Apologies for the radio silence, we’ve been indulging in a heady mix of public holiday travel, new Nordic cuisine and intense Danish study.
First up – all the rumours are true: Danish is an extremely difficult language. If glottal stops, soft-Ds, genders and inversions don’t break your spirit, then the simple fact that Danish people only feel the need to say about half the expected syllables will. There is an excellent documentary that really captures the elegance and beauty of our new tongue. I have taken to saying Kamelåså in all situations.
Thankfully we just garbled our way through the first module exams, despite doing most of our preparation in airports during flight delays. Being unburdened of 28 hours of Danish per week should really free up some time to catch up on our backlog of posts. Although we’ve been off in Stockholm and London, I’m going to bow to popular demand and write about Noma.
Again, the rumours are true – it is very difficult to get a booking, unless of course you are gifted with a computer error that makes it appear like there is a space. In that case, you’ll be fitted in the following week to make amends for the error. I thoroughly endorse this booking method, though I am not sure how easy it would be to replicate…
Anyway, that is how we ended up at Noma on a Tuesday night with very little advance notice. It was so much fun. We were inadvertently there in the two weeks that it’s wood sorrel season, so there was a lot of wood sorrel. Like really quite a lot. Turns out we love wood sorrel! Lucky, otherwise it would have felt like we had paid an exorbitant amount of money to eat some glorified clover…
The whole experience is very relaxed and friendly – when you arrive you are greeted by all the staff en masse, although to be honest, I found this part a bit overwhelming. There is also a good chance that René Redzepi actually took my coat at some point in all the confusion.
We were sat at the table closest to the entrance that had a clear view straight into the kitchen. The soundtrack to our meal was the call and response of the chefs, which was kind of like a periodic group cheer of ‘YEAH!’. Each dish gets brought out and explained by a different chef, and it really does seem like there are about three staff members for each person dining there.
I couldn’t bring myself to take photos of the food, but we did get given a handy list of all the crackpot things we were served:
- Rhubarb and seaweed – the rhubarb was formed into a red rose and was almost too pretty to eat. Don’t recall the seaweed; I have a feeling it was replaced by wood sorrel.
- Flatbread and ant paste (and wood sorrel) – this was shaped more like like a stick, and it was apparently made of deep fried mould. Tasted a lot like KFC. Of course it had wood sorrel sprinkled all over the top, stuck in what was apparently ‘ant paste’ (there wasn’t anything particularly ant-like about it, it was basically a white mayo). Overall five stars for the ant-slathered mould stick! Best stick I have ever eaten.
- Pickled quail egg – a tiny, perfect egg, boiled on the outside and runny in the middle. Very smokey.
- Blackcurrant berry – a blackcurrant shell around a fermented cream centre. This blew Ant’s tiny mind.
- Verbena and pine juice – reaffirming our revelation from 108 that pine is delicious and I don’t know why we don’t eat it always.
- Radish pie – this was a little pie base with a lot of delicate rolls of radish in it that apparently took an apprentice/slave an inordinate amount of time to roll. Also had some cucumber fudge in it. I was not aware you could make a delicious fudge from cucumbers, but there you go.
- Fresh green asparagus and whipped cream (and wood sorrel) – big meaty BBQ asparagus chunks and wasabi cream. In hindsight, this was probably the least strange thing we ate.
- Fresh milk curds and the first green garlic shoots – like subtly milky tofu, surprisingly moreish. I recall saying that the garlic shoots tasted like the inside of the world’s best dumpling.
- White and black currant juice with wood oil – wood oil – not just for furniture, also good for drinking.
- Cooked white asparagus with barley and elderberry leaves (and probs wood sorrel) – crunchy asparagus in a tasty, tasty broth. Highlight of this course was hearing a man at the table next to us proudly say ‘…it was white asparagus season so I was like fuck it – white asparagus for breakfast, lunch and tea!’. NO RULES, MAN, no rules. Throw off the shackles of gastronomical norms and live your best life.
- Sweet lobster, lavender and rose oil – the only way to make lobster more fancy is to also make it taste like turkish delight.
- Wood sorrel and apple juice – tasted like mowing the lawn, in a good way. Cemented our deep appreciation for wood sorrel.
- Æbleskiver – this was a little doughnut ball covered in petals and seeds foraged from flowering fruit trees. Smelled excellent, exactly like marzipan. Apparently another very labour intensive dish, with a very short season – we got lucky.
- Steamed king crab and egg yolk sauce – mmm, yolky. This was, and probably will remain, the most rich-tasting thing I have ever eaten.
- Charred ramson and scallop paste – I think they just found some leaves on the ground, poked them in the BBQ for a second and then smeared them with some nice brown goop.
- Turbot grilled on the bone with sweet shrimp – BBQ fish chunks in a broth with little leaf raviolis filled with raw prawns. For the record, raw prawn was better than the slang phrase would have you believe.
- Elderflower kombucha – better than kombucha has any right to be.
- Dessert of bitters “Gammel Dansk” – I think this was a bit like sorbet with a Jagermeistery taste, and little round milky wafers and of course a wood sorrel sauce. Fuck it, wood sorrel for breakfast, lunch and tea!
- Reindeer moss cooked in chocolate with egg liqueur – this was at the more insane end of the spectrum. Deep fried moss – a bit like eating a chocolate covered bathroom sponge? We had seen some of this moss while bushwalking a few days prior and did not feel particularly compelled to eat it… there were also some caramelised mushrooms and a luxury egg nog. I thought I wasn’t that into egg nog, but turns out I was wrong.
So there you have it, about twenty extremely fun dishes. There was nothing as out there as the live shrimp or ant-covered steak tartare, but pretty much everything was surprising and unique and best of all very, very good. Going in spring also meant that there was more fresh produce and less pickles than we were expecting. The most frustrating thing is knowing that the menu will change with the seasons, and trying to work out how to justify going back to see what they have in summer, autumn and winter…
After the meal one of the chefs will take you on a grand tour of the kitchen, outside BBQ, fermenting areas (clazzic Noma), test kitchen and private dining area. We were shown around by a very lovely and enthusiastic Brazilian chef, who also gave us a heads up on where else in Copenhagen the Noma crew recommends eating. Our eating out to-do list just expanded considerably, please come visit us so we have excuses to go places!
To top it all off, the walk home is also pretty easy to endure, especially now the days are so much longer and warmer.