With plenty of cafes and bakeries throughout the city, it remains a huge challenge to find really good bread -- the kind with the perfect crust and texture. Nina Brondmo, a Norwegian transplant who grew up baking, opened Bakeri in 2009 to bring more top-notch bread to the Big Apple. Drawing on her upbringing in Norway, where baking to combat the cold is common place, Brondmo was driven by a simple desire: "I wanted the neighborhood to have good bread." Aside from the selection of delectable in-house baked goods, the space itself is filled with upcycled furniture that make the cozy niche cafe feel like home.
Upon entering Bakeri, customers are welcomed by staff members outfitted in blue jumpsuits and a large case filled with freshly made breads, quiches, scones and cookies. The wood and glass case that holds the beautiful baked delights came from a neighboring lingerie store that was going out of business and now, rather than panties, it offers something equally enticing.
The entire space is outfitted with an array of reused items, each with a unique past that together tell the story of Bakeri. The majority of the furniture came from Argentina– Brondmo’s husband’s home country. The big yellow lights that illuminate the front tables and the kitchen space were from a train station in Argentina, and the vintage, blue lights over the glass case were found in Pennsylvania.
A collection of wooden broom handles have found a second life as part of the lower section that supports the counter, which was sourced from a local Williamsburg marble supplier. Looking up, customers can appreciate the original, preserved tin ceiling which adds to the history of the space. A wall mural was inspired by one Brondmo first discovered in a book, the original of which is located in a bakery in Paris where she has visited.
Beyond the interior, a knack for recycling can also, on occasion, be subtly detected in the menu. “It feels good to be able to re-use things,” explained Brondmo. Not to worry- this does not mean that the breads that are sold are old. In fact, customers can rest assured that the breads and pastries that are for sale are baked the same day. However, imaginative reuses of day-old bread such as the beet, leek, butternut squash and feta bread pudding demonstrates the innovative ways Brondo and her staff have found to reduce food waste.
Everything is made on premise in a “small batch baking” style and daily production begins promptly at 4 a.m. Although Brondo has no formal culinary training, several classes at the French Culinary Institute didn’t do any harm. Additionally, a former business graduate and business partner of the local eatery Sweetwater, she has acquired the necessary skills to run her own successful venture.
The menu is simple yet reflects Brondmo’s desire to share quality, fresh food with the local neighborhood. Select items, such as the smoked salmon sandwich on brioche with a dill and caper yogurt sauce and a special sweet delight called Skolebrød cast light on her Norwegian heritage. A daily menu offers soups, quiches, salads and other specials and the food is made at the back of the restaurant, in plain view of diners. Seasonal and organic ingredients are used as much as possible and the bakery maintains a relationship with several farmers in upstate New York and on Long Island. It also supplies the bread for about five local restaurants, including of course, Brondmo and her husband’s own Sweetwater.
If you visit in the warmer months, there is a small backyard where you can enjoy your food in the open air. If that option is not available, an enclosed front terrace with two tables provides a place to be somewhat outdoors without freezing in the winter. Be sure to explore the whole venue as Brondo has made intelligent use of every spare corner. A small, unobvious nook in the back houses one table creating a very intimate, fairytale-like environment from which to secretly indulge in the many handcrafted delights on offer.
All images © Amanda Silvana Coen for Inhabitat