The amazing history of Grøften

Restaurant Grøften has existed for 146 fun and exciting years – if only walls could talk…
What is Grøften’s connection with Tintin?
Why is our signature dish lobscouse?
Who was Madam Meyer
– and what did she hand to Pierrot through the secret mini door in the wall?

Did a regular guest of Grøften inspire the creation of Tintin?

Grøften has always had many exciting regulars and Palle Huld was one of them. Palle was an adventurer of the good old fashioned kind! In 1928, he won a newspaper competition, to travel the world . Palle set off – by train and ship, traveling around the globe in 44 days. When he ended his travels, he wrote a book about his amazing journey, the book was translated into many languages, and it is believed, that while reading the adventures of Palle Huld, the famous author Hergé, got so inspired, that he created the adventures of Tintin.

Restaurant owner & Balloon Captain Johansen

Balloon captain Lauritz Johansen was an energetic and daring man and extremely popular in his time. In 1890, Johansen bought his very own hot air balloon, called “The Perch” and thrilled the Tivoli guests for the rest of the season with balloon rides from the Gardens. On his first trip he landed North of Malmö in Sweden. The landing was a bit of a gamble, as Air Captain Johansen had no experience in maneuvering the balloon – he learned this only later, after some serious accidents.

All in all, Balloon Captain Johansen made 117 ascents, mostly from Tivoli. Johansen understood how to vary the show, he stood on the bottom step of a swinging rope ladder beneath the balloon, lit up with battery powered electric lights, he attached fireworks to the basket and detonated them when airborne. He was also known to stand on the edge of the basket while swinging his golden hat to the cheering crowds below.

When Tivoli acquired the huge balloon “Montebello”, Johansen was chosen as Captain. Montebello was able to lift 15 people in the air and it was tethered to the ground with a huge chain. There were three kinds of rides available to purchase: one to 350 feet at a cost of 1 kroner, one to 500 feet at a cost of 3 kroners and finally a trip to 1000 feet at a cost of 5 kroners. there was also a telephone cable attached to the tethering chain connected to the ground, this meant you could call the ground from high above the city – this was a remarkable acheivement only 15 years after the first telephone came to Denmark.

In 1900, Air Captain Johansen bought Restaurant Grøften and under his excellent management he made the restaurant a high profile meeting place for celebrities in Copenhagen. Johansen created the famous signature dish known as skipperlabskovs (Captain’s Stew) and this is still a favourite on our menu to this day. While Johansen was still fulfilling balloon rides at the same time as being as successful restauranteur in Grøften, he also published no less than 4 books. Most notable were “To the North Pole in Balloon” and “Under and Over the Atmosphere”. Under and Over the Atmosphere was about the hunt for treasure at the bottom of the sea before the action suddenly moves to Planet Mars….

Today the conservatory in the Restaurant Grøften is adorned with beautiful hot air balloon lamps. These lamps were created by the artist Spjæt in 1974 and were installed 100 years after the opening day in the Restaurant Grøften.

The Theater Café – the beginning of Grøften, and how it got its name

Grøften’s original premises, the Theatre Café, opened in 1874 at the same time as the Pantomime Theatre next door in the same building.

Due to its location at the bottom of a small slope, the cafe quickly got the more popular nickname “Grøften” (the Ditch in English).

The good people of the Pantomime as well as Tivoli’s musicians used Grøften as a meeting place from the beginning. Here the hostess Madam Meyer would sell hot dogs that her voluptous Swedish mother cooked, but most guests brought their own packed lunch.

The Theatre Café originally consisted of two small rooms and some gazebos. The original two small rooms have been preserved and can still be accommodated in Grøften today.

On the walls you will find pictures of the Pantomime actors, the original makeup mirrors and rich decorations with old photos and artifacts from a bygone era. The Pantomime Theatre’s dressing room is still on top of the café today and in the corner of one of the rooms you can see the stairs from which you can hear the actors running to and from the stage.

The westerly facing large round window at the front was the original entrance. If you look closely at the outer wall just outside the original entrance, you will find a small secret door. It leads into Pierrot’s changing room and through this door Madam Meyer would serve Pierrot the beers he required before and after a performance.