Imagine a welcome where more than twenty five people greet you, one by one, as you enter a restaurant, the warmest of welcomes. You’re taken through any chef’s dream of a kitchen, as meticulous as can be, with the sound of “Good evening”, “Welcome”, “Hey there”, in a variety of accents from chef after chef. It’s safe to say I’ve never been welcomed so many times (especially in a two Michelin star restaurant!)
You walk through the back into a cool passage, and up windy stairs of a back entrance, to a private room with a long sharing table. You’re about to experience what will likely be the best gastronomic experience of your life thus far. This was the start of my experience, last year at Noma in Copenhagen.
As part of The Travel Link up I wanted to share with you my memories from one of the best foodie experiences in my life thus far. Given how special it was to me it’s a pretty long post, so grab a tea, put your feet up and have a read when you’re ready!
Noma is consistently recognised as one of the top restaurants in the world, and has topped the world’s 50 best restaurants list many times (though it is currently ranked at No 5). What began as a restaurant in an old warehouse in 2003 has become a movement, bringing together chefs from all over the world to create incredible gastronomic, innovative creations with influences from
Scandinavia. Using lots of vegetables, foraged ingredients and naturalistic style, with a theatrical element, it’s a truly special experience.
Here’s some of what we ate.
Fermented plum and beach roses. This was just heavenly – the flavours were tart and fruity; each bite tasted a little different and a little more more-ish! I still have no idea what beach roses are!
Apples and lemon thyme. This was fresh with lots of flavour of apple, and very herbaceous. It had a watercress base and a lovely bite with grilled lemon thyme, pine oil and garnish of lemon verbena – this tasted (in the best possible way) like the most luxurious, opulent, flavour-packed baby food, served on ice.
Oland wheat bread and virgin butter. The bread was a sourdough served wrapped tight in cloth, made with a rich starter culture started in 2009, it was served with virgin butter made with a sour cream gently whipped giving a beautiful sour taste to the butter – truly gorgeous.
Green shoots of the season with yeast marinade. The wild greens are delicious – marinated in yeast and horseradish juice, fried with brown butter and blackcurrant wood, some of which is barbecued on oak. The plate made of scallops was divine.
My other half is allergic to shellfish so his plate was a more “normal” style and not made of crustaceans!
At this point in our meal a fire alarm went off – in any other situation this would have been a disaster during a meal. It was a false alarm set of by the kitchen but gave an incredible insight to Noma. We were led outside and had the chance to speak to the chefs who were cooking on the outdoor barbecue. The aromas were incredible. When we returned we had an interim next course that was unplanned but amazing!
Crispy cabbage and herbs from the shore. These were gorgeous white cabbage leaves, filled with samphire and watercress. The cabbage leaves are blanched and dehydrated for three days, they’re also brushed with rhubarb root oil on the hour to give a beautiful crispiness, with the satisfying crunch reminiscent of bronze autumn leaves. This was my favourite of all dishes and totally unexpected, particularly special as I don’t think it was even meant to be one of the courses and instead was a reaction to the fire alarm!
Sliced raw squid and kelp.
We went on to have raw cubed squid served with braised seaweed, which is cooked for three days in mushroom broth, served in a butter sauce with ground old wheat and seaweed salt, on ice. The textures were amazing, so unusual and a beautiful flavour.
There was also delicious dish made of sea urchins, served raw with slices of fresh walnuts soaked in salted water, with freshly pressed walnut oil. This is lightly roasted then put through a nut press to intensify the flavour. I was so excited I forgot to take a photo and devoured it (bad blogger behaviour!). Ironically it was one of my favourite courses!
Monkfish liver, served on crisp sourdough
A whole roasted onion, barbecued outdoors. (Who would have thought a whole dish of onion…?!) This was really clever. They scoop out the insides of the onion so slowly it steams inside.
There it’s finished in hazelnut oil. Eating this gave me a strange sensation but I really liked the muted flavour of the onion and that it didn’t have the sharpness you’d expect.
Pumpkin, beechnuts and barley. his dish used roasted seaweed from northern Japan which is dried over 18 months. You then pour over a sauce of fermented barley and butter, which is warming and gently spiced. I absolutely loved how pretty this dish was too – so delicate looking but packed a great flavour.
Truffle flatbread.Rye flour flatbreads infused with spinach, walnut and seaweed paste were made on the barbecue and served with truffles on top – it was so unbelievably good that I have to share this photo despite the fact that it’s out of focus (sorry guys!)
Egg yolk, potatoes and nasturtium.
This epitomised the word umami in a dish!
Vegetable flower. This dish was made of whole raw garlic, baked at 60degrees for two whole months until the garlic sweetens and gets sticky – I’ve no idea how else to describe this other than that it tastes almost like aged balsamic with it’s mellow sweetness. The sticky garlic flesh is then rolled out into a sheet then cut and chilled in the shape of a leaf. It’s topped with salted
blackcurrants and lemon thyme garnish. They incorporate ants into the base with a flavour like lemongrass. It was my least favourite of the dishes, but others seemed to love it so maybe it divides you!
Roasted wild duck. This was served in two ways: the grilled breast was wrapped into cabbage and just magical. The rest of the barbecued duck was served with plum in the skin and a pine oil dipping sauce, served sharing style.
Berries and greens soaked in vinegar for one year. Yes one year! I really loved the pickle flavour of the cherries, with flavours of salt and vinegar, they were so unusual and delicious served frozen. With these were gooseberries pickled with salt and lavender and lemon verbena as well as elderflowers and blackcurrant shoots. It was at this point that one of my dining companions
had tears in her eyes and said “I just feel like I’ve eaten something amazing!” Slightly dramatic (may have been the wine pairing) but I completely understood the sentiment!
Roasted kelp ice cream and lemon thyme aromatics. The ice cream was made with roasted kelp seaweed, served on disc of apple and with apple purée made with lemon thyme and lovage. It had all the creaminess with a distinct herbiness – not that sweet but really good.
Forest flavours, chocolate and egg liqueur. The forest of chocolate was made of reindeer moss, fried and sprayed with chocolate, served with a ramekin of crème-fraiche with seaweed. Mushroom candy. Lemon verbena leaves coated with blackcurrant powder. Fondant with barley. The definition of “wonderfully weird!”
We ended the night with big smiles and cups of coffee, made of lightly roasted beans from Ethiopia which are then re-roasted further lightly in Oslo.
The whole meal was amazing from the out-of-this-world creative food, the impeccable service, wooden cutlery used for its natural textures, and the best company a girl could ask for.
René Redzepi is undoubtedly known as one of the most influential foodies in the world for a reason – this truly was the most memorable meal of my life. Noma is meant to be closing down by January 2017, to be reopened as an urban farm. I do wonder, what’s next for Redzepi? I, for one, will be watching to see what this foodie genius does next as based on this
meal, whatever he creates, is sure to be spectacular.
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Noma can be reached at:
Tel: +45 3296 3297