“Just living is not enough... One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
- Hans Christian Andersen
At heart, all revolutions are about claiming the right to live, to be, as the soul dictates. The soul is always defined by what has gone before. Any revolution can be seen as the dynamic and often epic struggle of the past to define itself in the present and in so doing control its future. That dynamism, the unravelling and retying of the threads of identity, is the motor that powers art - the drug that intoxicates and captures our senses.
Just as the Spanish culinary revolution took the time-honoured traditions and the heavenly sun-kissed natural ingredients of Iberia and passed them through the exacting filter of haute cuisine, so now the New Nordic Cuisine is applying a modern sensibility to the starkly exotic bounty found at Europe’s most northerly reaches.
El Bulli, genius alchemist Ferran Adrià’s recently closed temple of the culinary avant garde, was perhaps the apotheosis of Spain’s food revolution. There are two powerful links between El Bulli and the New Nordic cuisine. Firstly, René Redzepi, the master craftsman helming noma, the Copenhagen restaurant at the vanguard of the northern revolution, worked with Adrià at El Bulli. Secondly, whilst El Bulli came first a staggering five times in Restaurant magazine’s San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list, it was noma that deposed Adrià from top spot last year and then went onto retained its title this year.
On opening in November 23rd, 2003, noma’s stated mission was to take “the wild, the inaccessible and the saliently Nordic” ingredients of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and their associated territories, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland, using “the age-old Nordic principles of conserving foods: pickling, smoking, salting and drying”.
This two-Michelin starred restaurant since 2007 serves forty five covers for dinner and thirty five for lunch from its haven in Copenhagen’s trendy Christanshavn district - a two hundred and fifty year old warehouse that is part of a complex that once housed the Royal Greenland Trade Enterprise. From this airy, warmly minimalist, Pomeranian pine-floored space parades an exquisite array of Nordic delicacies, where the simplicity with which they are lovingly presented allows the natural-born purity of the flavours to shine through like an arctic sunrise.
Renowned sommelier Pontus Elofsson, whose work has garnered him a partnership in this extraordinary project, curates a simply peerless collection of the finest Nordic beers, wines and spirits that both complements the sensational cuisine and sets a tone that is uniquely noma.
Redzepi’s kitchen dazzles not only with exotic delights such as Icelandic skyr curd, and Greenland musk ox, but also with many common Nordic herbs and berries unused by haute cuisine, and even an ever-expanding repertoire of completely uncultivated, truly wild raw ingredients.
This precociously talented chef was born in 1977 and, having received plaudits such as “best chef outside Italy” from Identita Golose and Chef of the Year from Lo mejor de la gastronomia, honed his skills in some of the world’s most revered three Michelin-starred establishments for ten years before arriving at noma. Redzepi’s experiences at Montpellier’s Le Jardin des Sens, El Bulli, Thomas Keller´s The French Laundry in California, and Kong Hans helped to refine his vision and made the stunning quality and innovation of his work at noma second nature to him.
One of noma’s truly remarkable characteristics is the way in which the sheer natural beauty and utterly unique climate found in the Nordic region are an almost tangible presence on the plate, playing a virtuoso’s cameo in each dish. These largely coastal lands play host the furthest temperate climate from the equator, with epic dark winters followed by glorious summer days longer and more unlike those found anywhere else on earth.
This yearly journey between the extremes of light and dark provides a constant revolution in which the glorious Nordic cornucopia thrives so deliciously, and is echoed in the revolutionary manifesto written for the region’s soulfood in René Redkepi’s unmistakable hand.
- Benjamin Stewart
Address: Strandgade 93
Tel: 32 96 32 97
Photo Credit: Ditte Isager