I don’t know much about his back story. He sounds French. Turns out he’s Jordanian. He came here 2.5 years ago with his wife who got a job here in finance. His background is in marketing and he tried to get a job for 2 years. Got only one interview. So he decided to try something completely different. He just opened his cafe, Rays, in Norrebro two and a half months ago. It’s been hard. But he’s got something that few places have: a genuine warmth and friendliness.
He talks to everyone. I know from listening to his conversations that it was easy to get a licence to run a cafe, that it was easy to get the business going. Not too much bureaucracy. He used his own savings to invest in the place. He started off with just coffee and simple sandwiches. Then he got chatting to a Scottish guy, who just wanted to help him out with the food and show him how to make simple stuff (porridge, daal etc). This guy showed him how to do it for free. But Ray decided that he couldn’t do everything and this guy had the skills for it. So they developed a partnership and now the Scottish guy comes in 3 days a week and prepares all the food for the week.
The daal is delicious. Full of flavour and vegetables. Hearty and scrumptious. It doesn’t resemble any daal I’ve had before but who cares? It’s amazing.
The space is large and airy, with classic, vintage style lighting with dropped bulbs over the tables and a large Art Deco chandelier. Black and white signed photos by Emil Monty Freddie line the walls. Behind the bar, there are brightly coloured tiles and across one wall are hundred of stacked books. At first glance it looks like that popular wallpaper. It’s not. They’re real. . Little succulents and cactii are dotted around the tables in coffee cups and mismatched cushions are on the basic brown benches.
The feel of the place is haphazardly chic and hip. Coffee culture is huge in Copenhagen and many coffee places squabble to be the place to be. But what makes this place different is Ray. Service in Denmark is still elusive, and when it happens it can feel superficial. Staff are uninterested. But Ray: he’s quiet and works hard. But he has time to chat to you and makes you feel like you can stay all day. That’s fine with him. You can tell his charm is working. Most of the people that come in here are repeat customers. They all chat to him. One guy came in and gave him a large wooden bench. For free. Ray exclaimed: “Everyone’s so nice! ”
I think it’s because he’s so nice. People warm to him. Today he gave me a free fresh watermelon and lime juice. Just because. I’ll be back, Ray. And I’ll tell everyone to come with me.