Diners competing to sample the comeback menu of one the world’s greatest restaurants have been warned that it may feature ingredients such as fish eyes and cod sperm. DAVID CHARTER looks ahead.
Noma in Copenhagen was named best in the world four times by Restaurant magazine for its modern treatment of local and foraged ingredients. It closed its doors last year for a move to a refurbished former naval depot.
Before reopening on 5th February René Redzepi, chef and co-owner, spend months travelling around the Nordic region to find more delicacies. Noma will run three fixed menus through the year based on seafood in winter and spring, vegetarian in summer and game in the autumn.
“It was time to change, not just the physical address but shedding off the old routine, moving into something new, building a small urban farm,” said Mr Redzepi. “We are finding all these seaweeds and crustaceans and fish that we have never seen before, from weird plants to shells to the eyeball of a fish.” He has yet to decide on the exact menu but it could feature a new way of preparing sea cucumber and cod. “Cod is like a king of fish: the inside of it, the face of it, the swim bladder, the stomach, the roe, the sperm,” he said. “We have been working with all of this.”
“It was time to change, not just the physical address but shedding off the old routine, moving into something new, building a small urban farm,’ said Mr Redzepi. “We are finding all these seaweeds and crustaceans and fish that we have never seen before.”
The first ten weeks of lunches and dinners sold out in hours. Reservations for the net batch of tables opens at 4pm on Thursday. The price of a meal has risen from 2,000 to 2,250 DKK (£269) although four seats at each sitting are kept for students paying 1,000 DKK (£119). When Redzepi opened a ten-week pop-up restaurant in Tokyo in 2015 there was a waiting list of 62,000 and in 2016 in Sydney a similar venture had a waiting list of 27,000. Redzepi said that the accolades, including two Michelin stars, had disappeared with the old building and he was determined to start again. “Routine can be comforting, but it is also a killer for your creativity,” he said. The new premises have seven rooms for forty diners plus a private room for eight to ten guests. Redzepi explains that the restaurant had to open on time because of the cash flow needed to employ eighty staff including Nadine, his wife. They met while she was a waitress at the restaurant and she is now the bookings manager.
“The more popular the restaurant became, the stranger the calls. People would say they’d get fired if they couldn’t have a table for their boss,” she told the Sunday Times. “Someone send gold nuggets once, saying: ‘There’s more where this comes from.’ We had someone famous call up asking: ‘Don’t you save tables for important people?’ No we don’t: there are twelve tables and they go to whoever gets through first.”
On the Noma website Redzepi writes that: “Our opening menu will celebrate Scandinavian seafood, which is at its absolute best during the cold winter months.”
DAVID CHARTER is the Times‘ correspondent in Berlin.
Noma reopens on 15th February, with bookings for the autumn available online now.