1401 Copenhagen, Denmark
When the Gourmet Belly goes travelling, the priorities are normally: eat well, do some sight seeing, get amongst the nightlife, and perhaps throw in some shopping for good measure. But on this particular trip to Copenhagen, it was purely for a reservation at Noma.
Having failed to win the El Bulli lottery last year, my fingers were much quicker on the mouse button for Noma when I heard that reservation lines would be open for bookings up to 3 months in advance. And when the email came through to confirm the booking – I think I actually squealed with excitement.
Noma, derived by two Danish words “nordisk” (Nordic) and “mad” (food), currently holds the top spot in the San Pellagrino rankings after overtaking the likes of El Bulli and The Fat Duck to be crowned, “World’s Best Restaurant”. Head chef René Redzepi, also scooped the “Chef’s Choice” award at the same awards ceremony.
Set in a former warehouse that once stored whale blubber and sea salt, the relaxed atmosphere is instantly felt upon entering the restaurant. With a semi open planned kitchen, exposed bricks, wooden beams and chairs draped with animal hide – everything in this light airy space oozes Nordic cool.
Our party were given a warm welcome by the floor staff and shown to our tables, where our food journey we had flown all the way to Copenhagen for, would begin.
To whet the appetite, we were presented with nine different amuse-bouches which not only got the belly going, but had all our senses tantalised.
These were extraordinary.
The Rye bread with lump fish roe and chicken skin impressed us. This was the perfect marriage of flavours and textures – crispy, smooth, salty, creamy and crunchy. But the starters that best summed up Redzepi’s unique use of foraging forays and molecular gastronomy, were the radishes in a terracotta pot with toasted malt disguised as soil – totally fun to eat; and the pickled and smoked quails eggs. Beautifully boiled, the egg yolk burst in my mouth with a rich smokey flavour.
The next few hours were a bit of a blur as nine main courses would follow, each brought out by a different chef or waiter with a story to tell about the origins of the produce used in their specific dish.
- Leek and sea weed
- Razor clam and horseradish buttermilk and dill
- Scallops and beech nut, Watercress and grains
- Chestnut and lojrom, cress and walnut
- Oyster and the ocean
- Onion and unripe grape juice, Thyme and tapioca
- Celeriac and Truffle
- Pickled vegetables and bone marrow
- Reindeer tongue and apple malt browned butter
Highlights were the razor clams and the crunchy chestnuts, both of which were incredibly tasty. Now I hate wasting food…and more so when it’s wasting any part of possibly the most expensive meal of my life. The watercress and grains which came with freeze dried scallops had such a pungent grassy flavour, reminding me of wheatgerm which I struggle to stomach, forcing me to leave most of this dish on my plate. Sacrilegious indeed.
The desserts were surprisingly the pièce de résistance of the entire meal. The Snowman, which was a playful presentation of yogurt snow, yogurt cream meringue and a delicious oozing of lingonberry sauce when we split the creation into two, was the clear favourite; while the smoked bone marrow caramels from the petit four selection were strangely moreish.
- Gammeldansk ice-cream, dill oil, and sorrel juice
- Walnut powder and ice cream, dried cream and dried berries
And just when I thought the experience couldn’t get any better, our lovely Australian chef Beau offered to take us for a tour around the kitchen!! *Squeal*.
At £230 per head for the 9 amuse bouche, 12 courses, petit fours, a couple of bottles of wines and service for the table, it’s difficult to say whether this was my best meal EVER, but this was definitely in my top 5. Not a cheap lunch, and not exactly a carnivore’s heaven with only one meat dish on the menu, but it’s an absolute must for any true foodie to experience at least once in your lifetime.
Gourmet Belly will be waiting with anticipation to see whether Noma manages to retain its top spot when the 2011 World Best Restaurant Awards take place in London next month. Watch this space!
Did You Know?
- Rene has a test lab complete with full kitchen facilities that floats on a converted house boat opposite the restaurant. With the aid of my perfect eyesight, I foresee some dishes with cucumber powder featuring on the menu soon.
- With 46 covers, each sitting at Noma is delivered by a talented team of 40 staff, about half of which hail from outside of Denmark, including UK’s Sam Miller (Loft Project and ex El Bulli) as sous chef.