It’s been voted the best restaurant in the world for a number of years now (apart from last year when it lost out to El Celler de Can Roca) which is quite an achievement. That’s all well and good, but I feel like I must be honest from the outset – I’m not entirely sure I liked Noma.
Let’s start with the positives; we were greeted with the warmest welcome I’ve received at any restaurant – every single chef was standing at the front desk to say hello which was a really sweet and unusual touch. The dining room was beautiful too – it felt like a very stylish hunter’s cabin. You can also see into the glass fronted kitchen which is something I love.
Only one menu was available; a 20 course tasting menu priced at 1,600 DKK (around £170). A whole load of snacks kicked things off – a ‘flower tart’ here, ‘reindeer moss’ there – even a steak tartare topped with dead ants – which was ironically the tastiest thing we ate.
A ‘mahogany clam’ which was about 100 years old, a cucumber topped with more of those dead ants, a little bowl of raspberries, a small mound of peas – all were dishes that tasted of their said ingredient but very little else. No fireworks or mmmmm’s – which seemed a little disappointing.
The smoked quail eggs were the first time I felt satisfied from a dish, as the flavour was actually enjoyable. Slices of crispy white cabbage sandwiching samphire weren’t quite so tasty – it felt a bit too healthy and they looked like fly’s wings. The ‘burnt onion and walnut oil’, which was charred to buggery on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside was good, but at the end of the day it was an onion. A lovely onion. But an onion.
‘Squid and broccoli’ was a bit chewy for me. I mistook the squid for overcooked razor clams, but the bowl made from ice that it was served in was very clever. I actually struggled to finish the next course; ‘blackberries and cherries, turbot roe and coriander flowers’ as it was so incredibly bitter.
‘Butternut squash, kelp and beech flowers’ was helped along by the giant mound of caviar – which was really lovely but without that it was just a bit of butternut squash. The ‘salad root, lemon verbena, walnut and parsley’ was a teeny bit boring. I felt like I’d dragged my mouth along the forest floor and picked up a load of leaves, resulting in a mouthful which tasted of nothing.
The egg yolk which had been poached to a thick and creamy consistency was served with some mini potatoes which were about a year old. They also tasted of nothing and could have really benefitted from some seasoning. ‘Roasted bone marrow, cabbage and nasturtium flowers’ was a weird one; we were told to make our own tacos using the ingredients. To be fair, it was really enjoyable as the blend of crisp cabbage, fatty bone marrow and bitter flowers was a well balanced one – I just wish more of the dishes had that kind of flavour.
A little wedge of squash was far too sharp and acidic – the sauce it was drenched in totally overpowered it. ‘Raspberries with double cream’ looked beautiful and tasted great – the simple blend of cream and raspberries was comforting to say the least. Our final sweet thing was ‘egg liquor’ which felt like a bit of a cop-out desert. The creamy mixture was similar to eggnog – it was pleasant I guess but not very impressive and the accompanying cherries and plums that had been coated in a sticky, bitter syrup were actually minging. To go with our coffee some little chocolate covered ceps were presented in a large tin – I liked the flavour but they were awfully chewy.
So yeah, Noma, the best restaurant in the world. Don’t get me wrong, the time and effort put into making all that food is really impressive; pretty much all of it is done in house – including the fermentation and they even have their own bee hives. But all of that seems somehow pointless if it doesn’t taste absolutely 100% delicious. I found myself longing for Simon Rogan’s food – where the balance between foraged ingredients and wonderful flavour is spot on. With Noma, I loved the experience, I loved the restaurant, I loved the staff, I just didn’t love the food.