Food fads come and go but New Nordic Cuisine has a proven popularity that has surprised many of the world’s culinary critics to whom the idea of developing arctic gourmet seemed nothing less than mission impossible.
Three years ago, the flagship of the New Nordic culinary movement, restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, shot to fame when it topped the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best list as the World’s Best Restaurant. And it’s remained there. Serving high cuisine based on age-old Nordic traditions and food foraged from the Scandinavian wilderness – such as indigenous oysters from shallow Danish inlets – the restaurant has become a laboratory for a new regional cuisine that reaches far beyond its mere twelve dining tables.
Headed by executive chef René Redzepi and co-founder Claus Meyer, restaurant Noma and a string of other dedicated gastro-initiatives have over the past decade inspired a new generation of Danish chefs to rediscover their culinary roots. And most importantly to create gourmet dining for the people!
Bistros and affordable eateries in Danish towns have in recent years made gourmet dining accessible to the average wage earner, not least in Copenhagen, which is one of Europe’s leading culinary capitals. Even top chefs have made the move from classy to folksy, such as Bo Bech, who closed his successful Michelin-rated establishment only to open a food-bar style restaurant, called Geist, where diners can watch their order-as-you-go menu choices being prepared. Reaching out to bigger audiences was also the aim of a remote little beach house eatery called Kadeau on the Baltic island of Bornholm.
Now diners can enjoy island-sourced New Nordic-inspired gourmet in their second restaurant – in Copenhagen. But it really doesn’t take the likes of celebrity chefs to convince the Danes – or anyone else – of the nation’s culinary riches. Simply walk down to the fishing harbours in towns like Skagen, Sæby and Svaneke and discover the joy of simple seafood from the cold Scandinavian seas. Or visit the heritage smokehouses along the coasts and taste halibut, mackerel or eel fresh from the smouldering kilns. Why always go for salmon?
Copenhagen isn’t only home to the world’s highest ranked restaurant; it also boasts the world’s only Michelin-rated Thai restaurant, Kiin Kiin. Asian food, along with other world cuisine, enjoys a strong following among travelled Danes. Of the two new bistro-style restaurants recently opened in Copenhagen by Noma co-founder Claus Meyer, one – Namnam – is dedicated to what he dubs “Singapore-Peranakan cuisine with a Nordic twist.” And the city’s twice-yearly food festival, Copenhagen Cooking, not only highlights Nordic food traditions, but also celebrates other world cuisines – served with a Copenhagen twang. Food fads may come and go but what has proved its staying power in Denmark is a newfound interest in regional Nordic cuisine and a growing appetite for making gourmet everyone’s treat.