A nice wafting scent welcomes you when you walk into Chase & Sorrensen: a combination of freshly ground coffee and the citrussy smell of dill. Set up by Dane Signe Sorrensen and American Brent Chase, this is a combined café and furniture store, where you can lounge on a modular Sixties sofa whilst tucking into smørrebrød (open sandwiches). On one wall, a huge pull-down map of Denmark signals the origins of both the food and the elegant, pared down furniture, which dates from the heyday of Danish design: the 1940s to the 70s.
The menu is simple, a celebration of the predominantly fishy flavours of Denmark. Rye bread comes topped with Skagen prawns, karrysild (herring in curry sauce), spegelpølse (Danish salami) and remoulade (similar to tartar sauce). Signe and Brent make regular trips to Denmark, to buy herring and jars of crisp fried onion, as well as classic furniture. Their collection harks back to a glamorous era when offices were furnished with rosewood filing cabinets, coffee tables had in-built ashtrays and homes were lit by futuristic pendant lamps.
Chase & Sorensen is a hygge little corner of Hackney, whether you want to purchase bold bright ceramics, or just because you fancy a bit of caviar on your toast for a change. To buy your own Danish ingredients, Signe recommends the Scandinavian Kitchen on Great Titchfield Street.
This is my favourite – in fact only – smørrebrød story, about the photographer Lee Miller. After her hard wartime experience, Miller refocussed on cooking in her Sussex farmhouse. In 1965 she entered the Norwegian tourist board’s competition for best smørrebrød. Entries were made anonymously and Miller triumphed, winning 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize. Top prize went to the “Penroses”: bread topped with poached mushrooms stuffed with paté, herbs and cheese. Miller won a trip to Norway, where her smørrebrød creativity was acclaimed. Back home, she researched and produced an eleven-course Scandinavian banquet.