When in Scandinavia, it’s easy to fall in love with Nordic minimalism. The importance of nature and its closeness, the respect for simple things, and a sense of serenity radiate from the people here. Denmark, for example, has secured its place as one of the happiest countries in the world for years. Hygge—a combination of comfort, contentment, well-being, and serenity—has become a concept that has rapidly spread across the globe, leading more and more people to consciously seek out points of calmness in their lives and find ways to make the most of these moments. This article was published in print in Hype&Hyper 2021/2.
Photos by Kata Balogh
These liberating feelings are actually a lot easier to evoke than you might think. Often, all that’s needed is a calm spot, a good cup of coffee, and a fresh, crisp pastry to savor alone or in the company of friends or relatives. Places like these are essential, where we can pause for a moment, where there’s no noise, no rush, and no stress. Although it’s not impossible to find such places in Budapest, András Gerzsenyi and Alexandra Metz couldn’t find one that’s right for them.
The two of them had been friends for years, and when their families met, they thought long and hard about opening a place where they themselves would enjoy spending time together. Originally an architect, András had a background in gastronomy—he opened the popular Fekete café in Budapest—which for years has been the flagship café of specialty coffee in Budapest, and Major in Budaörs, that put itself on the map as a vibrant yet family-friendly café/bistro. Given his experience, it could have been easy to open a new place, but for a long time, the ideal opportunity didn’t come along.
It was back in 2018, at the Gourmet Festival, when nor/ma appeared, promising to be the first Nordic-style sourdough bakery in the Hungarian capital. However, even though its location was in the atmospheric tree-lined Kecskeméti Street, and everything was set and ready to go, the café failed to open. It was at this point that Alexandra and András saw the potential in the idea and, after a few trips to Copenhagen to gain experience, took over the brand. The public welcomed them with open arms. “Nor” as in “nordic” and “ma” as in “Hungarian”—the artisan bakery’s harmony is not only reflected in its name, but also in its interior and pastries, and made the Pest side shop an instant hit with residents and tourists alike.
Queues formed outside the entrance of the bakery as soon as it opened—an occurrence that still happens to this day. Though the shop itself is small, the bright, clean interior and the show kitchen display immediately stop passers-by in their tracks, not to mention the unmistakable smell of cinnamon and cardamom buns, rolls, and croissants. Nor/ma’s loaves of bread are made with natural, high-quality ingredients and, of course, sourdough, matured for a day. Their semi-brown and 100% rye flour loaves of bread, as well as their sourdough Scandinavian bread enriched with seeds, are all in demand. All of the above is also complemented by nor/ma’s new-wave, light-roast coffee from Casino Mocca, a staple familiar from Fekete café. Last year, when the pandemic situation started to get worse, their enthusiasm didn’t waver—they stayed open, baking, delivering, and providing Budapest with specialties of comfort.
It was during this period full of change, that András and Alexandra came across a call for applications for a catering unit in the new retail space on the corner of the new Millenáris Széllkapu Park (Gate of Winds). Although nor/ma’s products were available in a selection of cafés around town, not just at their Pest side bakery, they realized this new opportunity could be a great way to meet the demands of their customers on the other side of the Danube, in Buda, so they applied. Thankfully, their application won the owner’s approval, and following 11 months of preparation, professional consultations, and careful planning, nor/ma grand opened in June last year.
The team dreamed big and even managed to exceed expectations: their machinery was designed by Skill Trade Ltd., while Premium Design Ltd. helped with creating furniture for the guest area. Those who liked the atmosphere of the first bakery, but wanted a more spacious setting with extra seating, can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The café is set in a huge, airy, and bright space, with glass windows and doors that open wide in good weather, inviting passers-by in. As a result, the boundaries between indoor and outdoor have practically disappeared, and you can feel free to enjoy your breakfast or dinner on nor/ma grand’s terrace or if you feel like it, on the grassy islands of Millenáris Széllkapu Park. At nor/ma’s newest location, all phases of the creation process are visible—the bread rises before your eyes, the bakers work in the foreground, there’s only one large production area at the back. The bakery’s most popular pastries are on display behind the counter—who could say no to a sweet or savory danish or a pistachio braid folded from homemade puff pastry? Also on offer is a selection of pastries made with real sourdough, such as tarts or fruit loaves. The smørrebrød (also known as an open-faced sandwich), which is sold on an experimental basis in the Pest unit, is a regular here: always seasonal, garnished with fresh toppings, be it goat’s cheese, tomatoes, celery, or pears. Furthermore, the chefs have started to experiment with a menu that offers a light yet filling lunch with a strong focus on vegetables and fish, evoking other aspects of Scandinavian gastronomy too. The coffee is made with a rare La Marzocco coffee machine, while the food and drinks are served from unique plates from the Polish ÅOOMI STUDIO. What’s even more unusual about nor/ma grand is its opening hours: welcoming guests until 11 pm. In the evenings coffee is replaced by a wide selection of local, Austrian, Spanish, and French natural wines and craft beers from Ugar Brewery. So whether you’re arriving for work, a coffee, a chat with friends, or a date, there’s always something special to look forward to.
The Széll Kálmán Square area has been in much need of a spot like this, where besides high-quality baked goods and great coffee, you can also recharge your batteries. As the owners say, they wanted a place that would not only stand out in the city but would also fit in with the atmosphere of the district. They’re delighted to see that the local baker and sourdough culture is developing and, as pastry enthusiasts, they have respect for the bakers who are treading this path with them, believing that together they can build a community that represents a strong alliance based on value: pure ingredients, tireless craftsmanship and the simple joy of delicious flavors and peaceful places.
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