“This isn’t a business, it’s a hobby,” says Leif Thingtved as he pours another fresh latte in to my cup. He lifts a plastic lid to reveal a selection of awesome-looking Danish pastries. “Croissant?”
Space is a bit tight at Hotel Central and Cafe in Copenhagen. So tight, in fact, that I’m forced to take a step back when Leif moves out from behind the counter. As I do so, I notice on the wall to my right a framed 6×9” black-and-white newspaper photo of a young Ronnie Barker. It seems entirely out of place in any coffee shop, let alone one in Copenhagen. Leif notices the curious look on my face. “I think that picture is fantastic,” he says with a strong Danish accent. “He’s holding this tiny little object that you can hardly see and he just has this cheeky look on his face.”
But Leif’s so-called hobby has a little claim to make. Along with the en-suite double bedroom upstairs, Hotel Central and Cafe is the smallest coffee shop and hotel in Copenhagen. The building itself is beautifully quaint and hidden, and with four customers inside, a member of staff, myself and Leif, it’s almost already full.
Tucked away on the outskirts of the city centre and the hip suburb of Frederiksberg, Leif is confident that there’s no better area to stay during a visit to the vibrant and exciting Danish capital.
“No matter how much you pay for a room you don’t really want to sit inside it all night – you want to go out,” he tells me. “And this is certainly the hottest spot in Copenhagen. It’s close to the train station yet far from Strøget,” he says, referring to the famous pedestrianised shopping street at the other end of town, officially the longest in the world.
“There are so many great restaurants, bars and eateries around here, including a great cocktail bar just around the corner, so staying in at night isn’t really an option.”
Leif’s little corner of cozy coffee started back in 2010 when he purchased the property at Tullinsgade 1 before designing and creating a simple yet warm interior. His designs and craftsmanship were born out of a desire for originality and the need to physically be involved in the development of the café.
“Anyone can push a button and design anything these days. Nobody uses their hands anymore and everything looks the same. Nobody makes an effort. But for me, style is my fetish. Less is easier.”
As the conversation continues, two Danish men say hello to Leif and head inside. I watch as Anna-Louise serves them their daily order and sits down to chat with them. It reminds me of the American sitcom Friends but with genuine people.
“We get a lot of regulars here,” says Leif, “and Bill and Egon are just wonderful,” he continues, gesturing towards the two men. “We also get a lot of Danish celebrities passing through here and [our larger café] Granola. Famous people love being part of the community and of course it certainly helps business.”
When I ask him if he’s concerned at the possibility that the the establishment will become a must-see tourist destination like the heavily visited Little Mermaid, Leif shakes his head.
“People are always very curious but only ever stick to what they already know. Big shops, brands and chains, for example.
“They might come and take some pictures, but they won’t come inside to order a coffee.”
I ask Leif about the double room above the premises.
“It was always part of the plan to have a hotel room upstairs,” he says. “We opened back in June and August is already fully booked.”
We head upstairs to take a closer look and I am immediately impressed by the decour and the use of space. It’s clear that many things have been sourced second-hand – something Leif confirms – particularly the bathroom door, which currently shows the word ‘vacant’ above the lock.
Despite its young age, the room gives off a slightly historic feel, with a mixture of finely-polished wooden beams and furniture, retro bedside lamps and a padded door for extra sound-proofing. The small iPhone dock (complete with iPhone) and the TV tucked away behind a pull-down wooden panel adds a small amount of modernity to the room, as does the urban view from the window of the street below.
“The double bed is a Swedish design known as Hestens and the duvet is a Geismar; it’s made of goose feathers,” Leif proudly tells me.
As we step back outside, Leif reflects on the building’s image and how it fits in to his plan: “It’s a little crazy but looking good.”