{03/10/2012}   Noma, Copenhagen: desserts and coffee

All sweet things at Noma were innovative, creative, beautifully presented and unusual.  But they went from absolutely foul to okay and, while I could eat most of them again, there were a few that I would avoid at all costs.  This is a shame as I love desserts, but I can at least appreciate that I was fascinated to try them all and it was all part of the amazing food experience of Noma.

It was just prior to the dessert course that I asked about the non-alcoholic juice flight.  The very helpful lady I spoke to explained what some of the juices were, including celeriac.  They sounded interesting and I would like to try the non-alcoholic option if I am ever fortunate enough to go to Noma again.  However, when she said that there was a pear and lemon verbena juice that accompanied the first dessert, I asked if it would be possible to try a bit.  She gave me a glass, so for the first dessert I had a glass of wine and a glass of the juice.  The juice was the highlight of this course.

The first dessert, which was served with what I have counted as the second dessert but which the menu suggests was one dish, was “Blueberries and ants”, though it was described to us as an ant insertion with nasturtium leaves and thyme.  I cannot possibly convey to you how utterly revolting I found this.  As I said before, I do like nasturtium but it is very strong tasting, kind of bitter and sour.  I didn’t choose to examine the ant paste which held the baby leaf sandwich together, for it was altogether too much for me to see ant paste on my friend’s teeth and tongue after she’d eaten it!  I am  not sure whether there were blueberries amidst the ant paste.  Either way, it was bitter, sour … ugh, horrible.  Fortunately there were only two leaf and ant sandwiches.  I did eat both, but only because I was adamant I would eat everything, despite by this stage being very, very full.  My friend did not enjoy this dish either.  In fact, it was so horrible, I am grimacing as I write about it and as I went to eat the second ant paste sandwich, I reacted as if I was about to consume horrible medicine.  It was, however, an experience and, you may be surprised, one which I am glad I went through.  I shan’t, however, be leaving sugary trails into my kitchen to lure ants in so I can add them to my puddings.  I should also add, as you can see from the photograph, it was beautifully presented amidst heather, moss, pine cones and wood; ant territory.

You can just see at the top of the ant food photo that there are two wine glasses.  The one on the left is the wine and on the right is the beautiful pear and lemon verbena juice.  Unlike normal pear juice, which can be a little too viscous, this was chilled, not at all grainy, fresh and delightful.  I just wish that had been the pudding!

I think part of the ant dessert was the blueberry ice cream in a lovely crunchy sandwich (quite a sandwich theme!).  It was blueberry and juniper ice cream plus fermented mushrooms.  I can appreciate that the mushroom element linked it to the previous course, a savoury course.  However, as with the sweetbread course, I got cheese sweats again.  I’m not sure if it was just from the ants, just from the ice cream or both together, but I hadn’t expected that at all.  The ice cream sounded lovely, indeed I would have ordered it.  But it was quite tart and possibly I was still reeling from the horror of the ant dish.  I do not believe there was much if any sugar added.  The crunchy cone-like bit was lovely.  It was all right overall.  I wouldn’t order it again and I would only eat it again if no one else wanted it.  The colour of the ice cream was striking and I love the idea, I just didn’t particularly enjoy the taste.  My friend liked it.

The second dessert, though I kind of counted the above two as one, is on the menu as “Pear tree”.  I guess it is in the sense that it is a piece of delicious caramelised pear with a pine creation.  This was the highlight, and indeed I would happily order and eat this again.  It looked beautiful.  It was caramelised pear with juniper and pine parfait.  I think that’s what we were told, but we really were quite tipsy by this point (not raucous and we didn’t embarrass ourselves, I hasten to add!).  I would have been happy just eating more of the pear, it was like a pear ball with a beautiful, delicate caramelised flavour.  Lovely.  The foam-looking part of the dish was most unexpected.  I thought it would have the texture of soft white bread.  Not at all.  You know if you have a tub of ice cream that is kept out of the freezer for too long so some of it melts.  When you re-freeze the tub, what was previously melted has a slightly less melty texture, almost chewy?  Hold that thought.  The pine taste of that wedge of wonder was delicious.  But when you put your fork through it to cut a bit off,  it all sort of shrunk.  When you put it in your mouth, instead of having something of substance to bite on, the green foam just melted in a damp puff.  Amazing.  You were then left with a bit of ever so slightly re-frozen ice cream textured piney loveliness.  I thought it was a really unusual and very tasty pudding.  It was my favourite sweet thing by a long shot and I would happily eat it again.  I think I sounded a bit down on desserts as a whole because of the previous plates, but that dish was very tasty, but really small by the time the wedge deflated!  But, hey, I’m not complaining about portion sizes because we were both a lot more rotund when we left Noma than when we entered!

That was officially the end of our meal.  But there was no way I wasn’t going to have coffee, especially as I’d seen that sweet treats accompanied coffee orders!

We had our coffee in a lounge area.  The presentation was lovely, staff faultless and it was a relaxing and enjoyable end to a delightful, long food and wine filled afternoon.  The coffee option was black coffee or with milk, served in dark stone cups and saucers.  We also had two tins to open and a package to unwrap.  In the tin on the left were chocolate coated crisps.  In the grey tin were two chocolate coated soft meringues (based on traditional Danish sweets) and in the package, brace yourself, was caramel that had been cooked with bone marrow and bone and was served in bone.  So we had bone marrow salted caramel!  The coffee was good and the novelty factor immense.

Now, I have had chocolate coated crisps before and I loved them.  The ones I’d had were salted, ridged crisps with chocolate lightly painted on.  These were more about a thicker layer of chocolate.  The chocolate was good but they weren’t as good as the ones I’d had before from my friend Kaori in Japan.  But they were good.  The meringue domes were also good, with lovely solid chocolate, but I would have preferred the centre to be more mallowy, a bit sweeter, as the chocolate was quite dark.    They were still good though but I wouldn’t be bothered to eat them again.  Now the caramel.  This ticks two boxes for me, salted caramel and bone marrow.  I never thought I’d try both of them together though!  My friend really enjoyed these.  I ate all mine but I didn’t like the fact there was intense caramel sweetness versus very distinct salty bone marrow.  They were too extreme, something very savoury with equal footing to something very sweet.  One minute I was tasting bone marrow, then sweet caramel.  It confused my taste buds perhaps.  I struggled a bit with that and wouldn’t eat it again.  However, as with the desserts, I’m glad I had them, I enjoyed the unexpectedness of it all and loved the tins and packaging.

So that brings me to the end of my Noma posts.  Best restaurant in the world?  No way.  There are millions of restaurants out there, I will never be able to eat in enough of them to say one is the best in the world.  Neither do I believe anyone can do that.  Best posh restaurant in the world?  Quite possible.  Most delicious food I’ve ever eaten?  Some dishes, yes.  Some dishes, however, were among the worst I’ve eaten out, though not because of poor quality ingredients.  Or did I get a bad ant?!  Would I go again?  Given the chance, I would leap at it.  But it’s an occasion, a very special occasion, place and I wouldn’t want to go there regularly, or even yearly, because part of its joy is how different the tastes and textures are to what I am familiar with.  For me, it was the ultimate treat and such treats should only be enjoyed sporadically for them always to be magic.  Did I enjoy it?  I loved every single second of the three and three quarter hours I was there.  And, yes, that was partly because I was with a great friend, but also because it’s a magical, fascinating, unexpected, innovative and daring place to eat.  I have never spoken or enthused about a meal so much before, during and after the event.  What made it so special?  A combination of the food, the ambiance, the staff and the presentation, but also this is a restaurant and eating experience for anyone, including me, who is fascinated by the concept of foraging, of eating new ingredients, sometimes cooked in unfamiliar ways, and who has taste buds that thrive on variety, intrigue and shock!  As for the cost, I was truly lucky and spoilt to have a friend who gave me all my remaining birthday and Christmas presents rolled into one, so thank you to my lovely friend and Noma companion, Nana.  However, I do have a rough idea how much it cost and, though it pains and surprises me to say this, yes I would happily pay for the experience again in about three years’ time!  Anyone want to start saving and join me?


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