People in Copenhagen talk about ‘before Noma’ and ‘after Noma’, and it’s impossible to overestimate the effect René Redzepi and his game-changing restaurant have had on his hometown. Noma was like an earthquake shaking the city out of its dull culinary conventions, attracting people to the city, and sending out a great ripple of talented chefs, sommeliers and front-of-housers to do their own thing. This legacy started when the first post-Noma generation headed out to open their own restaurants – Christian Puglisi and Kim Rosen at Relæ, and Søren Ledet at Geranium – and it exploded after Noma first hit the top spot on the World’s Best 50 Restaurants list in 2010. Redzepi showed his peers how to tear up the rulebook and find their own voices, as well as celebrating local traditions and conditions – what he calls time and place. He talks about being true to yourself, and this is the common thread that binds Noma alumni, irrespective of whether they’re running a high-end restaurant like Torsten Vildgaard at Studio, or selling tacos from an outdoor stand in the market like former pastry chef Rosio Sanchez.
Former Noma sous chef Puglisi, who has three restaurants and a bakery to his name, says there’s no point doing what everybody else does – you have to do something special, and you have to believe in it. This insight is being applied across the food spectrum, which means there are many ways to explore and experience the Noma effect.
The hottest opening of 2015 took place not in a new restaurant but in a ten-squaremetre box set up outside the Torvehallerne food halls. With its 60-odd stalls offering anything from cookies to confit duck rolls to fresh seafood and spices, the central market was already a magnet for food lovers. Then along came Rosio Sanchez and her taqueria, Hija de Sánchez, and suddenly there were queues around the block and celebrity chefs – led by her old boss René Redzepi – lining up for a guest gig.
Subsequently voted one of 2016’s top ten young chefs, Sanchez applied everything she learnt in Noma’s test kitchen to perfecting her tacos. Because they start with the best tortilla, she makes fresh masa (dough) every day using organic corn from a small producer in Oaxaca, Mexico. The toppings vary from a traditional chicken mole made with a flurry of ingredients including a dozen chillis blended with chocolate, to Nomaesque crispy cod skins with tomato and jalapeno salsa. Guest chefs have included Spain’s Paco Mendez and Zaiyu Hasegawa from Tokyo. Redzepi is a regular, recently churning out two pork and cabbage salad tacos for 75 DKK (approximately £8) – about 1/25th the price of Noma’s tasting menu. In spring Sanchez is planning to open a second shop, this one in Kødbyen.
Wine importer Sune Rosforth has had a number of epiphanies, but the most significant was when he realised he was only drinking biodynamic and organic wines, and banished everything else from his stocks. It was a radical move back in 2000, but he persisted and was greatly assisted when restaurants such as Noma introduced wine pairings that suited their New Nordic cuisine. “Nobody would ever choose the wine I was dealing with,” says Rosforth. However these days Rosforth & Rosforth is an institution on the natural-wine scene, with former Noma sommelier Pontus Elofsson on board as a partner.
In the summer they sail a yacht full of wine from the Loire Valley to their warehouse on the water under one of Copenhagen’s busiest bridges. While supplying “joyful wine to wonderful restaurants,” is their main game, they also welcome visitors to their shop, especially on Saturdays when you might taste a couple of orange wines and a fresh fruity down-to-earth red from a producer like Rafa Bernabé from Alicante. Rosforth leads an annual wine-tasting event called Vinduo with another importer, and is also a co-owner of the wine bar Den Vandrette, near Nyhavn, for which they host winemaker dinners, celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau day, and otherwise have plenty of fun.
Christian Puglisi might have a Michelin star to his name at Relæ, but it didn’t stop him spending 18 months working out how to make mozzarella from Danish milk, and perfecting pizza dough made from a blend of Danish and Italian flour, when he opened his third restaurant, Bæst, not far from his home in Nørrebro. The mission for Bæst’s adjoining bakery was first to perfect the yeast-free sourdough bread that had been a much-loved regular coming out of his other kitchens, and then to try his hand at making pasta in-house. Mirabelle’s large rustic loaves with crunchy – almost burnt – crusts and moist doughy middles are sold by the kilo, alongside croissants that are more wholesome than classic, being made with less butter than the norm. Pastas such as spaghetti and rigatoni are made fresh every day from flour milled in-house, and are available to takeaway or eat in with daily changing sauces. Like the pizzas sold next door at Bæst, Mirabelle’s pasta dishes are heavy on local produce and light on creamy sauces. They’re also keenly priced. There’s a hatch for takeaways including coffee, and full table service inside the café, which is open all day.
This French-inspired café is the go-to lunch spot for Noma staffers on their Mondays off. Atelier September’s Frederik Bille Brahe keeps it simple with one daily vegetable dish – a soft boiled egg with crisp Jerusalem artichokes and cep mayonnaise, for example – and a couple of staples. When it comes to avocado bread, his is the best: just-ripe avocado sliced and fanned over two pieces of freshly-baked rye bread, seasoned with finely chopped chives, fresh grated lemon zest, spicy-sweet piment d’espelette (espelette pepper), sea salt and olive oil. “All the seasoning is a dedication to the avocado,” says Bille Brahe, a deep thinking, fine-dining-trained chef who wants his café to occupy the space between eating in or eating out. Brahe also stocks bottles from Anders Frederik Steen, a former Noma sommelier who now makes wine with cult French producer Jean-Marc Brignot. He called their first drop “Sweet beginning of a better end”.