Rene Redzepi’s Noma ( Copenhagen, Denmark) wins The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2012 Award ( third year in a row ! )
2012 is a milestone year for the awards ceremony, organised by Restaurant magazine, as it celebrates the 10th anniversary of this much-anticipated event, presented in the company of the world’s most influential restaurateurs, finest chefs and international media.
The awards are regarded as the leading barometer of international food trends. Top placings go to restaurants at the cutting edge of kitchen experimentation.
Restaurants are ranked by a jury of food journalists, celebrated writers, industry notables and culinary experts. The restaurants are chosen because they provide much more than simply good food: from dining experience to innovation and art, it’s all part of a holistic culinary trip that makes each restaurant on the list a must try experience.
Noma is known for its unique approach to foraging the local terrain for local ingredients and its strict policy on using only Danish produce whenever possible. A rule that means the restaurant strays away from conventional cooking techniques, avoiding lemon, rice and olive oil, in its attempt to present Nordic cuisine to the world.
The philosophy has seen the restaurant grow year on year, along with Rene Redzepi, who is now known throughout the world for his culinary approach to food. Local berries, insects and wild herbs are all present on the menu with guests sampling and appreciating a real taste of Northern Europe.
Winning for another year highlights the respect for Rene and Noma in the industry – the Spanish chef Ferran Adria is the only chef to receive the award more times with five first place spots on the list for his elBulli restaurant ( which closed last year )
Rene will remain at the top for another year and with a position on the Time 100 most influential list, a Time front cover and yet another top position on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list – it will remain Noma’s time in the world of gastronomy for at least another year….
Here is the top 10 of 2012 World’s Best Restaurants
1. Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark (0)
2. El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain (0)
3. Mugaritz, San Sebastián, Spain (0)
4. D.O.M., São Paolo, Brazil (+3)
5. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy (-1)
6. Per Se, New York, US (+4)
7. Alinea, Chicago, US (-1)
8. Arzak, San Sebastián, Spain (0)
9. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London, UK (new)
10. Eleven Madison Park, New York, US (+14)
Australian Restaurants rankings
29 Quay Sydney (-3)
61 Marque Sydney (+7)
63 Attica Melbourne (-10)
76 Tetsuya’s Sydney (-18)
Here is the Full Awards Ceremony TV video ( 1hr+)
The Danish establishment hit the headlines last year when it deposed the famed elBulli from the top spot on the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. The Spanish restaurant had held the title for four years.
ElBulli was not included this year because it is closing in July.
Next on the list after Noma were two Spanish restaurants: El Celler de Can Roca, which is run by three brothers, the youngest of them only 33; and Mugaritz, which came third despite a devastating fire in 2010.
This year’s winner of the Chefs’ Choice award, which is voted for by chefs, was Massimo Bottura from Osteria Francescana in Italy.
Elite chefs from around the globe had gathered at the historic Guildhall in London for the announcement this week.
Only venues on the shortlist were invited to the awards which, despite its name, lists a top 100.
Order of Merit
1 Noma Copenhagen, Denmark, noma.dk
2 El Celler de Can Roca Girona, Spain, cellercanroca.com
3 Mugaritz San Sebastián, Spain, mugaritz.com
4 D.O.M. São Paolo, Brazil, domrestaurante.com.br
5 Osteria Francescana Modena, Italy, osteriafrancescana.it
6 Per Se New York, USA , perseny.com
7 Alinea Chicago, USA, alinea-restaurant.com
8 Arzak San Sebastián, Spain, arzak.es
9 Dinner by Heston Blumenthal London, UK, dinnerbyheston.com
10 Eleven Madison Park New York, USA, elevenmadisonpark.com
11 Steirereck Vienna, Austria steirereck.at/restaurant
12 L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël Robuchon Paris, France, joel-robuchon.net
13 The Fat Duck Bray, UK , thefatduck.co.uk
14 The Ledbury London UK. theledbury.com
15 Le Chateaubriand Paris, France,
16 L’Arpège Paris, France, alain-passard.com
17 Pierre Gagnaire Paris, France, pierre-gagnaire.com
18 L’Astrance Paris, France
19 Le Bernardin New York, USA, le-bernardin.com
20 Frantzén/Lindeberg Stockholm, Sweden, frantzen-lindeberg.com
21 Oud Sluis, Sluis, Netherlands, oudsluis.nl
22 Aqua Wolfsburg, Germany, restaurant-aqua.com
23 Vendôme Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, schlossbensberg.com
24 Mirazur Menton, France, maurocolagreco.com
25 Daniel New York, USA, danielnyc.com
26 Iggy’s Singapore, iggys.com.sg
27 Narisawa Tokyo, Japan, narisawa-yoshihiro.com
28 Nihonryori RyuGin Tokyo, Japan, nihonryorryugin.com
29 Quay Sydney, Australia, quay.com.au
30 Schloss Schauenstein Fürstenau, Switzerland, andreascaminada.com
31 Asador Etxebarri Atxondo, Spain, asadoretxebarri.com
32 Le Calandre Padua, Italy, calandre.com
33 De Librije Zwolle, Netherlands, librije.com
34 Fäviken Järpen, Sweden, favikenmagasinet.se
35 Astrid y Gastón Lima, Peru, astridygaston.com
36 Pujol Mexico City, Mexico, pujol.com.mx
37 Momofuku Ssäm Bar New York, USA, momofuku.com
38 Biko Mexico City, Mexico, biko.com.mx
39 Waku Ghin Singapore, marinabaysands.com
40 Quique Dacosta Denia, Spain, quiquedacosta.es
41 Mathias Dahlgren Stockholm, Sweden, mathiasdahlgren.com
42 Hof Van Cleve Kruishoutem, Belgium, hofvancleve.com
43 The French Laundry Yountville, USA, frenchlaundry.com
44 Amber Hong Kong, China, amberhongkong.com
45 Vila Joya Albufeira, Portugal, vilajoya.com
46 Il Canto Siena, Italy, certosadimaggiano.com
47 Bras Laguiole, France, bras.fr
48 Manresa Los Gatos, USA, manresarestaurant.com
49 Geranium Copenhagen, Denmark, geranium.dk
50 Nahm Bangkok, Thailand, metropoltan.bangkok.como.bz
51 Mani São Paolo, Brazil, manimanioca.com.br
52 Bo Innovation Hong Kong, China, boinnovation.com
53 Les Amis Singapore, lesamis.com.sg
54 Caprice Hong Kong, China, fourseasons.com/hongkong
55 Ristorante Cracco Milan, Italy, ristorantecracco.it
56 Chez Dominique Helsinki, Finland, chezdominique.fi
57 The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français Franschhoek, S.Africa, lqf.co.za
58 Coi San Francisco, USA, coirestaurant.com
59 Combal Zero Turin, Italy, combal.org
60 Varvary Moscow, Russia, anatolykomm.ru
61 Marque Sydney, Australia, marquerestaurant.com.au
62 Malabar Lima, Peru, malabar.com.pe
63 Attica Melbourne, Australia, attica.com.au
64 La Maison Troisgros Roanne, France, troisgros.fr
65 Sant Pau Barcelona, Spain, ruscalleda.com
66 Jean Georges New York, USA, jean-georges.com
67 Martín Berasategui San Sebastián, Spain, martinberasategui.com
68 Restaurant Andre Singapore, restaurantandre.com
69 Spondi Athens, Greece, spondi.gr
70 Dal Pescatore Mantua, Italy, dalpescatore.com
71 Roberta Sudbrack Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, robertasudbrack.com.br
72 La Vie Osnabrück, Germany, restaurant-lavie.de
73 Maison Pic Valence, France, pic-valence.fr
74 The Test Kitchen Cape Town, South Africa, thetestkitchen.co.za
75 Restaurant Relae Copenhagen, Denmark, restaurant-relae.dk
76 Tetsuya’s Sydney, Australia, tetsuyas.com
77 Blue Hill At Stone Barns, Westchester, USA, bluehillfarm.com
78 Guy Savoy Paris, France, guysavoy.com
79 Momofuku Ko New York, USA, momofuku.com
80 Viajante London, UK, viajante.co.uk
81 La Grenouillère Montreuil-sur-Mer, France, lagrenouillere.fr
82 Robuchon à Galera Macau, China, hotelisboa.com
83 Zuma Dubai, UAE, zumarestaurant.com
84 Bukhara New Delhi, India, starwoodhotels.com
85 Die Schwarzwaldstube Baiersbronn, Germany, traube-tonbach.de
86 Tantris Munich, Germany, tantris.de
87 Septime Paris, France, septime-charonne.fr
88 Le Gavroche London, UK, le-gavroche.co.uk
89 Piazza Duomo Alba, Italy, piazzaduomoalba.it
90 Masa New York, USA, masanyc.com
91 Landhaus Bacher Mautern, Austria, landhaus-bacher.at
92 In De Wulf Heuvelland, Belgium, indewulf.be
93 Lung King Heen Hong Kong, China, fourseasons.com/hongkong
94 Hibiscus London, UK, hibiscusrestaurant.co.uk
95 Mr And Mrs Bund Shanghai, China, mmbund.com
96 La Petite Maison Dubai, UAE, lpmdubai.ae
97 Restaurant Sat Bains Nottingham, UK, restaurantsatbains.co.uk
98 Chez Panisse Berkeley, USA, chezpanisse.com
99 Chaika Moscow, Russia, chaikacafe.ru
100 Hakkasan Mayfair London, UK, hakkasan.com
At the ceremony, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants are unveiled, culminating in the coveted award for the World’s Best Restaurant. Other highlights include the Chefs’ Choice Award, sponsored by Silestone, the Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef, and the Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by S.Pellegrino.
This year also sees the introduction of a new category: the Slow Food Award, sponsored by Highland Park whisky. The award will be presented to the restaurant within the 50 Best whose outlook and execution best reflects notions of locality, heritage, sustainability and the revival of forgotten foods.
Special Awards Categories
‘Lifetime Achievement Award’
‘The One to Watch Award’
‘World’s Best Female Chef Award’
‘Chefs’ Choice Award’
‘Highest Climber Award’
‘Slow Food Award’ – NEW for 2012
‘The Highest New Entry Award’
Lifetime Achievement Award to Thomas Keller
Thomas Keller has picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award ahead of The World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards, taking place on the 30th of April at the London’s Guildhall: the event, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, that Fine Dining Lovers will stream live: all you need to do is reserve your seat in the front row, now!
The American chef, who runs the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, California and Per Se in New York, joins greats such as Ferran Adrià and Juan Mari Arzak who have both been selected to recieve the much coveted Lifetime Achievement award: “I am extremely honoured to have been selected to receive this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants Lifetime Achievement Award”, Keller commented. “But what I am most excited about is the opportunity to celebrate this recognition with my friends and colleagues after the event! We’ve pushed the envelope and inspired each other through the years – we are all in this together.”
Keller is famous for his U.S. restaurants and has changed the menu at Per Se everyday since it opened – no mean feat and a rule that means the Per Se kitchen has served over 30,000 different dishes. In 2005 Per Se picked up its third Michelin Star, in 2007 he was chosen as the James Beard Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement winner and in 2011 Per Se was selected as the tenth best restaurant in the world on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, while The French Laundry topped the list for two years (in 2003 and 2004).
The chef has been at the top of his game for the past 10-years and this award is yet more recognition for his now long standing and highly successful career. He will pick up the title on the 30th April during the tenth Anniversary of the World’s 50 Best Awards, an event that Fine Dining Lovers will stream live.
Female chef of the Year
Last week the Spanish chef, Elena Arzak, was chosen as the Veuve Cliquot Female Chef of the year.
After Party Celebrations
‘Organised by Restaurant magazine, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list is an annual snapshot of the opinions and experiences of over 800 international restaurant industry experts. What constitutes “best” is left to the judgment of these trusted and well-travelled gourmets.
There is no pre-determined check-list of criteria; for example an interesting experience in a simple establishment, where exceptional innovation was discovered, could be judged better than a more opulent meal from a widely feted restaurant team. The results are a simple computation of votes.’
Given that this well-constructed list is based on personal experiences it can never be definitive, but we believe it is an honourable survey of current tastes and a credible indicator of the best places to eat around the globe.’
How the list is compiled
The list is created from the votes of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, an influential group of over 800 international leaders in the restaurant industry. The Academy is split into 27 separate regions around the world, and each region has its own panel of 31 members including a chairperson.
The panel in each region is made up of food critics, writers, chefs and ‘gastronomes’, each of whom casts seven votes. Members list their choices in order of preference, based on their best restaurant experiences of the previous 18 months; three restaurants on their shortlists must be from outside of their own region.
Academy Judging Panel chairs
Austria, Liechtenstein + Switzerland / Hannes Konzett
Benelux / Netherlands / Dirk de Prins
Brazil / Josimar Melo
Cental Asia / Russia / Andrey Zakharin
Central America/Mexico/ Caribbean & Bahamas / Pablo Baños
Central Asia / India / Rashmi Uday Singh
China / N&S Korea / Boris Yu
Denmark/Norway/Sweden / Lars Peder Hedberg
East Europe / Bianca Otero
France / Andrea Petrini
Germany / Thomas Ruhl
Greece/Turkey/Cyprus/Georgia / Dimitris Antonopoulos
HK/ Macau/ Taiwan / Grant Thatcher
Italy / Eleonora Cozzella
Japan/ Yumiko Inukai
Middle East & North Africa / James Brennan
NE Europe / Kenneth Nars
Ocenia/Australia/NZ / Pat Nourse
South America (exc Brazil) / Raquel Rosemberg
South East Asia: North / Mason Florence
South East Asia: South / Leisa Tyler
Southern Africa / Tamsin Snyman
Spain/Portugal / Rafael Anson
UK/Ireland / Richard Vines
USA – East / Mitchell Davis
USA – Mid and Canada / Steve Dolinsky
USA – West / S.Irene Virbila
The list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants (and the award ceremony organised to celebrate its annual unveiling) is organised and compiled by Restaurant Magazine ( None of the employees of any of the sponsors associated with the awards, including the headline one, votes or has any influence over the results.)
The list is created from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, an influential group of over 800 international leaders in the restaurant industry, each selected for their expert opinion of the international restaurant scene.
The Academy comprises 27 separate regions around the world. Each region has its own panel of 31 members including a chairperson to head it up.
The panel is made up of food critics, chefs, restaurateurs and highly regarded ‘gastronomes’ each of whom has seven votes.
Of the seven votes, at least three of which must be used to recognise restaurants outside of their region.
At least 10 panellists from each region change each year.
The results are published online as soon as they have been announced to the assembled chefs and academy members in April.
Some regions span more than one country. The decision as to how the world is divided up is left to the regional chairs and is debated and reassessed annually. The divisions are designed to fairly represent the global restaurant scene at the current time.
The main rules of voting are:
Voting is strictly confidential before the awards announcement
Panellists vote for 4 restaurants within their region and 3 outside of their region
Voters must have eaten in the restaurants they nominate in the last 18 months
Voters are not permitted to vote for restaurants they own or have an interest in
Nominations must be made for the restaurant, not for the restaurateur or the chef
Panellists submit their 7 choices in order of preference (this information is used to decide on positions in the event of a tie)
Other than this there are “no rules”.
This is what makes the S. Pellegrino World 50 Best Restaurants unique and not comparable to any other guide or ranking of restaurants.
These criteria are designed to allow our panellists to vote far and wide. They could vote for a small, unknown restaurant in a secluded region, or select the best-known restaurants in the world – it is their opinion and the experiences they have had that matters.
This method means that restaurants cannot apply to be on the list, and cannot be nominated, and no external influences (from Restaurant magazine or our sponsors) can influence the list. It also means that every restaurant in the world is eligible, unless the restaurant is closed at the time of going to print in mid April, or we receive notice that it will be closing in the near future after the results are published.
There are no criteria that a restaurant has to meet. They certainly do not have to sell a certain product. They do not need to have been open a certain number of years and they do not need to have won any other culinary accolades.
An overview of The World’s Number One Restaurants, since 2002
El Bulli, Spain (2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009)
Apartado 30, Cala Montjoi, 17480 Roses, Girona, Spain
Behind the stove: Ferran Adrià
Style of food: Cutting-edge Spanish
NB: No longer open
An extract (edited) from Restaurant magazine published April 2010:
We’d begun to wonder if it would ever happen. Would El Bulli, the world’s greatest restaurant four years on the trot and possibly the most important restaurant ever created, ever get knocked off its perch? Then we wondered no more, because chef-patron Ferran Adrià announced that he would be closing the restaurant in 2011, with a plan to reopen it within two years as a culinary ‘foundation’.
So then in 2010, the question became: could it hold out at the top of this list, not forever, but just twice more, before the curtain came down on El Bulli?
That it didn’t hold out perhaps gave a clue as to why Adrià perhaps decided on a change of direction. Not because he’s a sore loser – he had no idea of these results when he made his decision, of course – but because Adrià recognised that El Bulli, in its current form, at that time, had reached its peak. He had achieved everything he set out to do with his restaurant. Where else could he take it now? It remained at the top of its game and was an extraordinary place to dine, but for a restaurant such as El Bulli, maintaining the status quo could never be enough.
For El Bulli’s greatest invention was surprise. To dine there was to be confronted with what you least expected. It confounded your notions of eating out. It tore up the rule book of fine dining.
Tearing up the rule book just once is hard enough. But El Bulli did it year after year after year – a remarkable, not to mention exhausting, outpouring of creativity.
But El Bulli’s problem became that it became harder to pull off its act with each successive year. Even if you never got the chance to eat there, you will have heard the hype.
Such weight of expectation carried with it a considerable burden for those in charge of the restaurant. That they carried that load for so long is remarkable. That they continued to pull white rabbits out of their conjuror’s hat, and amazed and amused us for so long almost defies belief. But Adrià knew this: that the element of surprise is eroded with each passing year. And even he, culinary genius though he is, was powerless to stop it.
It was always absurdly tricky to get a table at El Bulli. Just look at the numbers: open six months of the year, with a mere 52 covers; only 8,000 places available each year; yet 2 million people tried to book.
Where else could you go and experience some 40 courses of extraordinary, thought-provoking food in a single evening? Forty unique conceits designed to make you smile, discuss, frown and sigh, created to bewilder you, amuse you and provoke you. What other restaurant could you visit where such a complicated menu is written anew every year? Forty more dishes. Forty new surprises. And what surprises they turned out to be!
Much has been written about Adrià’s cutting-edge techniques and indeed the El Bulli kitchens are state-of-the-art. But go to his workshop in Barcelona, where for six months of the year, Adrià and his team create ideas for new dishes, and you’ll see it’s no laboratory at all, just a simple kitchen with room for three or four chefs at most. Adrià hates being linked to the term ‘molecular gastronomy’ because it implies a kind of science experiment, with diners as guinea pigs. For Adrià, it’s not the science of food that drives him, it’s the psychology of eating. What Adrià wants to do is engage the mind.
If that sounds like another experiment, fear not. Behind it all is a sense of fun. And eating at El Bulli certainly was fun. The UK restaurant critic Jay Rayner described his meal at El Bulli as “the most entertaining” of his life. 2009 dishes included ‘Pond’, a layer of frozen mintiness stretched across a small dish. Sprinkled on top was mint, green tea and sugar. You cracked the ‘frozen ice’ to get at the dish. Then there was a ham and ginger canapé that toyed with your senses, the thin crispy ham tasting of ginger, the cube of ginger that was in fact ham. There were ‘Mimetic Peanuts’ that melted in your mouth – crisp, salty shells gave way to liquid peanut butter. Ceps and almonds came in a small plastic bag full of smoke.
With a great deal of charm, waiters explain what you are about to eat, how to eat it and in what order. It would be easy to feel all at sea when confronted with food the likes of which you may have never seen before, but the front-of-house team put diners completely at ease. For this, co-owner Juli Soler and his team deserved considerable praise.
And then there’s the setting. It’s hard to imagine a more charming location – a deserted bay with woodland all around. Indeed, part of the magic of El Bulli is the drive from the nearest town, Roses, a 20-minute meander over a headland, with breathtaking views of the sea.
What they blogged: “There is no other restaurant in the world that offers the kind of experience El Bulli provides. Some dishes you will love. Some will puzzle you. And some you won’t like. But the space is great – homey and brilliant at the same time. And the service is perfect. This is certainly one meal I will not forget anytime soon” chubbyhubby.net
And another thing: On the cover of Adrià’s book Food for Thought: Thought for Food, Matt Groening has depicted Adrià as a character from The Simpsons
The French Laundry, USA (2003, 2004)
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, California 94599
Behind the stove: Chef de cuisine Timothy Hollingsworth
Style of food: Contemporary American
Seasonal closures: First two weeks in January, one week in summer
Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry is one of only four restaurants to have topped the list and it remains one of the most famous and influential restaurants of the past century, thanks to its exceptional French cooking that uses grandstanding American ingredients.
Behind the stove is Timothy Hollingsworth, whose desire to cook there led him in 2001 to booking a table and bringing his CV along in the hope of convincing Keller – who himself had no formal culinary training – to take him on as an apprentice.
It worked, and finally in July 2010 Hollingsworth took over from a departing Corey Lee to reach the top position. His approach is patriotic and fastidious and the restaurant’s setting among the Napa Valley vineyards, and its abundance of rare Californian wines, means you won’t want to drive there.
The Fat Duck, UK (2005)
High Street, Bray, Berkshire SL6 2AQ, UK
Behind the stove: Head chef Johnny Lake
Style of food: Hi-tech hits of flavour wizardry
Menu options: Fourteen-course tasting menu with three levels of wine-matching lists
Standout dish: Red Cabbage Gazpacho with Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream
An extract from Restaurant Magazine, Published 2011
After a four-hour, fun-filled and utterly unique gastronomic escapade, diners depart The Fat Duck clutching a candy-striped bag of sweets. Entitled ‘Like A Kid In A Sweet Shop’, this final element in the 14-course tasting menu neatly encapsulates Heston Blumenthal’s enthusiastic but still considered approach to food.
The bag includes Coconut Baccy in a pouch and the Queen of Hearts in chocolate card form, each meticulously prepared in the nearby development kitchen. The sweets reference childhood memories and cultural history; they are innately playful and delicious.
And that’s the great thing about Blumenthal’s world-famous, but still tiny restaurant in Bray: it’s brilliant fun. Sure, guests’ sensory perceptions are challenged, their notion of possibility expanded, but never in a po-faced way. Instead, gourmand pilgrims can be witnessed smiling and laughing their way through a foodie marathon.
Much of this is down to the perfectly pitched service. Table theatre remains central to the experience: liquid nitrogen billows from the oak moss as you tuck into Jelly of Quail; a golden ‘Mad Hatter fob watch’ dissolves into a veal reduction to pour over a Mock Turtle egg; a framed map of Scotland appears with Whisk(e)y Wine Gums attached to matching distilleries. But it is all delivered with sufficient lightness so as not to patronise. What’s more, the business of serving multiple courses to 42 covers simultaneously never appears anything but smooth and relaxed.
Blumenthal, of course, has numerous other projects on the go: the estimable Hinds Head (top-end dining pub) and recently acquired The Crown (classic local pub) in Bray itself; his supermarket consultancy, and a time-sapping TV career. And then there is Dinner – his debut London restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental hotel that opened early this year to press fanfare and near-universal critical acclaim. With Blumenthal all over the telly, and right-hand-man Ashley Palmer-Watts overseeing Dinner, there was potential for The Fat Duck to slip up.
Thankfully, there is no evidence to that effect. The pair long ago entrusted the day-to-day food operation to head chef Johnny Lake, and he has refined many of the legendary dishes such as Snail Porridge and Salmon in Liquorice Gel.
“There are never wholesale changes; we adjust and refine things very slowly,” says Canadian-born Lake. “We have regular tasting sessions with Heston – it’s always been very collaborative.” Lake cites his boss’s TV work as helping prompt research and drive forward ideas – some of which eventually make it onto the menu. One newcomer, Aerated Beetroot, symbolises the restaurant’s direction: a single crisp mouthful explodes with intense beetroot flavour.
Blumenthal himself claims that The Fat Duck has never been in better shape. Anyone who experiences the beetroot hit and its fellow creative wonders will be hard-pressed to disagree.
Noma , Copenhagen (2010, 2011)
Strandgade 93, 1401 Copenhagen, Denmark
Behind the stove: René Redzepi
Style of food: Seasonal, local, cutting-edge Scandinavian
Menu options: Seven-course lunch, seven-course tasting, 12-course Noma Nassaaq menu
Standout dish: Potato and Milk Skin, Lovage and Whey
An extract from Restaurant Magazine, Published April 2011
Meticulous attention to detail. A beguiling sense of humour. A fastidious approach to service. More creativity than Lewis Carroll. An unswerving dedication to sourcing and seasonality. Food so good you’d trade in your grandmother for it. All these aspects combine to make the world’s best restaurant, and René Redzepi’s Noma has them in spades.
Here lies a crucial point. While Noma is best known for its fanatical approach to foraging, with its brigade famously up at 5am scouring the local environs for ingredients, there is much more to this ground-breaking restaurant than the mere picking of Mother Nature’s pocket. As many copycat approaches painfully illustrate, it’s what you do with it that counts, and it’s the entire package at Noma, from its ingredient ingenuity to flawless execution, that makes it a beacon of excellence.
Noma’s approach has given birth to a new phrase, ‘terroir cooking’, meaning visitors get as much a taste of its environment as of Redzepi’s immense skill. Between April and May, for example, guests can drink birch-tree sap taken from a local forest instead of water, or beer made with local wild stinging nettles. Every ingredient on the plate has a local accent, whether it be wild sorrel or sea urchins.
All this parsimony and provenance might be interpreted as worthiness, with every mouthful a sermon on locality rather than taste, were it not for Redzepi’s skill as both chef and restaurateur. The local Nordic cuisine he religiously adheres to informs the restaurant but doesn’t wholly define it, and a wicked sense of humour and unrivalled creativity are equally important components of Noma’s extraordinary success.
Take the witty approach to its starters, known as ‘snacks’. On each table sits the obligatory vase of flowers, but these ones are edible (the vase contains nasturtiums and snails). Once you’ve finished eating the table ornaments, more snacks come – possibly a cookie with lardo in a battered tin or pickled and smoked quails eggs that arrive in a porcelain egg on a bed of smoking straw.
Mains instil a visceral, almost caveman-like emotion with the diners becoming hunter-gatherers, picking their way through dishes such as Langoustine and Soil or Potato and Milk Skin with their hands or tools such as a hunting knife. Combinations are bold yet comfortingly familiar. Some, such as Pickled Vegetables in Brown Butter are beautifully simplistic, while others display true dexterity: Wild Duck with Apple comes with what look like apple seeds but are edible fried pieces of pasta dough infused with apple juice. The result is an emotive, intense, liberating way of eating, unlike any other.
Just when you think there can’t be more surprises the petits fours come, including one resembling a piece of bone marrow. It’s actually a smoked toffee moulded into a piece of bone. But then, what did you expect?