I hadn’t liked Copenhagen the first time I went and wasn’t expecting to particularly care for it 19 years later, but I had thought there was potential.  As it happens, I really, really enjoyed it and hope to go back again soon!  I went back to a few places I knew I’d visited previously, namely The Little Mermaid (still disappointing but at least not covered in graffiti this time), Nyhavn (far more touristy and over-priced than I’d remembered) and Hans Christian Andersen’s statue opposite Tivoli Gardens.  All those places were just touristy.  This time, however, we explored and walked around a lot.  We found some amazing places, ate some fantastic food (not including Noma as I’ve already devoted three posts to it!) and enjoyed using buses, water buses and a few Metro trips.  It’s a great city whose charm lies outside the tourist areas and chain-heavy shopping centre.

Thanks to another friend who mentioned a good cafe with a world champion barista, I Googled it and found a cafe that proudly boasted such a barista.  It was called The Coffee Collective and was on Jægersborggade, in the area of Nørrebro, a street with no places of interest on it according to my Rough Guide.  In need of good coffee on our first full day in Copenhagen, we headed there by bus, bus and foot via Hans Christian Andersen’s grave, in a beautiful, large, tree-filled graveyard.  Jægersborggade was at the other end of the graveyard and was at first glance an uninspiring, quiet street.  There were not many shops on the street and all of them were small but on that short street was one fantastic cafe, an amazing bakery, a magnificent toffee/caramel maker and some nice looking cafes and eateries.  We went to that street twice.  The bakery, Meyers Bageri, is opposite Coffee Collective.  They bake on site and only serve a small range of pastries and breads, those of which we tried being exceptional.  A very special mention should go to the carrot cake.  It is without doubt the best carrot cake I have ever eaten, and that is a very well researched claim.  Carrot cake perfection.  As for the caramel shop, Karamelleriet, we were given liquorice caramel hot off the press.  Seriously, warm toffee caramel.  A delight and a joy.  We bought quite a lot of toffee caramel: cream caramel, peppermint, liquorice caramel, sea buckthorn, chocolate, cinnamon, salted liquorice caramel … quite hugely delicious!  The coffee was amazing and well worth going out of our way for.  Twice.  That is one of my all time favourite food and drink streets.

We had lunch at Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus, another great find.  I expected mediocre bar food, in part because it’s clearly a clubby bar by night, ie not known for its food, but we both ended up with really, really fresh, prepared to order food which was reasonably priced.   Portions were generous, the staff were friendly and my friend ordered crab which was fresh that afternoon.

That evening, we were meeting an old friend of my friend’s at a Vietnamese restaurant, LêLê nhà hàng, Vesterbrogade 40.  I would never have eaten Vietnamese food while in Copenhagen had it not been for his suggestion of our meeting there.  I know I may sound excessive with all my new-found Copenhagen loving, but, seriously, the food was delightful, fresh and it was a busy restaurant.  The three of us shared a selection of dumplings, cooked in different ways and with different fillings and dips.  They were all lovely.  For mains, my beef and papaya salad with coconut sticky rice was exceptional, especially the coconut sticky rice, served looking like a potato croquet.  Fantastic food and a reassuringly small menu choice (though a huge wine and drink menu!).  I hope to eat there on every subsequent trip to Copenhagen.

All food we ate was very good, including the meals we cooked ourselves on our fabulous house boat.  Another interesting meal out was inside a wing of a church, Restaurant Maven, Nikolaj Plads.   It was a hodge podge of antique furniture, only a few tables, like being in a dining room.  We both ordered salads (but enviously eyed up the fishcakes at someone else’s table!), which were impressive for their freshness and good dressing.  It was a lovely environment, friendly staff, excellent quality ingredients and an interesting, small menu.  We found that place after ruling out all manner of eateries prior to that.  It was raining quite a lot when we found ourselves in the church courtyard standing amidst outdoor tables under umbrellas.  I am so glad we gave it a go, choosing to go in slightly more because of the rain and wanting to eat rather than having studied the menu.

As for the house boat, it was a great experience.  We spent the whole time discussing whether or not it was moving.  My friend was adamant it was but I couldn’t work out how it could move, despite feeling it move, as the deck and into the water was made of concrete.  The owner confirmed that it does move!  It was a great place to stay, reasonably near Bella Center Metro station.  Being out of town meant we saw more of the waterside suburbs.  It also meant we used the water bus a fair bit.  As we had a seven-day, c£40 travel card, we could use all public transport, including the water buses.  That was a great buy at the airport.

We walked a lot and, along with the street I mentioned earlier, another street we enjoyed was Store Kongensgade, which also had a Meyers Bageri and quite a few cafes and bakeries.  There were also lots of lovely looking eateries, including a few serving smørrebrød (Danish open sandwiches).  There was a Parisian feel to the area and lots of boutiques.  We discovered this street by walking from The Little Mermaid, round the castle and towards the centre.

I feel I should also mention Christiania, part of the island of Christianshavn, an area not without its “politics”, for it is in part a commune, an autonomous neighbourhood, and is often in conflict with the Danish state.  Politics aside, it’s mad: a cross between Camden and Amsterdam.  I have never walked around outdoors and inhaled as much cannabis as I did there.  You can’t take photos and the residents have their own rules.  I have never been anywhere quite like it and I loved walking around, but it’s not the life for me!  Curious?  Go there, it’s an eye opener!

There is a lot to see, eat and do in Copenhagen but I really, really recommend taking the river bus from the start to finish of its route (we were staying at the southerly end of the line) and taking buses (pick up a bus map otherwise you don’t stand a chance!) to see areas.  We ended up pushing the Stop button quite a few times after we spotted things we wanted to look at.  My friend’s friend told us there are roughly 500,000 inhabitants of central Copenhagen and one million if you include greater Copenhagen.  It is a small city with a much bigger city buzz.

For accommodation, don’t even think of booking a hotel, have a look at the amazing places, including our house boat, on offer at  Having an apartment to ourselves meant we saved a lot on food and drink and it being such a lovely place meant we didn’t feel guilty when we just wanted to sit around and drink wine “at home”.  I have just re-read these two sentences and I am horrified that I sound like I’m advertising Air BnB … I’m not, but it is fab!


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?

The picture is of my friend, Nana, and I on our way to lunch at Noma, at that stage somewhat apprehensive but very excited and very hungry.

So the Noma experience continued for an hour and a half with bread before a series of soupy courses.  It was at this stage that our wine flight started, though as I know nothing about wine I’m not going to write about it here, other than to say all were nice, though while some were exceptional, others were only ok drunk with the relevant dish.  There were also two in particular that tasted like cider, which confused me.  I would recommend the wine flight, though, interestingly, there is also a juice flight available (including celeriac juice with one course and pear and lemon verbena with another, the latter which I was given a glass of after I enquired about the juices, but more of that with the ant dessert it came with!)

The bread.  Oh, the bread.  After our table was clear, a lovely brown felt package was left on our table along with two tubs, one containing virgin butter (buttermilky) and the other pork fat with a kind of apple schnapps.  On opening the bread package, we were confronted with a beautiful round loaf of sourdough bread cut into six wedges which was emitting steam as it was freshly baked.  I could not get enough of the buttery dish as it was so light and creamy and buttery and absolutely wonderful.  The pork fat was in fact a tub of pork fat with yummy crunchy bits on top.  I liked the topping but not the pork fat, though it wasn’t as offensive as you might expect if, like me, a lump of lard does not appeal in the slightest!  My friend, ever one to warn of the perils of eating too much bread and thus filling you up prematurely, somehow managed to consume a lot more bread than I’ve ever seen her eat!  It really was amazing.  So crisp and tasty on the outside and warm and fluffy on the inside.  Bread heaven.  And, guess what, while we still had two chunks left, it was taken away and replaced a few courses along with another brown felt-wrapped bundle of fresh baked bread.  So we ate even more.  It would have been rude not to, right?!

After 40 minutes and 12 appetisers, a few minutes to drool over and eat some bread, out came the starters/mains/sides, the first of which was “Cooked fava beans and beach herbs” which I’d written down as having a buttermilk and cucumber watery liquid poured over.  There were three beach herbs mentioned, none of which I’d ever heard of.  This dish was a vision of green loveliness and I didn’t hold back soaking up the last of it in chunks of warm bread.  This was not a dish that filled me with enthusiasm at first, especially as I’m not a fan of anything milky looking, which the soupy sauce clearly was.  It was nice, though quite mild in flavour compared to most earlier dishes.  But it was light and a refreshing dish after the initial assault on our taste buds (in an entirely good way) from the amuse bouche.  But I wouldn’t order it again, having already tried it.  That said, it really was tasty and everything in that bowl so incredibly fresh, juicy and young.

The next course was one which, had I seen on a menu – “Fermented plums and beetroot” – I would have turned my nose up at and certainly not ordered.  This was without doubt in my top three dishes, though the mussel was in an elite league of its own.  To have not had this would have been a tragedy to my taste buds for it perked them up no end after the previous, milder tasting dish.  It may look like a reddy brown soup with a few bits in it, but to taste it … oh my, really amazing.  I wrote in my notebook that it was dried plum (a more technical explanation was given but I forgot it – by this point we were starting to get a teensy bit tipsy!) with beetroot that had been dried for three hours.  The soupy liquid was fennel juice with fermented mushroom and a selection of seeds, the only one of which I can remember (and could taste) was fennel.  I am convinced you will look at the picture of this dish and think, “Really?  That good?”, but I can assure you it was utterly divine.  The last bits of liquid were most vigorously and comprehensively consumed via the bread.  A joy.

How could that course possibly be topped?  Well, it wasn’t topped by the next course, which I had slightly higher hopes for than the reality, though it was delicious.  This was “Brown crab, egg yolk and herbs”, which was described to us as stone crab with crab coral, egg yolk in herbal tea, Icelandic seaweed, beach mustard, beach herbs and parsley sauce.  As you can see, this was a beautiful-looking dish.  However, the egg yolk didn’t do anything for me, the herbs and sauce were lovely and the crab was delicious in a subtle way.  This to me was more of a triumph of aesthetics than taste.  If I were served this again, I would be indifferent, but I would admire it with the same awe as I did and I would enjoy it.  I should add that even this dish, which was merely “ok”, is still better than most food I am served in normal restaurants, in part because it was so exquisitely fresh and tasted like a little bit of the sea mixed with unusual herbs.

The next dish got a mixed reaction from my friend but much more enthusiasm from me.  According to the menu, this was “Dried scallops and beech buts, biodynamic grains and watercress”.  I suspect I wouldn’t have ordered this off a menu, though I would have certainly considered it as I love scallops.  Just not sure about the concept of scallop crisps, for that’s what the slivers of scallops looked like.  The green filling was watercress and grains, which were of a similar texture to any grains you get in grainy bread.  I really liked the slightly nutty taste and the texture.  That was what my friend wasn’t so keen on.  The scallop crisps were exquisite and undeniably scallop.  Wonderful.  The black sauce, squid ink and mussel juice, didn’t sound good to me.  I do not like really fishy flavours or liquid fish.  This, however, was full of flavour and just enough to add something special to the scallop, grain and watercress sandwich.  This wasn’t a favourite dish but I would order it again.  This sauce was also mopped up with the bread, it was lovely.

The next course bewildered me as it was one that I fully expected to look a lot better than it tasted, for I am not a cauliflower fan and this was a “Cauliflower and pine cream and horseradish”.  I am also not a horseradish fan.  However, this was right up there with the beetroot and plum dish.  I loved it.  It was a surprisingly large dish, but I still could have eaten more.  I desperately wanted the pine to be edible because it really was a lush, tasty-looking green.  But the cauliflower had been roasted in pine and was infused with the scent of pine forests – not a hint of Harpic – and the sauce was pine oil with yoghurt whey and horseradish cream.  Seriously, way, way up there in my top five favourite things to eat of all time.  My friend also enthused about this dish more than she had expected to.  I could eat this dish again right now.  Yummety yummety yum!

I knew the cauliflower couldn’t be beaten by a cabbage based course, but “Pike perch and cabbages with verbena and dill” was almost good enough!  Had I seen this on a menu, especially if the menu had listed fish foam as part of the dish, I would not have ordered it.  What a fool I would have been.  It was fish wrapped in succulent, delicate frilly cabbage with pieces of hours-old fresh, juicy dill, fish foam (onion and fish bone juice – yucky sounding, fantastically tasting – whipped up into a foam) and, one of my all time favourite herbs, lemon verbena made into a sauce.  The fish pretty much melted in the mouth, the cabbage matched it to perfection and the foam and verbena finished it off a treat.  Divine.  I would order this again without hesitation.

With only two savoury courses left, this one was one we’d seen being taken to other tables and which had piqued our interest hugely.  This was the mysterious “The hen and the egg”.  I don’t really get the name still but it was lush, lush, lush.  And, guess what, another favourite.  Maybe I now have a top five.  Sadly, this was the last exceptional (in terms of my taste buds) course.  First of all, we were presented with the ingredients and a hot iron pan.  We broke our egg into our hot pan and a timer was set.  We were advised to wear our napkins as bibs, which was ludicrously exciting, particularly as the wine was still forthcoming!  So we cooked our own course!  After the egg was deemed ready once the timer went off, we were instructed to add what I think was a peppery coated pellet of butter to the pan, then the first pile of foliage (there was a variety of foliage for this dish) to the bare part of the heated dish.  Finally, we added the remaining flowers and leaves and crunched up the spiral.  Oh, the spiral.  I had thought it was apple but, no, it was a spiral of crispy potato and it was divine.  Potato and egg, back to my potato waffle and egg comfort food favourite!  This dish was innovative, simple and delicious and the only course with added salt (the salt was in an empty egg shell for us to sprinkle on as we deemed fit).  I could eat this for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner and I would order it on a menu.  Really, truly more scrumptious than you can probably imagine.

Now for the final, slightly challenging, course: veal sweetbread with dandelion, chanterelle mushrooms, fresh hazelnuts and juniper wood and mushroom sauce, or “Sweetbread and bitter greens, celeriac and mushroom”.  My friend did not like this and left most of it.  I finished off her hazelnuts and some of the beautiful and varied foliage, but eating more than my own portion of the sweetbread was a step too far.  I am not an offal fan and suspected I wouldn’t like this.  However, the texture wasn’t offensive.  I just would much rather this dish had come with a nice bit of steak, for example!  The sweetbread actually tasted fine.  It might have gone a bit weird and wrong for me though because I ate a piece of celeriac, not knowing that the celeriac was there and wasn’t actually a piece of sweetbread.  It was much denser than the sweetbread and I initially assumed it was the sweetbread with a different texture and that made me very wary of the sweetbread and made me wonder too much what part of the insides it was.  Then I realised it was actually a vegetable and should have been nice.  I would never have chosen to eat it and I would not choose to eat it again, but I could eat it again.  I loved the fresh hazelnuts and I enjoyed the sauce, though it was quite strong.  I also liked the strong flavours of the foliage and flowers.  However, something in the sauce, possibly the fermented mushroom, gave me cheese sweats and a very slight mouth tingling.  This dish was more of an experience than a joy.

Then came desserts, which if I divide the meal into three sections, with desserts and coffee as the final third, was by a very long way my least favourite section and not a single favourite to be had, though one dish was lovely.  But, lots of interesting experiences …

I looked forward to my Noma meal like I’ve looked forward to no other meal, but, unexpectedly, there was also a degree of apprehension as I was dreading being faced with live food a la I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!  My friend and I both thought it would be a culinary experience rather than a meal memorable for how delicious it was.  However, we were both wrong and there were a lot of closed-eyes “Oh my God, that tastes amazing” moments; in short, though not without issues, it was a magical dining and eating experience that lasted three and three quarter sublime hours.

Before I start salivating over the appetisers again, something should be said about the restaurant itself.  The building is an unassuming large warehouse across the water from Nyhavn (the bright coloured canal area that is very touristy and likely to be on any postcard of Copenhagen).  The restaurant is recognisable by the simple “Noma” lettering.

The interior is beautifully simple and made me feel like I was in a driftwood room.  The first surprise though was how many staff there were and how incredibly good looking and welcoming they were.  It was, to lower the tone, a feast of eye candy!  We were welcomed by name, our two food no-nos were confirmed with us, our coats swiftly removed and we were escorted to our table, suitably far away from anyone else, but close enough to see the courses they were getting; everyone was eating the same food at different times.

Upon getting to our seat, I asked where the loos were and was escorted right to the door by a very dishy (for that really was the right word!) waiter.  I was made to feel very important and every member of staff I walked past greeted me.  The staff did the restaurant proud.  The toilets, unsurprisingly, were spacious and simple and a joy to use.

One other comment about the staff before I launch into the delightful, innovative and delicious appetisers is that when, for example, my friend left the table to go to the toilet, she dropped her napkin.  The staff probably had to tell the kitchen to wait for the next course, including the next wine (yes, we had a wine flight, I think 10 different wines!), and I barely noticed that my friend’s napkin was removed from the floor and a clean one ready at her place for her return.  Exemplary service.

It is with great delight that I start on the food.  Once seated, we were told that the appetisers would be presented in quick succession and were all eaten with fingers so we were presented with hot towels to clean our hands.  As the waiter took away our towels, he pointed to the pot of flowers and greenery on the table and told us that was our starter.  Needless to say, we sniggered at the impossibility of it, but were directed to “twigs” amidst the greenery.

*Everything in speech marks is how the course was described on the menu we got at the end, the rest of the information is based on what we were told as the dish was presented at the table.

The twig was “Malt flatbread and juniper” shaped like a piece of bladderwrack seaweed with a slight brown dust on the outside.  The beery, malty aspect of it was the main taste, but it was a perfectly thin and crispy appetiser.  As the first thing I ate, it introduced well the concept of “I have never, ever tasted anything like this” and it was also a new texture and concept.  I enjoyed it.  Along with the moss, also in this photo, they were the smallest courses.

The “Moss and cep” was crispy reindeer moss with creme fraiche.  I am not convinced there was any cep in it, it appeared to just be moss.  If you look closely at the pale coloured moss on the plate, it looks soft and fluffy.  Admittedly, we were told it was crispy, but neither of us expected it to be the extraordinarily delicate crispy texture it was.  It was like very fine icing that, with my fat thumbs did get crushed as I jabbed the final bit into the beautifully soft and creamy creme fraiche to accompany it.  It tasted lovely and, like the flatbread, was an altogether new texture to eat.  I really liked it.  I also loved the presentation.

Next came “Crispy pork skin and black currant”.  I wrote down that it was pork scratching with blackberry leather (I was possibly overexcited still and wrote the fruit down incorrectly, but as it’s blackberry season, I think I might have got it correct).  The scratching was the texture of slightly denser than normal prawn crackers, and was the same colour as Chinese prawn crackers.  The thin layer of sharp fruit leather was a wonderful and simple accompaniment.  The texture and the taste made this a truly delicious taste sensation.

As you can see from the scratching photo, there is also a bowl of mussels.  This dish was undoubtedly one of the best things I have ever tasted, possibly even the best thing I have ever tasted.  I cannot, however, describe how truly disappointing it was to have the dish served on a striking plate of empty mussel shells.  We only had one mussel each.  But it was taste bud gold.  According to the menu it was “Blue Mussel and celery”.  My friend hates celery but it was also one of her favourite dishes.  I could not taste celery.  The mussels were served looking like an unopened whole mussel and we were told to remove the top half and eat the mussel and the bottom shell.  At this point, for a split second, I looked at the empty mussel shells on the plate and wondered if perhaps they were edible after all.  No.  Then, I ate it and a bar was set, for surely nothing could out-taste that.  The edible shell looked just like a mussel shell and was made of crunchy dough with black squid ink.  I could write a whole post about this dish but I didn’t even examine it before I ate it, I just ate it and my taste buds were ignited.  I am salivating as I write this.  If only there had been more than one!

Our next amuse bouche was a rather uninspiring-sounding “Cheese cookie, rocket and stems”, which I wrote down as being cheese cookies in a tin.  Do not be deceived by the simple description.  It was fun opening the tin and discovering two small biscuits with fresh, lush green finely chopped rocket (I am not convinced it was rocket though).  It tasted delightfully cheesy with a distinctively green and, dare I say it, healthy after-taste.  Also, amazing.

As you can see from the photos, these courses were coming thick and fast; a series of taste sensations.  After the cheesey, green mouthful, we were presented with beautifully piped potato waffles with duck liver parfait sandwiched between the potato.  If, like me, you love the cunchy bits on potato waffles, this was a very posh version of just those browned crunchy bits made into two thin slices of loveliness, between which was a perfectly smooth and creamy duck parfait with truffle shavings.  Oh my.

Our next dish, also served on these lovely grey metal plates, was a partially dehydrated carrot lying amidst ash on a blob of sorrel and dipped in a smear of sorrel loveliness.  The joy of a very simple dish like this is that it demonstrates that the Noma chefs can make something amazing out of very few ingredients.  It was beautifully presented and all the dust and perfectly placed wipes of green, when mixed together created something so unexpected and delicious as to be a memorable dish.  I loved it.  The carrot was beautiful.

Believe it or not, the appetisers kept on coming.  The next, which had I seen on a menu I would never have contemplating ordering due to my dislike of milk and an expectation that cod liver would be foul based on the horror of cod liver oil, was “Caramelised milk and cod liver”.  This was actually my second favourite appetiser.  When it was presented to us, we were told to eat it as quickly as possible as the temperature was currently perfect.  What they didn’t say was that it was icy cold!  My friend wasn’t so keen on it being so cold and sniggered that she would happily have left it to get to room temperature.  For me, it worked because it was the coldness which shocked my tastebuds and made the whole eating experience of this mouthful one of eye bulging wonder.  It was unexpectedly amazing.  I described it as very cold milk crisp with a kelp crisp and cod liver.  You would never have known the milk crisp was milk or that the smooth fishy topping was cod liver.  Magic.  A real taste explosion, largely because of it being so cold.

Only four more appetisers to go, not that we knew this at the time.  Next up, we were presented with a massive quail egg-shaped and coloured container, which we were told contained an egg that needed to be eaten straight away.  On opening the box, again thrilled by the prospect of opening a container, we discovered a bed of hot, smoky hay, on which lay two steaming shelled quail eggs.  I love quail eggs and have eaten them most ways you can cook such a small egg.  These were “Pickled and smoked quail eggs”.  As instructed, we briefly marvelled at them and the beautiful smoky smell coming from the hay nest then popped them into our mouths.  They burst as you put pressure on the soft exterior and a fantastic warm yolk exploded in your mouth.  This may sound gross, and to egg-haters it possibly would be gross, but it didn’t taste eggy, it tasted lightly smoked and left a wonderful taste in my mouth.  Smelling the warm hay in the egg container added to it, it really was delightful.  Cooked to perfection in a way I’ve never tasted quail egg before.  Again, simple but head-shakingly good.

I should add that by this point we realised we would not be hungry at the end of our meal, as had been suggested to us by one person who’d been before.  We were on a taste bud enlightening food journey that was slowly beginning to fill us up.

Next up, we were presented with a terracotta plant pot full of soil and four whole plants.  This was merely described as “Radish, soil and grass”.  I described it as soil of malt and hazelnut with sheep yoghurt and grass and a carrot and radish plant each.  To my surprise, there was a degree of scepticism about pulling out the vegetable and eating it with all the “soil” on it.  But, wey hey, was it good!  The carrot and radish were both small, crisp and just-pulled-out-the-ground fresh.  The soil was slightly crunchy and more-ish and the green yoghurt was put-your-finger-in-the-pot-to-wipe-it-all-out good!  I ended up eating the leaves of my carrot and radish so I could use them to mop up as much of the soil and grass as possible.  I loved it.  I really liked the nutty taste and that the soil tasted brown and earthy.  Oh, really, go there and eat some!

Only two appetisers to go.  After the excitement of the edible plant pot contents, we were presented with a bowl featuring two bits of baby sweetcorn.  Boring.  Or so I thought!  We were told it was corn grown by a local farmer who has made the corn and the husk so soft and delicate that everything could be eaten.  It was merely lightly grilled.  Well, who’d have thought it, delicious sweetcorn.  And I don’t even eat the stuff usually.  Again, “Grilled corn”; not something I would EVER have ordered from a menu.  It was out of this world.  A simple vegetable, not even salted (for none of the food is salted, except one dish that comes up later which you salt yourself).  Beautiful and testament to how skilled Noma is at both sourcing and preparing food.

Finally, an insect course!  Last up on the appetiser front was “Sorrel leaf and cricket paste”, which I wrote as being nasturtium snow, out of which grew a leaf of sorrel, inside which was beetroot and cricket puree.  I like nasturtium, though I can appreciate that it is very peppery, bitter and kind of sour.  I scooped up the snow, which was textured just as you’d hope and expect of snow, and even ate the cricket paste with relish.  By this stage, I was fully confident in the chefs and wasn’t worried that squashed insect would taste foul.  Sorrel has a strong flavour of its own, so it was quite a strong-tasting course, but all the flavours worked well together and were new taste combinations to me.  I enjoyed it, though my friend wasn’t particularly keen on the nasturtium taste.

Then came the starters, mains and sides, of which I will detail tomorrow …

{25/09/2012}   Copenhagen: expectations

I will be holidaying from my blog tomorrow until Monday as I will be in Copenhagen with a good friend.  We will be eating lunch at Noma on Friday, about which I will be passing commentary on when I get back!  I have only been to Copenhagen once, when I was 18, and I didn’t like it much.  So I thought I’d write here what I expect from Copenhagen through proper adult eyes.

At 18, my backpacking friend and I spent a very long, wet day in Copenhagen.  I remember the Tivoli Gardens looking quite bleak (October), the Little Mermaid was covered in graffiti, the harbour area was pretty but that not much else was pretty.  The whole city was probably ruined for me because of the combination of rain and falling ungracefully, unflatteringly flat on my backpack-laden back and squashing a bag of tomatoes I had attached to the backpack.  The tomato mess was altogether too much for me!

My friend and I are staying on a very modern and incredibly funky-looking house boat a bit out of the centre.  This alone could promote Copenhagen from being near the bottom of my favourite places list to near the top.  I have always wanted to stay on a house boat.

As for the city, I am expecting interesting architecture, quite a lot of water, trees in the central areas and lots of furniture shops selling classic and contemporary wood-based furniture.  I am fully expecting prices to be on a par with Stockholm, which is distressing.  I am hoping there will be lots of bakeries so I can establish whether Danish pastries will be called “Danish pastries” or just “pastries”.  I have thought about this more often than I would like to admit!

We will be eating at Noma, something I am ludicrously excited about and which I will devote a whole blog post to next week!  There have been things on the menu over the preceding weeks that I have struggled with: live shrimps, served in a sealed jar full of ice, blueberries with ants (I hope there are toothpicks at the ready!) and fish foam.  I am expecting Noma to be an experience rather than a favourite-food restaurant.

As for other food, I’m not actually sure what to expect.  For some reason, I don’t think it will be that similar to Swedish food.  I think bread will feature with most meals and I think there will be emphasis on fish and berries.  I have high hopes for good coffee and pastries!

I think the people will be friendly, the city will be clean and I am hoping there will be a good water bus service.  I reckon most people will speak “a little English”, which actually means they are reasonably fluent.  I also think if we see the Little Mermaid again, it will still be disappointing.  Apparently there will be rain and temperatures around 11 degrees centigrade, possibly on a par with my October experience 19 years ago.

However, as I’m going with a good friend, we’re staying on a boat and we’re eating in the world’s best restaurant (I have packed suitably stretch clothes in optimistic anticipation of a hearty meal) I’m confident we’ll have an amazing few days!

                I found out yesterday that a friend has got us booked into Copenhagen’s Noma, apparently the world’s best restaurant.  I am beside myself with excitement and expectation.  I am also already planning what to wear and how to be cool (given shocking embarrassing previous experience) with any potential celebrity diners!

                I love food, both cooking and eating it.  I have been fortunate enough to have eaten at some amazing restaurants, from Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner to “that little place round the corner from where we stayed in Italy”.  I have eaten at one and two Michelin starred restaurants, but never somewhere as hyped up as Noma, the world’s best restaurant.

I am not going until September, long after this daily blog will be over, but I feel a need to record my expectations now.  I first heard of Noma on, possibly, MasterChef a few years ago.  One of the chefs on it was passionate about seaside foraging, and for those reasons he was sent to Noma, before it was awarded the desperately impossible title of world’s best restaurant.  I remember vowing that I would one day go there, despite the issues I had about Copenhagen from previous experience (my impression was probably largely, and unfairly, marred by three things:  I was backpacking and had arrived in Copenhagen from Germany where we’d stayed with a friend of mine.  She had given us a bag of large fresh tomatoes, which, as our rucksacks were full for a month’s travelling and camping, had been tied to the outside of my rucksack.  I fell over under the weight of my backpack on that lovely bridge with the view of colourful buildings and ended up tortoise-like on my back unable to get up, with squashed tomato everywhere.  Also, the Little Mermaid was covered in graffiti and it was pissing down with rain).  Major parenthesis digression!

Anyway, I am Noma-bound in just over three months.  And I am extraordinarily giddy with excitement.  We are going for lunch, which to me is better than dinner somewhere like that as usually it means you can linger longer and you have the rest of the evening to walk off your meal, not that I’m expecting huge portions!

So what am I expecting?  Well, it’s going to have to be way, way beyond expectations, more delicious and varied and beautifully presented than anywhere else I’ve ever been.  I am also particularly looking forward to trying ingredients and dishes I’ve never tried before.  Oh my, I am so excited!  I think the restaurant environment will be surprisingly relaxed, lots of wood, and I am hoping it will be a small menu and impeccable service.

I might even be really daring and try things I otherwise wouldn’t try, in the knowledge that if it doesn’t taste amazing there I can rule it out as being something I will ever like.  But then again, maybe I should just eat things I know I’ll love.  Oh, what a dilemma!

I suppose the point is that a restaurant with such – well, the ultimate – accolade has no right to disappoint.  What a pressure!  I am expecting culinary and service perfection but, perhaps most of all, an amazing meal in an amazing place with an amazing friend!  Roll on September!

et cetera