So the day finally arrived that I was gallantly invited By Soren to experience eating at Noma.
If you know that you are going to eat in the world’s best restaurant, then your expectations are rather high so, you have to be careful not to be influenced too much by what you have heard or read about the place. So I decided I was going in with an open mind and to be ready for anything.
We passed the rather unattractive building several times over the years when we walked in this area of Copenhagen where the view of the Opera house is quite magnificent. From the outside, you would never guess this was the home of the world’s top food.
So at 1pm on Saturday, I was ready to enter the Walhalla of food.
The interior of the restaurant is nothing out of the ordinary in the sense that there are no lavish decorations, nor crystal chandeliers or valets with white gloves. And actually, this is a good thing rather than a bad thing.
There’s no need to be intimidated here. You feel immediately at ease and you are taken care of, without too much formality or fuss. The vintage Danish furniture and animal furs hanging over the backrest of the chairs put you in a rather nordic/caveman ambiance and that sets the tone perfectly for a nordic meal.
Compared to 2 years ago, Soren Larsen my table guest, assured me that the service and presentation had improved remarkably. Instead of having a difficult choice between bewildering and unknown ingredients, you are only offered one choice: a fixed menu. So it has all been made much easier and you just go with the flow, no need to stress about combining sea weed with bison or pine oil with verbena cream; it’s all taken care of. (for the dinner service, I think that you still have a larger choice)
For the lunch you are presented with about 20 dishes in total, some smaller, some larger, some bite-size and some considered a principal course.
Our lunch started with the surprise that our first ‘appetizer’ was already on the table, even though the table seemed empty.
Apart from a white ceramic vase with some bushes of nondescript greenery that is.
And indeed, inside this vessel, two twig shaped edible branches of flatbread with a green malt topping of juniper can be taken out from the bunch and eaten! A supreme start to a mind-boggling lunch!
We had the chance to chat a bit with the maitre. One thing we wanted to know is how they felt about not having 3 Michelin stars. Well apparently the decoration of the place has put inspectors off. Silly people! Also at Noma stars aren’t the top priority. And rightly so. The fact that they are the number 1 in the top 50 list of restaurants is something that appeals to them much more it seems. This makes it more a team effort, rather than a one man show. We also were aware of Rene Redzepi’s trip to Johannesburg the day before and were sure not to find the chef in the house, but hey presto he was! The man travels the world without missing a blink of what is happening in his restaurant. He was in South Africa for just 6 hours for a conference before he whizzed back to Copenhagen for the next service. The man is very busy!
We were served by at least 8 different nationalities all along the 3,5 hour lunch, all in impeccable English. The advantage of having 22 nationalities on hand in the Noma kitchen, is that there will (most probably) always be somebody that can speak your language (even Danish).