Burgers and wine at Copenhagen’s all-new POPL Burger. Photo: Giuseppe Liverino
In May 2020, noma did the unthinkable: the two-Michelin-starred, fine-dining restaurant co-founded by Claus Meyer and René Redzepi that pioneered New Nordic cuisine, opened a summer pop-up burger and wine garden. Travellers used to reserve tables at noma months in advance but, even with the pandemic having people staying close to home, nearly a thousand lined up everyday for noma’s burgers. The concept proved such a hit that on 3 December, the pop-up relaunched as the restaurant POPL Burger.
Set up by the waterfront in Christianshavn, POPL Burger encourages walk-ins and takeaway, and the convivial ambience of a neighbourhood restaurant: “a place for everyone to come together with family and friends over the simple joy of a well-crafted burger”. It is a 15-minute walk from noma, which is currently offering the reservations-only The Game and Forest Season menu starting at DKK2,800/Rs33,630, with all its hallmarks of seasonality, sustainability, foraging, fermentation and innovative use of traditional ingredients.
POPL Burger is the phoenix arising from noma’s former, more casual sister restaurant, the Michelin-starred Restaurant 108, which had announced its shuttering in September “due to the negative consequences of the global pandemic, especially the drastic reduction in the number of international tourists visiting Copenhagen”. POPL references poplar wood in a nod to noma’s culinary approach and respect for nature, as well as “populus”, Latin for community.
More than 1,400 burgers flew off the grill every day at the summer pop-up, said Peter Kreiner, CEO and Partner at POPL Burger, adding that the top order remains the cheeseburger. The burger is presented as everyone knows and loves it, while ensuring that the produce is high on quality, sustainably sourced and expertly prepared.
The cheeseburger (DKK145/Rs1,745 or DKK110/Rs1,320 for takeaway), is made with a potato bun and dry-aged flank steak that is seasoned with beef garum before being cooked in butter and topped with organic cheddar cheese, red onion and a burger sauce of mayo, tomato sauce and pickles. The organic beef is sourced from three farms with cattle free-ranging in the Danish Wadden Sea National Park. The veggie and vegan burgers are made with quinoa tempeh and glazed with fermentation liquids. Also on the menu: oxtail broth with chives, The POPL Pickleback shot of organic rye whiskey with a pickle-juice chaser, the much-raved-about Chewy POPL Cookie and rainbow ice cream.
POPL, in fact, is not the only recent venture from a leading Copenhagen restaurant to lean into more casual, informal dining. Chef-owner Matt Orlando, the former noma head chef whose fine-dining Amass restaurant was awarded the new Michelin Green Star for sustainable gastronomy, had to shutter its ingredient-focused brewery and casual restaurant Broaden and Build in May, but decided to propel its popular Amass Fried Chicken. In May, Amass announced that alongside the usual reservation-only multi-course experience at its restaurant in Refshaleøen, its fried chicken that until then was “a laid-back alter ego and a chance for us to wear shorts and t-shirts while cooking on a Sunday…a low-key way of inviting people into our universe, one that didn’t require sitting down for a multi-course experience” had been developed into an organic fried-chicken and wine bar. More great news for fried-chicken fans came in the form of Poulette, which was opened on 2 December by Martin Ho and Jesper Emil Norrie in Nørrebro, adjacent to their natural wine bar Pompette, where many a noma staff could be found hanging out after-hours.
Covid-19 restrictions from the Danish government on 7 December has led to fresh changes with the closing of restaurants between 9 December 2020 and 3 January 2021; POPL is now offering only takeaway and Amass Fried Chicken’s last meal for 2020 is on 8 December.
In a year that massively hit the travel and hospitality industry, with the shuttering of many beloved establishments and long months spent grappling with the uncertainties of the pandemic, perhaps as some of Copenhagen’s finest restaurateurs are finding, the moment is right for celebrating the joys of comfort food and community.