Barr, the other side of Nordic Cuisine

The restaurant opened in the old Noma, in Copenhagen, and explores traditions with a contemporary taste

27-06-2018

A detail of the dining room at Barr, in Copenhagen, in a photo taken from their official website

In the past, not long ago, you’d visit this location in Copenhagen, the iconic Strandgade 93, to taste one of the most avant-garde cuisines on the planet, served by René Redzepi at his Noma. Everyone surely knows how the most influent restaurant in Denmark moved and reopened a few kilometres to the north. 

What is less known, at least in Italy, is the story of the restaurant that has replaced it on the 5th July 2017. It’s called Barr and Redzepi is involved here too, even though not personally: his partner in the front line isThorsten Schmidt. He’s also Danish. He’s an established and highly appreciated chef, especially by his friend René

 

Thorsten Schmidt, chef and creator of Barr, with head chef Mia Christiansen

Thorsten Schmidt, chef and creator of Barr, with head chef Mia Christiansen

«Thomas is one of the pioneers, together with me, of the Nordic Cuisine – said Redzepi of him -. And this is perhaps the only certain definition you can give to his cuisine. In Schmidt’s culinary amusement park, anything can happen». The restaurant that made him famous was Malling & Schmidt, in Aarhus, which enhanced the professional and sentimental marriage with sommelier/patron/wife Rikke Malling.

While in that "amusement park" chef Schmidt presented what he defined a "rebellious" cuisine, based on the utmost creativity, his new project has different features. As stated in the intro on the official website, Barr is a casual restaurant, a place where you can find conviviality and food that enhances Nordic traditions, raw materials, and substance over appearance.

If you’re a mountain lover, once you cross the door a chic mountain hut will immediately come to mind: the restyling was handed to a very famous Norwegian firm of architects, Snøhetta. They used different types of wood to give the guests at Barr an immediate feeling of warmth. Mission perfectly accomplished, without forsaking beauty and modernity.

 

The dining room 

The dining room 

The culinary offer is based on the idea of blending, mixing and interpreting the traditions of the "European beer belt": an arched area of beer-friendly countries that starts in Iceland, touches the UK and Ireland, Scandinavia, Germany, Austria and then goes up to Finland. Therefore there are many influences and the "Nordic cuisine" here is certainly more eclectic and inclusive than on average. 

Mia Christiansen, head chef at Barr, who’s worked beside Thorsten Schmidt since the opening, describes the approach of the restaurant with a percentage: «Traditions and culinary memory count for around 80% of our way of cooking, the remaining 20% is innovation and research. Our dishes start from flavours that those who grew up in these countries will remember from their childhood, and it is for this reason that our food makes the people who eat it happy».

 

Smoked herring, wild fennel, green strawberries, elderberry flower sauce

Smoked herring, wild fennel, green strawberries, elderberry flower sauce

When visiting the restaurant’s kitchen, however, you’ll see it’s equipped with the latest technological novelties applied to gastronomy, even though even at Barr they still preserve many ancient techniques: «Our strength lies in the capacity of combining these elements. We use technology to cook better and to better serve our clients. But at the same time every animal that enters our kitchen is cleaned, deboned, smoked by us, following tradition. And the same applies to fish. We don’t use vacuum, our chefs must really cook with their hands. And it’s great fun».

A thorough research is essential to collect traditional recipes and techniques that are then interpreted in the kitchen at Barr: «But there’s never enough time – laughs Mia Christiansen – we study a lot, we travel and meet farmers, fishermen, we ask them to tell us their story».

 

Cured rib-eye, green asparagus, parsley (the second and third ingredient are under the meat)

Cured rib-eye, green asparagus, parsley (the second and third ingredient are under the meat)

The cured rib-eye in the restaurant’s refrigerators 

The cured rib-eye in the restaurant’s refrigerators 

Another significant activity in Barr’s kitchen is conserving ingredients, with fermentation, brine, and preserves: «Spring is the most exciting season, in this respect. There’s plenty of flowers, fresh vegetables, so we must do this work in view of the winter. At this time we have a ton or so of preserves in our warehouse which we’ll use during the winter».

Yet one of the things that struck us the most during our chat with the head chef from Barr is her belief that it is necessary to guarantee a sustainable life to those in her profession: «One of the goals of this restaurant is also not to work too much. Chefs usually work an absurd amount of hours each week: this must not happen here. Everyone works four days a week. We have shifts and rotations. And we have many students who come here to learn, and they allow us to work less and better. This is another reason why it’s nice to stay at Barr».

 

Bone marrow, gooseberry, parsley, wild garlic, crispy seeds 

Bone marrow, gooseberry, parsley, wild garlic, crispy seeds 

This approach is surely very wise and doesn’t affect the quality of the food Barr. In fact it should be extended to the entire fine dining industry. The offer is based on a menu with a dozen dishes, and a small tasting menu with four/five courses. The beer pairings are very interesting (on top of the wine list) and are recommended to fully enjoy the Barrexperience.

The intense food – strong flavours and use of fatty ingredients – of the restaurant guided by Thorsten Schmidt is perfectly matched by the selection of craft beers from all around the world to which the beer bar is dedicated, taking a rather large room in the restaurant.

 

Sour cream parfait, rhubarb sorbet, wild berries, rhubarb, vanilla

Sour cream parfait, rhubarb sorbet, wild berries, rhubarb, vanilla

One of the recipes that charmed us the most, during a thrilling dinner, was a sort of bresaola made of Cured rib-eye, placed on a bed of green asparagus and parsley: the softness and aroma of the meat were truly poetic. TheBone marrowwas delicious, paired with a sour sauce made with gooseberry, parsley, wild garlic and crispy seeds. As for fish, it was beautifully represented by Glazed cod with a reduction of onions, smoked mussel sauce, radishes with lemon and pickles.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

Barr
Strandgade 93
Copenhagen, Denmark
Closed at lunchtime from Monday to Thursday 
+45.32.963293
booking@restaurantbarr.com
Tasting menu 600 Danish krones, average price à la carte, 500 Danish krones


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