Noma gives way to Barr
Author: Jeni Porter
Photography: Ditte Isager Photography (portrait), Line Klein (interiors), Jesper Rais (food)
The next Copenhagen food revolution begins this month at Strandgade 93, the 18th-century former warehouse where René Redzepi kick-started the New Nordic movement with Noma 14 years ago. Barr, a partnership between Redzepi and his friend Thorsten Schmidt, is what you get when a couple of chefs who've spent a decade and a half at the culinary cutting edge decide it's time to reconsider the classics. You could call it Old Nordic.
"With the New Nordic wave it was 80 to 90 per cent new discovery and 10 per cent rediscovery but we've flipped this here," says Schmidt, a chef once dubbed the "Nordic alchemist". "We want it to be homely but we also want to have it sharp - a sort of perfect simplicity."
Norwegian firm Snøhetta designed the restaurant's interiors.
At Barr, which means barley in old Norse, the revolution encompasses menus that don't mention the ingredients' provenance (it's a given everything is well sourced), food that's served rather than introduced, and the best damn frikadeller (aka pork rissoles) and pork schnitzel around the North Sea, Barr's culinary catchment area spanning Scandinavia, Germany, Benelux and the British Isles. Not to mention bespoke beer and akvavit.
The interiors are designed by hot Norwegian architect firm Snøhetta. The walls and ceiling are lined in Danish oak milled to an undulating relief created by a 3D simulation of beer molecules, the custom oak tables are off-round, and the leather and oak chairs are designed by Finn Juhl, the god of the organic version of Danish modernism.
The hallowed site became even more of a tourist mecca when a bridge linking the city centre to Christianshavn opened nearby. The hordes on the doorstep were one reason Redzepi wanted to move and open Noma 2.0 a little off the beaten track, but the foot-traffic is a great fit for the cheap (okay, cheaper) and convivial Barr.
Sourdough pancakes with citrus and caviar (photo: Line Klein).
"Thorsten and I talked about transforming the old Noma space from a place that was always about doing something new to something that was about familiarity," Redzepi says, "but not so much that we wouldn't be nudging even the greatest of classics like the schnitzel."
Schmidt, who ran the highly regarded Malling & Schmidt in Aarhus, says that after almost 15 years of "doing this fine-dining, kick-arse thing" he's ready to turn down the volume. Asked if he thought he might be a little overqualified to cook frikadeller, he simply shrugged: "yeah, but isn't that the cool thing?"
Frikadeller is the Danish national dish, but Schmidt's are next level. He started with 16 recipes, and did blind tastings to winnow them down to the final result: 100 per cent pork, fried in butter and served on creamy cabbage with crisp cabbage and foamy gravy on top. "It's very comforting but it has the acidity and freshness we've done for the past 14 years," he says.
Thorsten Schmidt's frikadeller.
Meanwhile, the schnitzel Wiener art (the name for non-veal schnitzel) has been deemed "perfect" by Redzepi. The pork is juicy from being steeped in brine, the crust is buttery, and it comes with fresh peas and horseradish cream.
Barr also has a legacy from Noma's Sydney pop-up where they created their own version of Vegemite called Noma-mite and served it with an abalone schnitty. Barr-mite builds on the Noma version. Schmidt smears it on salmon before it's smoked so it turns into a salty crust.
The old Noma bar now has 20 beer taps, and the ales are grouped under headings like crisp, smoke, and tart and funk.
Food prices range from 55 krone ($11) for new potatoes with lovage and goat's butter and 135 krone ($27) for frikadeller up to 595 krone ($119) for shared aged beef with salsify and mushrooms.
The beer taps at Barr.
Meanwhile, while Noma 2.0 is being built, 30 of its staff are running a pop-up under the Knippelsbro Bridge from July 19 to September 3. Noma Under the Bridge will be a family-style restaurant serving a set menu for 1,000 krone ($200) a head including drinks. Book via the Noma website.
Barr, Strandgade 93, 1401 Copenhagen K, +45 3296 3293, restaurantbarr.com. Open Wed-Thurs 5pm-midnight, Fri-Sat noon-midnight.