When Noma reopened as a burger and wine bar after Copenhagen’s first lockdown ended in May, they weren’t prepared for the chaos that would ensue. They expected to serve 300 people and sold out of everything within a couple of hours, sending many home emptyhanded but even more desperate to devour one of those mouth-watering cheeseburgers that had ignited Instagram.
Noma ended up making more than 2400 burgers for every day they were open across the five-week pop-up, serving more people across that 20-day span than they had in the previous six years.
Given what we know about the Danish institution, the roaring success didn’t come as a shock. After all, this wasn’t a Bunnings sausage sizzle. Rene Redzepi is the most influential chef on the planet, leading a team of innovators inside a restaurant that is usually borderline impossible to get into and costs more than $500 for an 18-course tasting menu.
But the game has changed drastically in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the best restaurants in Copenhagen – and all over the world – have been forced to close forever. It has forced Redzepi to tinker with his game plan, just like Bill Belichick has done in New England for more than two decades.
Noma and their highly sought-after pop-ups have conquered three different parts of the world – Sydney, Tokyo and Tulum – in the past handful of years. But this is different, and it doesn’t get much more 2020 than this.
Redzepi is doubling down on the concept that helped Noma survive the summer months. He is now opening a permanent burger joint, POPL, at the start of December in the space that most recently housed Noma’s sister venue, Restaurant 108, which was forced to close to the impact of COVID-19.
It will be stacked full of Noma veterans, both front of house and in the kitchen, who will be operating as they would at the two Michelin starred restaurant. The organic Danish beef comes from free-range cattle raised on farms on the shores of the Wadden Sea national park, while the veggie and vegan burgers are created from fermented quinoa.
And in classic Redzepi fashion, he reached out to fast food goliath Shake Shack – the chain built by legendary New York restauranteur Danny Meyer after he sold Eleven Madison Park to Daniel Humm and Will Guidara – to investigate what pans they cook their burgers on. Now they have chrome-plated pans, in case you were wondering.
The new incarnation of Noma, which first opened in 2003 and has since been named the best restaurant in the world by The World’s 50 Best four times and runner-up on two other occasions, will allow a far greater volume of people to experience Redzepi’s brilliance at a far more affordable price.
The burgers aren’t cheap – although not much is in Denmark – costing $31 to eat-in or $24 for takeaway, with fries cooked in beef fat, oxtail broth with chives, gem salad with a buttermilk and rose dressing and fermented mild chilies all costing $10.
POPL, which is derived from the Latin word ‘Populus’ which means community of people, is expected to make a splash when it opens its doors next week. Just like it did during the Danish summer.
If only we could travel there to taste one…