Just returned from a few action-packed days in Copenhagen, still a super exciting food town.
I’d been invited to join a friend’s table at NOMA, René Redzepi’s internationally acknowledged restaurant in the midst of a garden overlooking the famous Copenhagen incinerator and ski slope. It’s been awarded the best restaurant in the world for 3 years in a row in the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards.
Having achieved all possible accolades, René has decided to follow in the footsteps of Ferran Adrià of El Bulli in Spain so this will be the last season of NOMA.
He’s working on a new project yet to be revealed. The whole NOMA experience is unforgettable from the moment you are welcomed on arrival. One walks up the beautiful borders of swaying grasses and perennials interspersed with fresh herbs to the restaurant. The planting plan was designed by Piet Oudolf who created the garden on the Highline in Manhattan. The food is creative, complex and delicious.
René and his team greeted us warmly with a glass of sparking fizz,
Fifteen memorable vegetarian courses followed – I would have no idea how to create any of the complex multi-ingredient dishes with up to 5 or 6 people working on each course. Many are willing interns anxious to learn in this famous kitchen. The name NOMA on your CV, certainly opens doors but nowadays questions are frequently being asked about the future of this practice.
Some of the produce and fresh herbs come from the gardens and the glasshouse beside the kitchens and the fermentation and pickles are a revelation. But Copenhagen is not just about NOMA, the restaurant that is credited with starting the Nordic food revolution and transforming Copenhagen into the culinary capital of the world.
During the pandemic, NOMA opened Popl, a NOMA burger joint selling fat, juicy burgers made from organic grass-fed beef. It too is a huge success but I particularly love the little cafés cum bakeries, wine bars and cocktail bars all of which serve a selection of delicious small plates. In the few days we were there we tried as many as possible.
Lille Bakery in Refshaleøen is in an old industrial area in a non-auspicious part of town. It was started in 2018 on a shoestring by Jesper, Mia and Sara who met at 108, the Michelin-starred restaurant of René Redzepi.
Tables are a mixture of junk shop finds and timber cable reels but the sourdough bread, flaky croissants, cardamom buns, sausage rolls and baked goods are exceptionally delicious. I was thrilled to find that one of our past students, James Lang who learned to bake his first loaf of sourdough in our Bread Shed here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School was one of the bakers in this tiny but exceptional bakery.
I also loved their typical Danish breakfast, a ham and cheese sourdough sandwich slathered generously with butter and I’m still dreaming about the soft, puffy Berliner, a doughnut with no central hole in the centre filled with a rhubarb cream and topped with a little smidgeon of meringue.
Alice Café is another hidden gem in Markmandsgade 1. It too has a short menu of very good things and some say the best hand-crafted ice-cream in Copenhagen. The notice board on the wall told us the time when the sourdough buns, flaky croissants, tebirkes (poppy seed pastries), cardamom twist and teboller (buttermilk buns) would be coming out of the oven.
Apart from really sensational bread, each has their own specialities and devotees. We also visited the Hart Bageri owned by Richard Hart, originally Chad Robertson partner at Tartine (in California) and later head baker at NOMA. His bread is legendary and he too had his specialities – a burnt basque cheesecake plus cardamom croissants and spandauer – a black sesame cookie to die for!
And then there was Atelier September, one of my favourite breakfastplaces in Copenhagen.
Grapefruit with mint, Kyoto style. Yogurt with granola and zucchini jam, Comte cheese with rye bread and butter.
And yet another gem, Hahnemann’s Køøken in Østerbro. When I arrived Trine Hahnemann was teaching a French group from Brittany how to make a selection of Danish smorgasbord
She showed me around her café, bakery and truly sensational selection of baked goods – cakes, pastries and breads, all made from 100% organic ingredients.
It was also wonderful to get a chance to visit my dear friend Camilla Plum at her beautiful home.