Freyja, the flagship restaurant in the distinctive Olderfleet building on Collins Street, opens tomorrow, unveiling a maritime look and a menu of ultra-local ingredients with the New Nordic treatment.
It means more than just using ferments and pickles, says chef Jae Bang, who was born in Seoul and comes to Melbourne from Norwegian restaurant Re-naa. Rather, seasonality, low-waste techniques and varied backgrounds of the team will determine Freyja’s menus.
In one dish, duck from Milla’s Farm in Macedonia is dry-aged for 10 days, slowly cooked over an open fire until smoked, then glazed with homemade mostarda. A mixture of poached and salt-cooked Ramarro Farm beets topped with dried lime peel and coriander seeds completes the dish.
Another plate offers cauliflower three ways: grilled florets, mashed cauliflower scraps, and a sauce made with bleach and koji. “I don’t like throwing things away,” says Bang. “If you know how to use it, you should.”
A blackcurrant oil that enhances the trevally crudo was not made with the fruits or the leaves, but with the branches pruned at the end of the season. Three team members split 100 kilograms of branches with hammers, a two-day job but using waste.
Despite these complex processes, the venue will close on Saturday and Sunday in an effort to improve work-life balance. Bang hopes other restaurants will follow suit.
“Very often the hospitality industry is presented to others as being intense in terms of work.
Hopefully the younger generation will notice these small changes and maybe they can come back [to hospitality].”
A deep blue basement can seat 65 while a brighter dining room downstairs seats 69, with generous neo-Gothic windows overlooking Collins Street. A seven-seat chef’s counter is the best place for enthusiasts. Pre- or post-dinner cocktails are a given, with sister venue Valhalla accessed through a discreet door downstairs.
Breakfast is not part of the offer, but weekday lunches will start mid-June. Think smorrebrod — open-faced sandwiches — topped with beef tartare and nasturtium, perhaps, and seasonal salads, which Bang says are more than just leafy greens, as well as heartier dishes.
Open Monday to Friday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Lunch noon-3pm from mid-June.
477 Collins Street, Melbourne, 03 8688 7141, freyjarestaurant.com