Noma runs through the very veins of Copenhagen. The restaurant that introduced New Nordic has transformed and defined the city. First and foremost the Noma spirit taught chefs and diners to take pride in local Nordic ingredients and serve them austerely yet creatively to let their clean flavours shine. This often meant foraging and fermenting to prolong the season. Noma also pioneered a new, more informal and fluid approach to dining with the chef who’d prepared a particular dish bringing it to the table and explaining its DNA.
It should come as no surprise then that Noma alumni are all over Copenhagen, from the ultra high-end 108 opposite the original Noma (which is itself now Barr offering North sea cuisine) to a brilliant brand new coffee and bakery in Nørrebro (hip, multicultural neighborhood in Copenhagen) where I reveled in the deliciousness of their cinnamon sugar glazed croissant even before I learnt of the baker’s Noma connection.
Kødbyens Fiskebar was the first restaurant to open in the former meatpacking district and still has its welcoming fire pit outside. Opened by Anders Selmer, who was Noma’s restaurant manager/sommelier for the first five years, it is now the veteran among Noma alumni. Besides the fish-centric, ultra-seasonal and sustainable menu that varies daily entirely dictated by the day’s small boat catch, much of the appeal is in the impossible to recreate cool hygge.
Chef Jamie Lee is super-talented and his food is joyful. British and married to a Dane, he trained in the UK with Jason Atherton for Gordon Ramsay restaurants. Highlights on a Below the Surface sevn-course chef choice menu included a stupendous Scallop carpaccio with mild horseradish and oyster leaf, an exquisite combination; Cod roe with parsley, carrot, pickled elderflower and Jerusalem artichokes with green strawberries.
Returning to the original Noma building (a converted warehouse) was a little surreal. The shape of the dining room is so familiar and the sheepskin Nordic rug, bare oak charm remains. There’s now a four-stool chef’s counter with a view straight into the kitchen, I’d highly recommend. The Barr menu is a radically new interpretation of New Nordic encompassing the entire North Sea, created by the Head Chef Mia Christiansen: all the Nordic countries, The Netherlands, Germany, even the UK!
The small menu crosses boundaries from traditional raw herrings to a sophisticated take on fiskedeller with lamb served with a brown butter and mustard seed sauce and the finest weiner schnitzel ever, accompanied by a punchy 'salsa' of anchovy, capers and more brown butter. Besides a good wine list, strong on German Rieslings, there’s a well-thought out craft beer list created by their own on-side brew master.
Just across the harbour front from Noma, 108 is the closest, newest and most polished sibling to Noma. The chic industrial 108 with dramatic high ceilings and lighting opened whilst Noma was on its Mexico 'gap' year. The head chef is Kristian Baumann, once an apprentice of René Redzepi and a former sous-chef at Relæ – run by Noma triber/retaurateur Christian Puglisi. Only 30, Baumann foraged and fermented his way to Michelin stardom less than a year after 108’s launch.
Dishes are elegant and irreproachably seasonal: Lumpfish roe with rosehip and salt baked celeriac with hazelnuts and aged cheese and a novel doughnut with caramel and seaweed ice-cream. The adjacent Corner is open all day for some of the best coffee in town and exceptional sourdough croissants, and a small lunch and dinner menu.
Relæ & Co.
Christian Puglisi, who did time in El Bulli’s kitchens “sorting peas,” as well as sous chef at Noma, first built his solo reputation at Relæ, a small, stylish restaurant in fashionable Nørrebro where he serves beautifully considered New Nordic dishes.
Diagonally across the street, Manfred & Vin is laidback with a tiny, on-show kitchen, which produces soulful plant-based small plates packing incredible flavour. A plate of charred roscoff onions finished with tiny green strawberries, elderflower vinegar and crisp toasted buckwheat is revelatory. Bizarrrely, they also serve outstanding beef tartare. There’s a serious collection of hard to find natural wines from cult vintners with limited production.
Both Relæ and Manfreds serve exceptional sourdough from Puglisi’s Mirabelle bakery and coffee shop, which offers house-made charcuterie and pasta at lunch and supper, whilst Puglisi’s Baest specialises in exceptional sour-dough pizzas made from the same leaven.
Rene Redzepi’s obsession with Mexico is well-documented, and Rosio Sanchez, originally a sous chef at Noma, was a significant influence and pivotal at Noma, Tulum. After a stint with a tortilla street stall and a rustic cantina, she has now opened Sanchez: a homage to her roots.
Sanchez imports corn, dried chillies and spices from Mexico and makes her own masa and salsas. Sit up at the kitchen counter to see the chefs pounding the guacamole for brilliantly nuanced spiced tuna tostadas and putting the finishing touches to an octopus stew. And, you may find yourself sitting next to Rene himself.
Rene is a regular too at Amass and has been quoted as saying it is his favourite restaurant in Copenhagen. It’s the restaurant of his Californian ex-head chef Matt Orlando, who’s also worked at Per Se in New York, and his wife Julie and seems to employ mostly former Noma staff.
The organic Nordic style tasting menu draws inspiration from the restaurant’s kitchen garden: from dry aged beef with seaweed and smoked egg yolk to spring carrots, bee pollen, honeycomb and caramelised milk.