February 28, 2023 | 18:11
The British journalist Farrah Storr skewered Noma, the restaurant in Copenhagen awarded the title “World’s best restaurant” several times.
Even the best restaurant in the world has its critics.
Earlier this year, Noma – the three-Michelin-starred restaurant that has topped the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list five times – said it was closing in 2024 and foodies were quick to mourn the impending death of Copenhagen dining.
But British journalist Farrah Storr says good riddance. In the Times of London, she wrote a funny, sharp review of her recent experience at the restaurant.
Storr begins the tirade by saying that she and her husband have been wanting to try chef René Redzepi’s edible opus for the past decade, noting that it’s “impossible to get a table.” This year they were finally able to take a lunch reservation. With “juice pairings,” the meal cost about $700 per person—about the price of a “used Ford Fiesta.” It was hardly worth it.
“You go with high expectations — gold star stuff,” writes Storr. She was well acquainted with the restaurant and what kind of unorthodox food she could be served.
“Yes, you may find ants on your plate, or ‘reindeer brain cream,’ as we did; hey, maybe even reindeer penis, which it turns out we were also served in a cold, nutty salad (they don’t reveal exactly what’s in the salad until the end, when they give you the menu with a half-smile) — I’m OK with all that,” writes Storr.
But the hospitality – or lack thereof – was not OK.
The dining experience began with a “cup of lukewarm tea served as if it were a bowl of Mayan gold,” writes Storr, noting that there were 15 guests ahead of her from New York, Switzerland and the UK. She described the mood and atmosphere as having “the whiff of a certain Roald Dahl story about it: a mad genius revered the world over, and we, the winners of the golden ticket, come to claim our prize.”
Diners were then greeted by “the entire kitchen staff” who were grinning at the entrance to the dining room. Each server apparently looked the same, while the chefs said the familiar “yes” each time a dish was ready to be served.
“It was fun at first, but an hour into lunch it felt like sonic torture,” writes Storr, describing the “strange and terrifying,” “Slavish devotion” she referred to as Noma core.
“When I left some of my reindeer brain cream inside the shell it was served in (as did the table behind us) – not because it was actually brain juice, but because it was chalky and unpleasant – the waitress looked angry as she went to pick up the plate my. Not comfortable with offal? she asked. I explained that that was not the case at all, rather that the texture made it difficult to eat. There was no smile, no apology, just a sneer – I felt like I had somehow let Noma down.”
Two courses later, Storr’s husband was banned from getting up to use the facilities.
“The next course is coming, you’ll have to wait,” said a server, then offered “another cup of lukewarm tea that tasted like someone had put Marlboro Red in it.”
When Storr left her teacup half full, she was scolded and asked: “Can you at least appreciate it?”
The duo sat through a parade of 15 more dishes — one of which included a saffron ice cream dish that tasted “simultaneously like Play-Dough and nothing at all,” Storr writes, noting that one server commented “Not a fan of saffron?”
“‘No, not a fan of ice cream that tastes like Barbie’s legs,’ I’d scream — Noma started to feel less like a treat and more like an endurance test,” Storr continues.
By the end of the meal, Storr questioned her own journalistic integrity, racking her brain about why she didn’t enjoy the meal.
“Was the problem us?” she asked. Then she realized that other diners were also rejecting their cold plates.
What is worse? They left hungry.
“Noma now feels more like a cult than a restaurant,” she concludes.