Well here goes. Big day in Copenhagen
To start off, I’ll tell you there were some difficulties to get through.
- Our bank account was accidentally locked – no funds for Noma
- The bank was closed (Australian time) – no funds for Noma
- Managed to scrounge cash and a secondary credit card to pay for Noma (phew)
It was a tense and worrying time.
I apparently left my black (dress) shoes in Iceland. I was not going to wear sand-shoes to the worlds best restaurant.
Jane managed to find some ‘spares’ in the apartment that fit me.
So we took a nice half hour walk to Noma in the very light mist. We knew we would want to walk home so we didn’t bother organising a taxi.
A little background on Noma. It is located is in a warehouse on the waterfront of a 200 year old trading area for (mainly) whale and dried fish from the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland. Noma is an acronym for Nordik Mad which means Nordic Food. To describe their food I it would be best explained in their ethos…
“In an an effort to shape our way of cooking, we look to our landscape and delve into our ingredients and culture, hoping to rediscover our history and shape our future”
Noma are a 2 michelin star restaurant and have been given the honour of being the “Best Restaurant in the World” the last 3 years. Why no 3rd Michelin Star? Because they don’t subscribe to the french pretentiousness that often surrounds those restaurants. But they can’t be ignored. This place is too relaxed for that. Pretentiousness, meet door. Out you go!
Upon entry we were naturally greeted at the door. The Maitre d’ instantly said, “Jane”? I guess she looks like a Jane (more to come on this near the end). We were sat down and he said, “you’re from Australia?” (more to come on this near the end).
The Maitre d’ was actually the brother of a friend of Geoff’s. He was from Adelaide (like us) and Geoff was a friend of his from his local wine bar in town. James Spreadbury. He came to Copenhagen (like many travelers do) and asked for a job as a waiter 4 years ago. This was before Noma was famous. When the position became vacant for the maitre d’, he was offered it. It’s no big deal for him other than it has given him so many opportunities. BUT… We were treated with extra care. Geoff had picked out a bottle of wine from the wine list several months ago. We had that taken from the seller and served. But prior, and as a nice gesture, we each had a complimentary glass of Champagne especially bottled for Noma without sugar added as it would normally have. Noma prefer to add ingredients themselves if they deem it necessary. We also were given another 3 glasses as our 20 course meal progressed.
I’ll head straight to the end of the meal and explain the meal below.
We moved to the lounge area of the dining room and had extra being petit fours that those not having coffee didn’t have. The waiter came up to us near the end and said that James (the Maitre d’) had organised that we had a back of house tour of the restaurant. Shortly afterward Tom (an Australian Chef) met us.
First stop was an introduction to Beau. Beau was yet another Australian chef (and was actually the Chef de partie – Head Chef). His job (and this is pretty cool for Australia) was to run the entire kitchen. Rene Redzepi (the owner/chef) was on holiday for 4 weeks. Unlike other famous chefs, he is in the kitchen almost every day.
We headed into the cold and hot kitchens (which front the kitchen so they can see the dining room and check the pace of the individual diners). And on that… The menu is divided into 2 portions. The appetizers (they call them snacks in the kitchen) are pushed out very very fast. You will be just finishing your mouthful and they will bring you out another. This is all timed perfectly by chefs in the cold/hot kitchens.
For those interested, they use induction stoves only and no gas. Gas makes the kitchen too hot. Even the hot pass (to keep food warm) is heated underneath with no heat lamps. It dries out the herbs to much.
There are only 2 very small ovens (about the size of a 600 mm domestic oven) in the entire kitchen. They are used mainly with vacuum sealed food. They actually had a couple of BBQ’s (Weber style) out the back which at least 2 of our meals were cooked. Tom did say it does get a bit cool when it’s snowing and they have to cook.
It’s interesting that as we walked through the kitchens, the chefs were thanking us. thanking Us? They just love cooking for people. Rene has taught them that everything they do is for the customer and that the customer expects the best and they deliver.
We moved upstairs to the preparation kitchen where the interns were working. Noma has about 30 interns (each getting paid NOTHING) for 3-6 months.
- Nordic Coconut – Potato with a potato consumè
- Malt Flatbread and juniper dust – (No Photo) – Reindeer antlers which had been placed in our table decoration!
- Reindeer Moss – Just like the reindeer eat. One of the tastiest dishes. Dried and fried.
- Crispy pork skin covered and black currant – Crackling!!
- Berry juice leather with pickled rose petals – the berry juice has been dried and made into a leathery strip. The pickled rose petals.. Well we’ve all had that before right?
- Cookies with rocket and stems – very tasty.
- Potato & duck liver and truffle mushroom. Crispy string potato with duck liver and truffles sprinkled on top.
- Quail egg with caramelized milk – Gently boiled in vinegar and slightly smoked. This was remarkably soft and needed to be eaten in one mouthful. Bursting full of flavour.
- Cod liver and kelp salt. Jane didn’t have this one (but did try it). Was very creamy.
- Æbleskiver and Muikku – Fish cake with sardines.
- Sorrel leaf and cricket paste – Fermented cricket inside a leaf. Yes Jane ate the whole thing!
- Leek and Cod roe – Burned leek. You open it up and you eat the centre with all the cream roe and leek. Yummmmm.
- Fresh milk curd and blueberry preserves. (no photo) – seasoned with actual ants to cut through the sweetness. why should echidnas have all the joy?
- Dehydrated scallops beech nuts, and watercress. – with the squid ink glaze, it was beautiful.
- Beets and Plums – (no photo)
- Oysters gently poached with buttermilk. West Scandinavian fjords. These oysters were very large and very flavourful. They’re between 6-8 years old! (Or they were…)
- Fried cauliflowers with pine oil and horseradish. Like mother used to make.
- Sea perch in grilled cabbage with white sauce of fish bones and white wine.
- Suveed and chargrilled wild duck breast with pears poached in quince, and beech leaves picked in spring and pickled until winter when the first snow flurry touches the steps of the Noma red carpet. With purée of kale.
- Sloe berry with brown cheese, shortbread and sloe berry sauce
- Plums and warm mashed potatoes. Plums cooked in an oven for 4 days. The plum kernels are roasted and made to cream.
- Chocolate covered potato chip with fennel and aniseed! Oh, and lightly salted.
Why is there more potato in the dessert than the mains? I think they’re on to something. They actually cook the potatoes at 72° for several hours in a vacuum bag to activate the starch and then cool it down with ice to stop it going gluey. They whip it to the consistency of cream. Only at Noma.
Oh. I mentioned that I was going to explain about how they knew Jane was Jane and that they knew we were from Australia..
The staff at Noma have 3 meetings per day.
1 before lunch, 1 before dinner (when they have their own dinner at 5pm) and 1 at the end of the day. At this meeting they will discuss every person coming into their restaurant including us, They knew they would have 3 Australians coming in, the table we were sitting and any requirements we might have. They are THAT interested. I imagine that’s why James was mainly dealing with us and not the others so much.
The dinner they have at 5pm is for every single person that works there. They have 30 (unpaid interns), about 20 paid chefs and 10 or so waiters for around 30 guests. One of the chefs will cook dinner for them and at any one time they will have up to 20 different nationalities of people,there. So they might have Indian, South American or even the odd BBQ that Tom or Beau might have cooked. The interns or ‘stagier’ or mostly on loan from other restaurants and are there for a minimum of 3 months.
Other little bits and pieces. Sometimes the waiter brings out our food, sometimes the chefs do. At Noma, everyone is treated the same. The only reason a chef will get in trouble is not if he can’t go quick enough, but if he doesn’t ask for help. A chef might deliver a plate of food and come back to the kitchen to find 2 chefs helping him at his station.
They are all involved in the design of the food and a chef will be given the job to ‘source some herbs’. This might mean he/she will go for a drive into the country just to pick a handful from the side of the road. Tom said he walks to walk from the train station and might find several herbs growing on the side of the road. He’ll pick them and if good enough, will add them to a dish.
Noma truly was a once in a lifetime experience.
Photo’s of food here.. Enjoy. (Sorry about the quality. I wasn’t about to take in my camera or use flash)