Slow Food at Noma 2.0
Noma, the four-time World’s Best Restaurant, is back in a brand new location and with a seasonal concept to it’s creative dining experience. Noma, and its founder Rene Redzepi, have created a culinary dynasty by focusing solely on ingredients from the Scandinavian region, foraging for ingredients from close to the restaurant. Meanwhile, Noma’s own permagarden is used to grow key ingredients throughout the season. This is, after all, the ultimate slow food dining experience.
The new location in Copenhagen’s Refshalvøen area, has been created on what was formerly an ammunition storage facility for the Danish military. Placed on the edge of the lake and surrounded by green, the cluster of small buildings gives the feeling that you’re no longer in the city, but have instead arrived at Noma’s own village, a space that allows the team at Noma to grow more of their own produce and of course plenty of space for Scandinavian foraging.
One year into it’s new location and already it has 2 Michelin stars under it’s belt. It came in at number 2 in the World’s Best Restaurant this year, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s surely just a matter of time before it is back up wearing the top spot crown.
This was my second vegetable season and it was every bit as spectacular as the first time. A visit to Noma goes far beyond just dinner, it’s much more a dining experience, which despite the huge collection of accolades, is far from the intimidating experience that often comes with high-end dining. From the moment you arrive, Noma's Ali Sonko, who started with Noma 16 years ago as a dishwasher before working his way up the ranks to now own a 10% stake in the business, is ready to greet you with his hugely welcoming smile. From there, once your time has arrived, you take your own walk along the garden path to reach the doors behind which magic literally happens.
The new location was imagined in it’s design as an intimate garden village. The pathway to the restaurant is lined with glass houses that contain the restaurant’s test kitchen and bakery, where people are busy preparing ingredients for the menu. The main building consists of different spaces that are clustered around the kitchen, from which chefs can oversee the kitchen as well as the guest dining rooms. Large floor to ceiling windows line the side of the dining room, giving more connection to the surrounding nature and seasons, and flooding the room with natural light. The design has a natural, Scandinavian feel, with simple wood furnishings and wild flower decorations. Guests can walk around the buildings and be shown the different areas where the food preparation takes place, and sometimes get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at some of the experiments and work that goes into making Noma’s menu so uniquely creative.
This year's menu started off with marinated flowers cleverly put together to resemble a butterfly in a glass case. Last year the first course involved searching a potted plant for a straw to taste the soup hiding inside. Both years kicking off with a creative showstopper. I won’t give too much away about the menu as the unknown is really part of what makes a dining experience at Noma so special, but some of my favourites were the chilled onion bouillon, berry soup, wild mushrooms barbecued with pine, vegetable ragout, and the chocolate at the end was just delicious.
Rene Redzepi has long been regarded as the creator of the juice pairing concept, where carefully designed blends are paired with your meal. He pioneered this almost a decade ago and it’s great to see that it has been adopted by so many other fine dining restaurants. This year’s vegetable season's flight includes 6 beverages of curated blends that perfectly complement the creativity of the dishes. Seabuckthorn / angelica, kiwi / coriander and my favourite, quince / elderflower amongst others.
Noma is so much more than just a meal. It is more about the experience, the feelings you will have from the moment you arrive until the moment you leave, and the show that the whole Noma team works so hard to put on. I’m not surprised that it stormed in at number two in this years World’s 50 Best Restaurants. And with the performance the whole team are putting on, it’s surely just a matter of time before it’s back at the top.