René Redzepi, co-founder and chef-patron of Noma, Copenhagen, has come a long way since Hotel and Restaurant School. His journey began with an apprenticeship at Pierre André (Copenhagen), followed by Le Jardin des Sens (Montpellier) and an influential season with Ferran Adrià at El Bulli. Noma was initiated in 2002, with doors opening 2003. By René’s own admission, it took some time for things to fall into place. 2006 saw this change and Noma entered at 33rd place in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. 2 Michelin stars were awarded 2007 and in 2010 they topped the World’s 50 Best achieving it again in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
Noma is not simply a restaurant, it’s a concept surrounding sustainability; fermenting, foraging, and using local produce in season. Offering a 3-month internship Noma has a commitment to educating and encouraging fresh talent, often selecting from this group for new chef positions. In the kitchen, harvesting on farms, outdoors with Noma’s foragers and lectures from Nordic Food Lab; interns experience everything from farm to plate. It is clear by the list of Alumni how successful this has been.
René also founded MAD, a non-profit organisation working to expand the knowledge of food. A recent partnership with Yale University is, according to René, “an opportunity to realise the potential we believe the chefs have to influence how we eat now and in the future”.
Constantly evolving, Noma as we know it will close new year’s eve 2016. New premises with a sustainable urban farm, not far from the current location, will open 2017. Meanwhile, René’s interest in Australia will see him foraging the country before a 10-week pop-up at Barangaroo (Sydney) January 2016.
Noma’s guests are treated as friends. We are warmly welcomed, chefs present all courses at the table and we end the evening with a kitchen tour. The 17-course menu may be paired with wine or juices and, as the restaurant only seats 45, a shared table reservation improves the chance of a confirmation. The Baron and I were lucky, as were our dining companions, making multiple reservations and arriving in Copenhagen with fingers and toes crossed.
Apple & Lemon Thyme Soup is served chilled
Cabbage leaves with white currants on a swoosh of parsley pureé.
Green shoots of the season on scallop marinade. Leaves are fresh, grilled or lightly salted. We’re encouraged to eat with our fingers using the leaves to mop up the marinade.
Fresh milk curd served under seasonal greens and samphire.
Not just any old grilled onion but one slowly grilled with walnut oil. Baby corn grilled with cured egg yolk. New Danish potatoes inside grilled nettle leaves, served with horseradish cream and beer.
Sea Urchin with shaved hazelnuts. Contrasting textures of hazelnut crunch and delicate, soft urchin. The most delicious sea urchin I have consumed to date.
Sliced raw squid and kelp.
Monkfish liver brined, smoked and shaved when frozen, atop wafer thin grilled sourdough.
Pumpkin and beechnuts with barley.
Vegetable Flower is the simple menu description, but it is actually black garlic leather encasing unripe gooseberries. On the underside, a paste of wood ants sparks enthusiastic conversation around the table.
Wild duck roasted over coals outside and served on hay. We’re encouraged to eat the brain, tongue, in fact, everything!
Dessert of Gammel Dansk and hazelnut oil. Gammel Dansk is a Danish bitters loosely compared to Jagermeister. As the creamy spoonful hits the tongue it simply disappears.
Forest flavours, Chocolate & Egg Liqueur. Biting through chocolate into a chewy mushroom is not something I imagined ever doing but the memory lasts and my wish is to have this home delivered.
Kitchen herbs under lights in the lab…Noma
Our compliments to the chefs for not just a great meal but for sharing what felt like their home with us. A special thanks to Nate for the tour of the kitchens, inside and out, and spending time answering our questions. Charlie and Sophia, we’re looking forward to seeing you in Sydney! And to our new friends who we enjoyed this experience with, we hope to see you soon. Noma, Copenhagen: it’s a place we love….