For over a decade, the name Noma has been synonymous with culinary excellence. This quaint, two-Michelin-star restaurant is situated in the Denmark capital of Copenhagen and is known for its reinvention of Nordic cuisine, earning it the revered title of ‘Best Restaurant in the World’ by Restaurant magazine four times in a row. If you’re into fine dining experiences, you can be assured that Noma is worth flying halfway around the world for.
Not all that long ago, critics and foodies alike would have scoffed at the thought of Denmark being considered a culinary destination, but that has all changed, with Noma leading the charge. Today, one in three tourists in Copenhagen travel there for the dining alone. The architect of Noma’s distinction is the owner and head chef, René Redzepi. From humble beginnings, this Danish native – along with his business partner at the time, Claus Meyer – created an establishment that receives over 100,000 reservation requests each month.
This is a restaurant that belongs at the top of every foodie’s bucket list. While getting a seat at one of their tables is no easy feat, BUCKiTDREAM has all the information you’ll need to start those plans in motion.
As one of the world’s highest regarded chefs amongst those in the know, René Redzepi has frequently been dubbed ‘Godfather of the New Nordic movement’. After deciding on a career in the culinary sector, he trained at the then newly opened Pierre-André restaurant in Copenhagen, which soon received a Michelin star. Subsequent years saw Redzepi move between numerous restaurants, honing his craft, including El Bulli in Spain and Kong Hans Kælder back in his hometown of Copenhagen.
After gathering a formidable reputation as a groundbreaking chef, in December 2002 Redzepi was contacted by Claus Meyer and together they opened Noma a year later, with Redzepi as head chef. Ever since, Redzepi has marveled every diner that has walked through his doors, often putting virtuosic flourishes on simple or traditional dishes and transforming the very landscape of Nordic dining with innovative techniques, to the delight of thousands.
In 2003, at just 25 years old, Redzepi, along with Meyer, opened Noma: a converted old warehouse on the waterfront whose name is a mash-up roughly translated to ‘Nordic food’. It was a truly ambitious project, one which ultimately succeeded due to the high quality and standards that Noma commanded. The following year, with the support of over a dozen other Scandinavian chefs, Redzepi and Meyer drafted the Nordic Cuisine Symposium – ten key points detailing the values on which New Nordic cuisine should be based – leading to the signing of the Manifesto for the New Nordic Kitchen.
Succeeding this development of the Nordic culinary revolution, early reviews displayed universal acclaim. Noma was special. In 2005 the restaurant earned its first Michelin star. The acclaim turned many heads, so much so that the Nordic Council of Ministers adopted the New Nordic Kitchen manifesto as a means to boost production and consumption of traditional food products. This, in turn, resulted in a somewhat international following, with news outlets such as The Guardian, Telegraph, Boston Globe and The Times all piling on the praise.
Since 2007, Noma has gone from being ranked fifteenth on the world’s best restaurants list, all the way to number one in 2010 – a flag it proudly flew for three years in a row and then again in 2014. Along the way, Redzepi and Meyer set up a nonprofit experimental kitchen called Nordic Food Lab, complimenting their work at Noma. Redzepi has continued this foray into furthering his reach, with the Vild Mad initiative: teaching Danish schoolchildren about food as well as the local landscape.
In 2013 Redzepi and Meyer parted ways, but Redzepi has continued to take his celebrated skills from strength to strength. Not only was Noma at the top of the best restaurants in the world list the following year, but Redzepi has taken his mouthwatering creations across the globe; opening pop-up restaurants in London, Tokyo, and Sydney. In his continued desire to provide the most cutting-edge dining experience, the Danish maestro announced that Noma is due to temporarily close at the end of 2016, reopening later in 2017 at a new location as an urban farm.
Food & Experience
The vibe you’ll get while dining may not be quite what you’re expecting. Redzepi’s focus is on a casual feel within a relaxed atmosphere, one in which the chefs even bring out the dishes themselves. The views from this renovated warehouse are as inspired as the food, gazing out over the colorful Copenhagen quayside. The interior of Noma matches the naturalistic style of cooking, with Redzepi shining a spotlight on the modest yet effective.
With the profusion of ‘locally sourced ingredient-driven’ menus, Noma’s reliance on foraged ingredients takes center stage. While the menu itself may not seem particularly extravagant upon first glance, don’t be fooled, as the food here is anything but ordinary. Upon ordering a familiar-sounding dish of radish pie, whole roasted duck or perhaps lobster, onion, and lavender, you’ll immediately notice they bear little resemblance to anything that may be deemed as ‘recognizable’ food.
While the presentation alone may amaze, it’s nothing compared to the taste. Each dish is prepared to perfection, with recipes being refined over the course of months. The palate sensations are guaranteed to stick with you long after your final bite. Unsurprisingly, all this splendor does come at a price. The tasting menu of 20 small plates will set you back almost $300 per head; if you desire to pair your meal with one of the myriad wines on offer, you can push that figure closer to $500.
It may not come as a shock to know that Noma books up extremely quickly. Reservations begin at a specific time and date, decided upon by the restaurant month-to-month. There is even a countdown clock on the reservations page. When the clock ticks down to its final second, those in line are assigned a number and requested to wait their turn – with tens of thousands of requests each month, it can be quite a wait indeed.
When your turn finally comes and you breathe a sigh of relief, you are allowed a strict 10 minutes to complete the reservation. Upon completion, you will be asked to reconfirm your reservation two weeks prior to the date of dining. If you have a change of heart, cancellation is available up to five days before your reservation date – something strongly advised, as failing to do so will result in getting charged for the entire price of the menu!
Getting There & Accommodations
For the international foodies out there, you’ll be pleased to know that Copenhagen is very tourist-friendly. Its cobbled streets, candlelit cafes and compact size make full use of a renowned public transport system. Taking a flight to Copenhagen puts you 30 minutes away from the center of the action by train. With frequent stops all around the city, hopping on and off is as easy as can be. Taxis are also prevalent too if requiring the most direct approach.
With its modest size, you’re never far away from the joys that Copenhagen has in store, being able to ride the rail, walk, or taxi anywhere in the city in relatively no time at all – and that includes Noma. Hotels are kept to as equally high standards as the restaurants, with a plethora of places to stay, even if just for the night. We’d recommend either the Absalon Hotel or the First Hotel Mayfair; with their modern and traditional styles, first-rate service, prime location, and reasonable price, they’re sure to complement your voyage into dining supremacy.
If you consider yourself a foodie, Noma is, without a doubt, a must-visit for your dream bucket list. Why not add it into your BUCKiTDREAM planner today, and don’t forget to share your experiences on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram?