time here in Denmark without developing at least a very tentative curiosity about and taste for the clean lines and form of the design classics. Wandering around Finn Juhl's house, even a philistine like me starts to appreciate how a building and the furniture it contains can work together to produce harmony. I stroll around the perimeter, peering in through the windows with the crunching snow underfoot but its the third and most recent addition to Ordrupgaard that draws me inside.

The cafe is housed in the wing designed by Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid, and opened in 2005. The clean lines and the huge windows give it the appearance of floating. Inside it feels very much as if the open space of the cafe is part of the surrounding garden and it is the perfect place to loose oneself, as I did for my comforting ritual. One can't buy a cappuccino or a latte and so there was a moment of panic when I thought I was going to have to run the gauntlet of a warmed cup of something filtered or instant. But no, a 'coffee' is a cafetière bubbling and frothing it's so fresh, a bowl of sugar cubes and a jug of milk. This too suggests a ceremony (even if not the immediately recognisable cappuccino ritual) and so I know I won't be disappointed. And I'm not.

Find out more about Ordrupgaard, the permanent collection and the exhibitions, at their website

Cost: A pot of coffee for one costs 35 DKK
Coffee hygge factor: 4 out of 5