Noma is the most influential restaurant in the world. Chef René Redzepi has obtained a legend status among chefs. His evergrowing alumni of chefs are opening amazing new restaurants everywhere. Noma is short for Nordisk Mad, and this new Nordic restaurant in Copenhagen has been voted the no. 1 restaurant in the world four times on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. In 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. Currently, it’s rated no. 3, behind no. 2 Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy and no. 1 El Cellar de can Roca in Girona, Spain. Every year that the Michelin Guide does not award Noma the third star, there’s an outcry from a large group of people. How can a restaurant that has such a position on this planet not be a three-star restaurant?
Later on, we rode our bikes up to Jægersborggade for a glass of wine at Terroiristen, followed up by the second wine bar in that street – Antitode. Around the corner, in Stefansgade, we met up with Jon Due Roe who runs the taco truck Yuca Taco. He was closed for service, but told us he was headed to a late-night event. Our bikes brought us further east to Østerbro, for the dinner reservation at the amazing rooftop restaurant and urban farm Stedsans. Finally, we cycled the seven kilometers to catch up with Jon and Yuca Taco. What a night! You can watch my entire Snapchat story from this day if you are curious. I will also do separate posts about these places.
Now, let me get back to the Noma lunch. When we arrived at Strandgade 93 on our bikes, we were met outside by the front of house manager Katherine Bont and the restaurant manager James Spreadbury. They always do this at Noma, towards all their guests. Last time it was the head sommelier Mads Kleppe who waited for us in the door. That’s why I knew Katherine was going to be our main water of the evening this time. Lucky us! She is such a great person. When we entered the restaurant we got the famous Noma greeting. Every single person in the restaurant, chefs, and waiters, including René Redzepi himself, stops whatever they are doing to welcome each guest as they arrive. Totally unique in the restaurant world.
On this beautiful Saturday, we were fortunate enough to also have Mads Kleppe available at our table. We couldn’t decide if we wanted the wine or juice pairings, so Mads offered to give us half glasses and try a bit of both. A great idea! The juice pairings at Noma are really spectacular. Maybe the most daring combinations I’ve experienced. Some of them are quite heavy and rich, others are lighter and sweet. As for the wines, Mads is all about natural wines, and I loved the bottles he had selected. You should check out Vinstudinen’s much more detailed article on the liquid delights we enjoyed this afternoon.
My previous and first visit to Noma was in the autumn of 2014 on my 30th birthday. Obviously, it was a great evening. However, I have to say the experience was lifted quite a few levels during this lunch. This is the meal that truly made me fall in love with Noma. Can you believe that Katherine had made sure I didn’t get one single dish during this lunch that I had already tried for dinner a year ago? That’s the level of care that the Noma team has for details. Although, when I saw another table get the bone marrow taco that I remembered so fondly from my last visit, I had to ask for it. Luckily, they had some spare ingredients and were able to make it for us.
I expect many people will think that a restaurant like Noma, with the rating and reputation they have, is a very formal and strict restaurant. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I would dare to say that Noma is about as casual a restaurant as you can find. There’s no white tablecloths or silver wear anywhere to be seen. Of course, many people will naturally dress up a bit, but there is certainly no dress code. I’ve seen people in the silliest of garments. This one guy looked like he was wearing a one-piece. I guess sometimes rich people think they can dress and act however they want. Smart casual should be a minimum for any restaurant I would say. Leave your tracksuits and flip-flops at home.
What truly makes Noma such a casual and wonderful restaurant, though, are the people who work there. Again, given Noma’s amazing position in the world of cooking, you might maybe imagine the staff to be somewhat arrogant or smug about it. It’s actually the complete opposite. The waiters will talk to you like a colleague and treat you like a friend. If you have any questions they will happily answer them and might even tell you stories about the wine producers or some unique produce. If there’s an issue of some sort, they will go to extreme lengths to help you. I have the perfect story to illustrate that.
During my first visit to Noma in 2014, my father was at the table. Early in the meal, he realized he had lost his cell phone. Mads Kleppe noticed there was a disturbance at the table, which stole attention from the meal. He asked us what had happened and where we had been previously. Then he ordered us to please try to enjoy our meal to the fullest while he looked into the case. Ten minutes later we had almost forgotten all about it when Mads casually strolled past the table and placed my dad’s phone next to him without a word and walked away. Of course, Mads had called the wine bar Ved Stranden 10 from whence we came, asked them which taxi company they used, called the taxi company and got hold of the driver. We never saw the bill of the return taxi trip either. Simply amazing service.
Meanwhile, back to the future of 2015, Linn and I were enjoying our meal when a bee decided to land on my dish. We called our waiter over, mainly to ask if this was a replacement of the ant dish they used to have on the menu. Katherine checked outside and found that the Noma garden bees were acting up. Something was disturbing them, possibly their queen. The restaurant manager James ran along to find a container for the bee. However, before he could return, and to my surprise, Linn caught the bee with her hands! She carried it outside and let it go, and when she came back she told me that she is allergic, but it would never sting her…
When Noma returns from Australia they will open for service again in May. You may have read about the 108 at Noma pop-up that is taking place in their venue while they are gone. By the end of the year 2016, the adventure in Strandgade 93 comes to an end. Noma is closing! They will reopen, most likely in the summer of 2017, in an amazing new location. It’s located just 1 kilometer further out on Refshaløen. Closer to restaurant Amass. Currently, it’s an abandoned building, all covered in graffiti, and only inhabited by empty beer bottles and the odd hobo. I was there to see it with my own eyes. I’m sure it will be a great place once it’s finished. Redzepi has revealed that he wants to build an urban farm out there.
Have you ever been to Noma? Please share in a comment below, or if you will try to get a table before they close in 2016.