On the last day of September, a line wrapped around the block in Copenhagen’s well-trafficked Frederiksberg neighborhood, just slightly west of the city center. But they weren’t queueing for “Kanye shoes or iPhones,” as René Redzepi, the chef and co-owner of Noma, wrote on Instagram. They were eagerly waiting for bread at the opening day of Hart Bageri, the Redzepi-backed bakery run by Richard Hart, the former head baker from San Francisco’s famed Tartine.
“It was mental. I thought we would be busy, but not have a line spreading ’round the block further than you could imagine,” Hart says. “To be honest, I was too scared to even go and look at it.”
Although the lines no longer wrap around the corner as they did on opening day, Hart and his team have managed to sell out of everything they’ve baked early enough in the weeks since that they’ve had to adjust their hours to close earlier than they first anticipated.
View this post on Instagram People aren’t in line for Kanye shoes or iPhones - BUT FOR THE BEST GODDAMN BREAD IN TOWN. Congratulations @hartbageri we’re so happy and lucky you chose Copenhagen. A post shared by Rene Redzepi (@reneredzepinoma) on Sep 30, 2018 at 7:44am PDT
Hart, who is originally from London, baked for Tartine for seven years. But around the end of 2015, he started to realize that he was moving in a different direction from the San Francisco institution as they planned their expansion to the larger Tartine Manufactory space. He had discussed with Chad Robertson, Tartine’s cofounder, about moving to London or Paris to open a Tartine similar to the original bakery on the corner of 18th Street and Guerrero in San Francisco, but the plans never moved forward, Hart says.
Before this happened, he had traveled to Copenhagen with Robertson and ended up meeting Redzepi. When they reconnected later on in Australia during Noma’s 2016 pop-up in Sydney, Redzepi asked Hart if he knew anyone who would want to bake bread for his restaurant. Back then, nobody came to mind.
“But as time crept on, I started feeling like, ‘well maybe I could be the baker?’” Hart says.
He had also toyed with the idea of opening a small town bakery where he and his family were in Sebastopol—where they lived on a farm with a swimming pool, fruit trees, as well as chickens and pigs—but Hart wanted something more. So he moved to Copenhagen in June 2017 along with his wife and four sons, who are now 10, 8, 6, and 3 years old. “It was not an easy decision, but it was a decision necessary for my career,” Hart says. Already, his oldest two sons have picked up enough Danish to have full conversations in what has become their “secret language” from their parents. (While his wife is taking lessons, Hart says he’s been too busy with the bakery opening to learn much of the language.)
The bakery, which is located in a former smørrebrød shop, serves sourdough, rye bread, and an ever-changing collection of traditional Danish pastries. Then there are also Hart’s own creations, including a twist on a traditional Scandinavian cardamom bun filled with ham that he describes as tasting, “a bit like Christmas.”
What you won’t find at Hart Bageri is a Danish version of Tartine. While creating the menu in Copenhagen, Hart and Susannah Schoolman (another San Francisco transplant from b. Patisserie) actually scrapped recipes if they were too similar to what they had done in the past.
“We wanted to move forward rather than mimic what we’ve been doing,” Hart says.
Although they are still using the techniques they honed over the years at the San Francisco bakeries they came from, “We didn’t want to do the same as everyone else. We’re just trying to think a little differently,” Hart says. A lot of this has happened naturally, since they’re baking to please local Danish tastes. For example, Hart says he made maybe 20 loaves of Danish rye bread each day at Tartine. In Copenhagen, they can easily sell 200 loaves of rye most days. “It was like we opened a whole new genre of bread for us,” Hart says. “I have a new style to play with.”
But that’s not to say he isn’t trying to get Danes to love sourdough bread as much as he does.
“If you offer a Dane a piece of soft sourdough bread that I’ve always made or a piece of rye bread, 80 percent of them will pick rye bread,” Hart says.
But he’s trying to spread the sourdough gospel, nevertheless. In fact, he gave away 600 loaves of it to the people who lined up around the block on opening day.
“It’s not that I wanted them to convert,” Hart says. “But I felt like if they tasted it, they’d want it.”Hart Bageri
is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m>> Next: Plan Your Trip with AFAR’s Guide to Copenhagen