This being a weightlifting blog and all, you may be surprised to see a restaurant review popping up alongside all the training logs, Lifting Digests and the like. Let me explain. Paleo restaurant in Copenhagen, or Palæo in Danish, is one of the world’s first restaurants dedicated to the paleo diet, alongside the somewhat more upmarket Sauvage paleo eatery in Berlin, Germany. Paleo is often associated with Crossfit, Olympic weightlifting and various other high performance athletes, and I’m a paleo adherent myself, the vast majority of the time.
For those unfamiliar with the paleo diet (derived from Paleolithic, if you hadn’t guessed, I strongly recommend you check out Robb Wolf’s website as I’m not going to go too much into detail here. The crib notes are that paleo is not simply a diet but a lifestyle that takes the model of what our ancestors ate around 20,000 years ago and brings it into the modern age. For millions of years, our bodies evolved to thrive on meat, vegetables, eggs, fruits, nuts and seeds and though the Agricultural Revolution has occurred in between, in evolutionary terms the last twenty millennia are the mere blink of an eye – we simply haven’t adopted to eat neolithic foods in such a short time span.
Many, many people, perhaps as many as 50% of the world’s population has an adverse reaction of varying severity to gluten, dairy, pulses and other foods that have only been cultivated since the Agricultural Revolution. These foods can make us sick and fat and lead to serious health complications, as the epidemic of diabetes and metabolic disease sweeping the western world clearly shows. By sticking to a diet that’s optimal for our bodies – the one we evolved with – many of these nasties can be avoided or even reversed. Rule of thumb is that grains, starchy food, pulses and refined sugars are out, lots of meat, veggies, healthy oils, buts and seeds are in. Strict paleo diets also exclude dairy products being being of Northern European stock, I have a pretty high tolerance for it so I leave it in – in moderation.
Anyway, the Paleo restaurant serves quick and wholesome dishes based on these dietary principles. You could call it “caveman fast food” if you were being facetious. You won’t find any wheat, rice, dairy, pulses, white potatoes or sugary processed foods on the menu and many meals, like the ‘Paleodog’ include clever substitutes. The original Paleo restaurant opened at the Torvehaller food market in Copenhagen a couple of years ago when the diet first started to make inroads on the continent and a second branch opened later on Pilestræde, about 10 minutes walk away. I was lucky enough to manage to eat in both while in the city.
The Pilestræde restaurant was the first one I tried. The premises are pretty small, around the size of a medium sized cafe with dining space for perhaps 20-25 hungry cavemen, if even that. I can imagine it gets busy around lunchtime but when I dropped in for a late lunch around 4.30pm, there were only about eight other diners and the restaurant felt bright, airy and relaxed. Although the menu above the counter is in Danish, all of the staff speak impeccable English and there’s also a printed English menu available. I was surprised to notice that the shop also sold Pure Pharma supplements over the counter, until I realised that the company are actually Danish.
I was starving having not eaten since breakfast so I ordered two meals. I ordered a wrap – actually wrapped in an omelette rather than flatbread – called ‘The Pig’ full of pulled pork, coleslaw, pesto and cabbage and the ‘Meatzza’, a meat pizza with a base of organic ground beef topped with sweet pepper compote, mushrooms, chilli, spinach and more pesto. It was served with a slice of ‘Paleo Bread’. For a drink I ordered a ‘Chilli’ juice made from apple, strawberry, lemon and chilli. Like many paleo adherents, I don’t normally drink fruit juice but there was no way I wasn’t giving this a try.
Everything was simply excellent. The pulled pork wrap was delicious, the egg and excellent complement to the seasoned pork. It lasted only minutes. The meatzza was superb, made from the highest quality beef packed into what I’d estimate to be a 175g-200g patty (a bit shy of 8 ounces). The toppings worked really well and while it wasn’t exactly possible to eat it like a regular pizza, it hardly mattered. The paleo bread, made from nuts and seeds, was incredibly tasty and moist and had me instantly googling a recipe I could make at home. The chilli juice drink is simply one of the most delicious things I’ve ever put into my mouth, wonderfully sweet and refreshing but with a vicious chilli kick. I can’t really find anything to complain about, although if I was to be picky I’d argue that the serving aren’t quite big enough to satisfy a hungry weightlifter with one helping.
So I impressed was I that I sought out the Torvehaller branch when I found myself dropped off nearby with an hour to spare when making my way to Copenhagen airport. Torvehaller is a food market containing a vast array of different foods to take home or eat on the spot, all crammed into two glass buildings. Paleo fits into this setting well, crammed away in a corner and facing out onto a backstreet. There was plenty of seating but most of it was outdoors so I can imagine that it can get a bit crowded when the weather isn’t quite as glorious on the day it was when I popped along.
Paleo Chicken Salad
This time round I went for a chicken salad as well as indulging in a large Chill juice again. And what a salad, with at not far off 200g of chicken breast and packed full of romaine, cabbage, delicious paleo coleslaw, almonds, more of that parsley pesto and another hefty chunk of nutritious paleo bread. The salad was fantastic, easily one of the best I’ve had, and seemed bottomless. Perhaps it was the fact that I had eaten more earlier on than the previous day but the chicken salad felt like a more substantial, filling meal than either of the dishes I had tried the previous day.
I can’t really think of enough superlatives to describe how much I enjoyed Paleo. Not only am I overjoyed to find a restaurant that caters so well to a niche diet, the quality of the food was nothing short of excellent and I expect a visit to the restaurant could be a good way of starting to convert non-paleo friends. Pricewise, it was a little expensive compared to the UK at about £6-£8.50 a dish but no worse than getting lunch virtually anywhere else in Copenhagen and significantly better than many other places I walked by.
I highly recommend Paleo (or Palæo) to anybody visiting Copenhagen, whether a follower of the diet or not. I’m already planning a return trip to Copenhagen where I will most certainly be visiting the restaurant again. The only shame is that there isn’t a similar establishment here in the UK.