Zeitgeist is everywhere around us and it can be grasped and intuited in the vogues and trends of the day. To many Copenhageners, the name “Nørgaard” is inextricably bound up with fashion. Back in 1988, however, my father Jørgen, my big brother Mads and I took the first step in a completely new direction: We would start up and run a cafe. This was certainly quite a leap.
Our cafe would be a cafe with an attitude of poise. This was going to be a place in the patently European-international style. And it would be seated in the very heart of Copenhagen, on Amagertorv, the hub of the Universe – according to philosopher Søren Kierkegard.
The establishment of the cafe took place while momentous political upheavals were shaking our continent. In that situation it seemed natural for us to baptize our child Europa 1989. With that name we hoped to combine traditions with the burning issues of the day.
We wanted the cafe to be characterized by long-term consistency and the expectation that it would resemble itself from one year to the next. Cafe Europa should be a manifestation of both the tenor of the times and the timeless. We got rolling.
In fact, my brother Mads went down to Berlin in November 1989 to see for himself whether The Wall was tumbling down and to make sure that The Cold War was over. And the name “Europa” suddenly took on a new meaning. As Willy Brandt said: “Now grows together what belongs together”. East and West were being reunified. Now the word Europa stood for a free Europe and that is exactly what is celebrated by our choice of name.
Historically and culturally Europa extends – as you can tell from the fine map that hangs in the cafe – from Sicily to the North Cape and from Gibraltar to Ural. And in this spirit we have harvested the very best from various European cafe cultures: the traditional French cafe, the cake houses found in Vienna and Budapest, the Italian coffee menus and, of course, the culinary inspiration from the Spanish tapas, the Greek yogurts, Hungarian goulash soup and well, the entire spectrum of our multifaceted European cuisine.
In the early summer of 1993, Martin Hildebrandt entered the stage. The collaboration with Martin became so invaluable that he was offered a position of responsibility in the management of Cafe Europa. The work Martin and I did with head chef Carsten Stig Andersen was the point of departure for Cafe Europa’s cold dishes and this established the basis for the successful cuisine we are so proud of today.
With both our cuisine and beverages, we started from the ground up. This was the only way we could make something that was entirely and truly our own thing. Our interest in speciality coffee was awakened around the turn of millennium. Our desire and quest for the perfect cup of coffee and our anchoring in gastronomy has led us to attain success on the international coffee scene: we have, in fact, garnered three gold medals at three annual World Barista Championships.
In the early years, our coffee menu was limited. We sold filter coffee, espresso, cappuccino, Nes au lait and cafe au lait of, I dare say, a rather mediocre character.
However, by travelling to countries with strong coffee cultures, we managed to gather inspiration for expanding and developing our coffee menu. In our travels, we acquired a sense of respect for the barista’s craft and for the significance that the manner of preparation has on the flavor and the look of what is served.
Our interest in coffee, in other words, was sharpened and accordingly, our wish to offer our guests a great coffee experience at the cafe. The guests’ expectations concerning the quality in the cup, moreover, have increased dramatically with the times – as has the readiness to pay more for extraordinary coffee experiences.
Today, there are micro roasting houses that make it possible for the consumer to purchase freshly roasted coffee from specific named coffee plantations. Just as we needed to control the raw material for our coffee we started Kontra
Coffee to be able to make transparency from green bean to cup. Today our coffee menu offers drip coffee and a wider range of espresso based coffee roasted by Kontra Coffee.
The most recent addition to our menu – a veritable quantum leap in our own saga – is the warm-food kitchen. It wasn’t at all in the cards that one day we would come to be a fully-equipped restaurant-like cafe. We have been working with the idea of introducing hot food for several years now, but it wasn’t until April 2006 that we finally launched Cafe Europa’s evening menu with hot dishes on the bill of fare.
In order for the customers to benefit from the efforts made in the kitchen and bar we insist on having table service. We have resolved that our guests, whether morning, noon or night, are going to have their coffee, their food and their other drinks served to them right where they are seated – in a fast and friendly manner.
That all of this taken together has been and remains possible is due to the competent and energetic staff whom we have always been delighted to have working for us. They have all made their contribution to our success since 1989. For their continuing efforts, we owe them a great deal of gratitude. Thank you.
Cafe Europa 1989