THE NEW NOMA
THE WORLD’S BEST RESTAURANT IS DEAD – LONG LIVE ITS HEIR, WHERE GUESTS ARE IMMERSED IN NATURE AND THE SEASONS, BUT SHOULD FEEL COMFORTABLE ENOUGH TO GO BAREFOOT.
Copenhagen was blanketed with snow within a week of René Redzepi opening his new Noma restaurant in a series of farm-like buildings clustered at the edge of a lake on the outskirts of town. He’d built what he calls Noma 2.0 on the premise of its being in and of nature, physically and also conceptually with a menu based around what he says are the three distinct Nordic seasons. Although the restaurant is only 2km from the city centre – at the northern tip of Copenhagen’s counter-culture hub of Christiania – he had talked excitedly about being in “wild nature”. Mother Nature surpassed even his expectations with an Arctic chill that froze the lake and turned his little snow-enveloped village of wooden and brick huts into a winter wonderland.
“The days when everything is covered in snow, it’s been magic,” he says. “The other night a fox came jumping out of the grass with a duck in his mouth. It was like something out of a movie, the whole restaurant froze with forks halfway to their mouths and they’re like, ‘What happened?’”
The fox and its prey were about six months too early for Noma’s game and forest menu, the final act of a three-parter, which started with the bounty of the cold seas and will segue to vegetables in the sunny growing season. To kick off his new culinary adventure Redzepi presented an opening menu that started with a sea snail bouillon and ended some 16 courses later with a fluorescent green plankton cake. Although cooked with the same creativity and rigour, many of the dishes seem simpler than those of the game-changing original Noma. But the chef says the simplicity of a dish such as king crab steamed in seaweed is an illusion. “There’s much more in the background, we spend more hours prepping for it to come out looking as if very few things have happened.”
It’s a good analogy for Noma 2.0, where a monumental amount of effort and expense has gone into creating a restaurant so understated it could be called plain. Redzepi wanted it to feel raw, or the sort of raw you get when you bring together the best architects