Noma wins world’s best restaurant as Denmark claims top two spots | Restaurants

Copenhagen has confirmed its reputation as the global dining destination of the moment after its top eateries finished first and second in the 2021 World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, widely considered the Oscars of gastronomy.

The new Noma from the chef René Redzepi, famed for his foraging and fermenting techniques, was named best restaurant at a ceremony in Antwerp, Belgium, on Tuesday night. The old one topped the list in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 and came second in 2019.

“No trip to Noma is ever the same,” the citation said, mentioning highlights from previous seasons including a vegetarian celeriac shawarma and a duck dish of leg, brain and heart served with “claw, feather and beak”.

William Drew, the director of content for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, said Noma had “arguably been the most influential restaurant of its generation, setting new standards in terms of research and ingredient sourcing, dish development and presentation”.

Staff at Noma – whose current “game & forest season” menu costs 2,800 Danish kroner (£320), plus 1,800 kroner for the accompanying wines, and according to social media posts features raw sumac, bear and reindeer brain – exploded with joy at the news.

The annual list is voted on by more than 1,000 gastronomes including food writers and critics, chefs, restaurateurs and international culinary experts, who this year awarded second place to another Michelin three-star Copenhagen eatery, Geranium.

Its current 16-course “autumn universe” menu created by Rasmus Kofoed features artichoke leaves and pickled walnut, squid, melted smoked lard, essence of yeast, potatoes and quail with thyme seeds, berries and pickled pine.

Noma has been the flagship of “New Nordic” cuisine since 2004, when Redzepi and the restaurant’s co-founder, Claus Meyer, joined 10 other Nordic chefs in publishing a 10-point manifesto aimed at developing the region’s “authentic cuisine”.

The manifesto emphasised “purity, simplicity and freshness”, urged a predominance of seasonal and hyperlocal foods, and encouraged restaurants to develop traditional Nordic fish and meat recipes by reviving and adapting older techniques such as marinating, smoking and salting.

Native ingredients such as foraged herbs, cloudberries and local shellfish were combined with exotic additions such as wild reindeer blood, ants and cricket paste, creating culinary headlines worldwide and sparking a wave of successful restaurant openings that included Geranium, which opened in 2007.

Melina Shannon-DiPietro, the executive director of MAD (Danish for food), a foundation founded in 2011 by Redzepi with the aim of transforming the restaurant business and hospitality and forcing fundamental change in food systems, said the awards had sparked “incredible pride” in Denmark.

“In fact, both chefs would probably say they were now moving beyond New Nordic,” she said. “The principles still apply, of course: they’re united by a real respect for nature, which obviously changes food fundamentally, but also by collaboration, and by wanting to be the best workplace – for employees, producers, the environment.”

She said the movement’s success had attracted “amazingly international teams” to Nordic kitchens, creating “a new spirit of open-mindedness, a willingness to explore and blur boundaries, an awareness of being in a global community”. New Nordic was still true to its principles, but evolving, she said.

Noma picked up a coveted third Michelin star this year, with praise for its “strong connection to nature and holistic approach … which sees unusual seasonal ingredients showcased in creative and complex dishes.”

No award was given last year because of the pandemic, and this year’s title means Noma, which first opened in the Danish capital’s Christianshavn district in 2003, is level with Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli for the most top finishes.

A rule introduced in 2019 in principle prevents previous winners, including Eleven Madison Park in New York, Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in Bray, UK, Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, and Mirazur in Menton, France, from competing, but Noma qualified because it closed in 2016, reopening at a new address and with a different concept two years later.

Staff at Noma prepare food in the kitchen
Staff at Noma prepare food in the kitchen. Photograph: Thibault Savary/AFP/Getty

Despite a judging panel made up of 50% men and 50% women, the list drew criticism, as in previous years, for featuring “male-dominant, European-heavy, expensive tasting-menu restaurants”, with just four restaurants in the top 50 headed by female chefs – one fewer than in 2019..

A third New Nordic restaurant, Frantzèn in Stockholm, placed sixth, while two Spanish restaurants, Asador Extebarri in Axpe and Disfrutar in Barcelona, finished in the top five. Central and Maido in Lima, Peru were also in the top 10, with two well-known Paris restaurants, Arpège and Septime, in the top 25.

In the UK, the Clove Club (“‘modern British’ creations that put forward natural flavours and playfully mingle with tradition”) and Lyle’s (“a short and sweet micro-seasonal menu … showcasing what’s best on any given day in London and the UK”), both in London, finished 32nd and 33rd respectively.

World’s 50 best restaurants

1 Noma (Copenhagen, Denmark)

2 Geranium (Copenhagen, Denmark)

3 Asador Etxebarri (Axpe, Spain)

4 Central (Lima, Peru) Best restaurant in South America

5 Disfrutar (Barcelona, Spain)

6 Frantzén (Stockholm, Sweden)

7 Maido (Lima, Peru)

8 Odette (Singapore) Best restaurant in Asia

9 Pujol (Mexico City, Mexico) Best restaurant in North America

10 The Chairman (Hong Kong) Highest climber award

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