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Hometown Glory: Walther Griesé’s Copenhagen

Hometown Glory: Walther Griesé’s Copenhagen

Hometown Glory: Walther Griesé’s Copenhagen

"Part of it is personal, part of it is cultural," says Danish restaurateur Walther Griesé of what keeps him in Copenhagen.

When Danes think Danish food, it’s smørrebrød that comes to mind. The traditional open-faced sandwiches sit atop hearty rye bread and are best served with a glass of beer and a shot of aquavit. Restaurant Kronborg, owned and run by Walther Griesé and his partner, serves some of the best in the city. While not a specifically gay spot, Griesé draws in a large LGBT crowd, many holdovers from the two gay cafes he used to run. After a meal in his cozy restaurant, Greisé took us out into the courtyard to chat about why he loves his city.

Are you from Copenhagen?

Actually, I grew up 20 minutes north of Copenhagen, in a suburb called Rungsted. 

When did you move from Rungsted to Copenhagen?

What most people do, when they begin their studies, they move into Copenhagen. We are quite spoiled, really, because many of us move into our own flats. There are a lot of small flats in the districts called Vesterbro and Nørrebro, which today are competing to be the most vibrant and happening district. 

Have you been in Copenhagen since?

My partner Klaes and I actually opened the first daytime café for the LGBT community here, called Sebastian. We had it for about five years and then sold it, because it was his dream to travel around the world. So we took one year to do that, and then spent two amazing year's in Syndey. We had to then decide whether to return to Copengagen, and really, there was no choice. 

Why is that? What is it about Copenhagen?

Part of it is personal, part of it is cultural differences. We experienced in Australia that, while it’s amazing, it’s a fairly new culture, and they haven’t quite figured out their national identity. In Denmark, our monarchy is 1000 years old, so it's very grounded. We know ourselves, we know our national identity, and we have a firm base. And I realized that’s quite nice, actually.

Why did you two decide to open up your first gay café?

Because there was definitely a need. And it was the same with Oskar—when we came back, we opened another gay daytime café, Oskar. I’ve heard from American tourists that they find it really amazing that on the City Hall Square you have an open daytime spot. You have families coming in to have lunch, not caring about the fact that there are two guys kissing next to them. Obviously, after 5 o’clock, the atmosphere changes, it becomes a real party. But locals tell us that it’s quite significant for them to have a place they can take their friends during the day, someplace where you don’t need to drink and get drunk.

And when did you open this restaurant, Kronborg?

It’s actually been there for like 100 years, we just took it over. It was very run down, so we upped it, quality wise. A lot of guys that used to come to Oskar come here, not because we’re a gay restaurant, but because they know us, and they know the quality food we serve. And it’s just a nice, relaxed atmosphere.

You serve traditional smørrebrød, open-faced sandwiches. Why is it important to continue serving traditional Danish food?

That's what it was like when we took it over, and it’s what I grew up on. It's what I had for lunch everyday when I was a child. Today, Danish cuisine has had a revival. There are quite a few places which focus on the quality—its our contribution to the world of gastronomy.

Can you talk about the scene in Copenhagen. Is there a nice LGBT scene here?

The gay scene in Copenhagen is very small. There is, like, only one dance club. There are a lot of alternative nights in Kødbyen, now, but you need to go onto Facebook to find them. There are great restaurants, nice shopping, but the strictly gay scene is quite small.

What would your perfect Sunday be?

For a perfect Sunday, I'd pop down to Central Station and buy my Sunday papers, because I still like my papers. Then I would go to Lagkagehuset and pick up some spandauor, a pastry, and sit on my balcony have have breakfast with my partner. 

Depending on the day, we’d then walk along the lakes and pop in somewhere for a coffee. I would definitely go to Fiskebarn for dinner. And then for a drink, if I go anywhere, I'd go to a place called Lidkoeb. You enter through a small courtyard, and then there's a small area with three stories, where they have a whisky bar on top, and then cocktail bars on the first and the ground level. They make really nice cocktails, and it’s a really lovely atmosphere.

 

Photography by Przemek Czaicki 

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