Nordic Cuisine is nowadays almost synonymous with Noma, the much-celebrated ‘best restaurant in the world’. Little surprise, perhaps, as the co-architects of the ‘New Nordic Kitchen’ movement, Claus Meyer and Rene Redzepi, had opened the famous Copenhagen restaurant only a year before they gathered many of the regions greatest chefs together to encourage a new focus on Nordic culinary traditions
Although the resulting “Manifesto for the New Nordic Kitchen” is expressed as a series of specific aims, in its heart it is a shared set of values. It feels very much like a call to arms for a return to traditional sensibilities of people looking out of their window before gathering and cooking whatever is local and seasonal to them.
The Manifesto states that:
As Nordic chefs we find that the time has now come for us to create a New Nordic Kitchen, which in virtue of its good taste and special character compares favourably with the standard of the greatest kitchens of the world:
The aims of the New Nordic Kitchen are:
1) To express the purity, freshness, simplicity and ethics we wish to associate to our region.
2) To reflect the changes of the seasons in the meal we make.
3) To base our cooking on ingredients and produce whose characteristics are particularly in our climates, landscapes and waters.
4) To combine the demand for good taste with modern knowledge of health and well-being.
5) To promote Nordic products and the variety of Nordic producers – and to spread the word about their underlying cultures.
6) To promote animal welfare and a sound production process in our seas, on our farmland and in the wild.
7) To develop potentially new applications of traditional Nordic food products.
8) To combine the best in Nordic cookery and culinary traditions with impulses from abroad.
9) To combine local self-sufficiency with regional sharing of high-quality products.
10) To join forces with consumer representatives, other cooking craftsmen, agriculture, fishing, food, retail and wholesales industries, researchers, teachers, politicians and authorities on this project for the benefit and advantage of everyone in the Nordic countries.
Hans Välimäki (Finland) Leif Sørensen (Færøerne) Mathias Dahlgren (Sweden) Roger Malmin (Norway) René Redzepi (Denmark) Rune Collin (Greenland) Erwin Lauterbach (Denmark) Eyvind Hellstrøm (Norway) Fredrik Sigurdsson (Iceland) Gunndur Fossdal (Færøerne) Hákan Örvarsson (Iceland) Michael Björklund (Åland)
Implicit in the undertakings of this movement, is the requirement to explore what the land has to offer. A new appetite for foraged ingredients has gripped restauranteurs and domestic chefs alike. And seeking out seasonal bounty is not limited to Scandinavia and those inspired by the Meyer/Redzepi call to arms.
The team at The Ethicurean in Somerset – visited and reviewed by the author, much to the chagrin of Mrs Deli who is VERY keen to explore its menu) – includes Matthew Pennington, who acts as their ‘forager in chief’.
In Copenhagen, little more than a grasshopper’s leap from Noma, the Nordic Food Lab seeks out new ingredients, conducting “obscure culinary experiments” in the spirit of the Nordic Kitchen Manifesto. As Patrick Kingsley wrote in his book ‘How to be Danish‘:
… after some minutes, (he) takes the fried mould from the frying pan and places it on a plate. From a box, he plucks a large, dead insect, and pops it on top – fried barley mould, served with grasshopper.
“Breakfast” he says, and hands it to me. It’s no ordinary breakfast, but then this is no ordinary kitchen.
Interns at the Nordic Food Lab don’t just take the inspiration of this culinary experimentation and apply it back into Nordic kitchens. Nurdin Topham, a protege of Raymond Blanc, experienced both the kitchens of Noma and the Food Lab in 2013. His Hong Kong restaurant ‘Nur’ includes in its Vision both science and seasonality, which align perfectly with the Nordic Kitchen mentality.
How then to celebrate the ethos, flavours and seasonality of the ‘New Nordic Kitchen’ in person?
Whilst Noma, has been the globally-recognised face of the Nordic Kitchen movement, it is nigh on impossible to book. There are, nevertheless, several alternatives to its well-earned exclusivity. Some of them feature chefs who learned their trade alongside Rene Redzepi (the Head Chef at Noma); others are Claus Meyer-backed. Some just offer their own take on the Manifesto … of course, several have moved beyond the aspirations of New Nordic to take their own culinary journey, in some cases returning to classic influences.
But what is clear (from my own dining experiences in Copenhagen) is that Claus Meyer has opened up culinary minds and reintroduced a creativity to kitchens that was lost through the 1890s when the growing success of cooperative farming had a correspondingly negative effect on the diversity of products within rural communities.
So, here are a few ideas for restaurants to try next time you are in Copenhagen … some personal favourites from the Danish food scene to make your mouths water!
5 COPENHAGEN RESTAURANTS WITH NEW NORDIC CREDENTIALS
The Claus Meyer stable includes Radio. Equally good for lunch and dinner, this is a restaurant where the service is delivered by team members who relish the tastes and ingredients. The menu descriptions of the dishes in the five or three course choices are deceptively simple; the flavours are subtle, surprising, superlative.
As much as Radio focuses on the seasonality of Danish ingredients, Kiin Kiin sources its produce locally to deliver a simply stunning Nordic/Thai fusion. The experience at the only Michelin-starred Thai restaurant outside Thailand is a sensory overload; it is pure food theatre, all the diner’s senses heightened, then tipped over the edge by the flavour assault.
The constellation of Michelin stars at your fingertips in Copenhagen is illuminated further by the imagination and style of Kokkeriet. The finest service, encyclopaedic knowledge of wines and flavours displayed at every turn, this restaurant offers an eating experience that will leave your taste buds dancing.
There is no better description than the paradoxical one they offer themselves:
Kokkeriet is modern and old fashioned, innovative and traditional, decadent and minimalistic, pretentious as well as humble
The Copenhagen meatpacking district is home to two outstanding restaurants to add to the discerning foodie’s list of ‘must visit’ eateries.
Gorilla and Kodbyens Fiskebar both thrive on the buzzing, crowded, hip and happening atmosphere of this up-and-coming area. As its name suggests, the fiske (fish) bar is all about the harvest of the seas … simple cooking and crisp fresh dressings allow the exquisite seafood to speak for itself. In Barcelona, Gorilla would be a top end tapas bar … dive into the tasters and relish the inventiveness.