Bread is the enemy. It’s a sad fact, and one that makes it particularly difficult to enjoy a sandwich. But restless innovator Andrew Kelly has discovered a way to enjoy a sanga with at least a diminished sense of guilt: smørrebrød.
“Whätbrød?” you could be forgiven for asking. Well, explains the founder of Small Batch Coffee and its flagship Auction Rooms, smørrebrød is essentially an open sandwich served on a thin slice of rye, commonly eaten by the good people of Denmark and Sweden. “Etymologically, the ‘smør’ of ‘smørrebrød’ is the same ‘smor’ you make ‘smorgasbord’ out of,” he says. “ It’s ‘smør’ as in ‘plentiful array.’”
Traditionally, smørrebrød consists of a piece of dark rye (though not the frightening pumpernickel German variety), topped with whatever the Scando-heart desires - usually pickled fish and remoulade. “It’s one of those things that’s entirely everyday, in the way tapas is back in Spain,” explains Kelly. “You don’t even have to call it something, because it’s just what we do.”
It was at last year’s Melbourne Food and Wine Festival that Kelly was turned on to the joys of smørrebrød, at an event by Adam Aamann. The Danish chef has been credited with reviving the fortunes of the workaday meal, exploiting their multipurpose nature as a delivery method for top-notch produce. “Some of his dishes had creatively used that concept and turned it on its head,” recalls Kelly. “That made me realise the versatility of the concept. And of course, the flavours were delicious and clean.”
What particularly impressed Kelly was the fact the dish is all filling, no filler. “You’re not talking about the salad roll that’s three-quarters fluffy bun, with grated carrot and lettuce,” he says. “If you have a smørrebrød that’s based around beef, you get a mouthful of beautiful rare beef.”
So enamoured of the concept was Kelly he’s decided to open up a smørrebrød joint of his own. The Small Batch team found themselves an empty site on the corner of Collins and King, and are preparing to open a smørrebrød and filter coffee-focused cafe. “The Scandinavian/Nordic thing really appeals to us as filter coffee-lovers, as there’s a massive filter coffee drinking culture there,” he says. “We wanted to pair a food that was similarly transparent, and it was really that marriage that made it all make sense.”
On the menu will be unique variations on the Danish delicacy, designed by Auction Rooms’ head chef, Boris Portnoy. Expect to see concoctions such as house-smoked salmon, sweetly-pickled celery and shiso leaf; rare roasted beef or brisket; home-made chicken and duck terrine with caper-berries; and fig and proscuitto (just to name a few). And, while it might not be everyone’s cup of hot seafood tea, the traditional pickled fish will indeed be on the menu. “The only thing that defines it as a slightly foreign cuisine is the use of pickled fish, which we’re less familiar with here,” admits Kelly. “We’ll have some, but we’re going to friendly it up a bit.”
The as-yet unnamed cafe is slated to open in early March, joining Small Batch’s already plentiful array of Melbourne cafes. Stay tuned for more details.
Check out bankofmelbourne.com.au/thekeys for more background info on Andrew Kelly’s new venture.