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Students dished out at fancy Noma restaurant

It was DKK 1,600 for the food and DKK 1,000 for the wine and included a tablespoon of ants. Students took on the ´world's best restaurant´

Noma is supposedly the ‘best restaurant in the world’ and a culinary gem. But is it up to scratch?

Exchange students Reese Alexander (Canada) and Grace Krütsch (Australia) are members of an informal food club that made it their business to find out.

The University Post couldn’t afford to be in on such an experiment, but luckily we were able to sit down with them subsequent to their meal. We wanted to find out one thing: Was it really worth it?

So what attracted you to Noma? What’s all the fuss about?
Reese: Noma was the first thing I knew about Copenhagen, about Denmark! I think it’s because the person who convinced me to study here was really into food and design.

Didn’t actually… like… the sea urchin

You heard about the restaurant before Copenhagen?
Reese: Yeah – it was the first thing. As I learnt about Copenhagen, I started learning about the whole new Nordic cuisine thing. So for me the interest wasn’t just about the quality restaurant, but about the Nordic cultural movement.
Grace: I’ve always been interested in food – I’ve always worked in hospitality, in restaurants and with food. I work in a restaurant now in Copenhagen. I’ve always been interested in the quality, and at Noma they’re not just interested in the final product, they’re also interested in the source of the product.

“It was a bit like visiting Russia, it wasn’t a really pretty place and you don’t really like all of it, but it’s amazing and everything was different.”

What do you mean by that?
Grace: They don’t start with a dish. Like, a normal restaurant would have a dish and a taste in mind and work backwards, whereas at Noma they start with the ingredients – what’s seasonal, what’s available – and then they build that up to the dish.
Reese: Yeah, they’re also interested in whether it’s ethically sourced, for example, no overfishing.

I looked at the menu – sea urchin in celery vinegar and egg cured in fermented beef. It all sounded pretty disgusting, weren’t you put off?
Reese: I had no idea what the menu was – that’s sort of what I wanted – I didn’t want to know what my food was going to be like. We got an elaborate description and most of the time they went into such small detail – it was nice to be surprised. They explained to me they don’t even try to make every dish necessarily delicious. So not every meal we had was tasty.
Grace: Actually, I really didn’t like the sea urchin.

Might as well do it right

So Noma wasn’t worth it?
Grace: No! There were so many tastes! There were tastes that I’d never tasted before. I would never say it wasn’t worth it. I would compare it to a trip to a country I’d never been before, as opposed to just another restaurant.
Reese: Yeah, it was a bit like visiting Russia, it wasn’t a really pretty place and you don’t really like all of it, but it’s amazing and everything was different. We didn’t really care whether it tasted good or not – even the way it was presented I’d never seen before. You were eating such a different experience that you know you just couldn’t get anywhere else.
Grace: It was such a spectacle – there was dry ice – and the smells and the visuals.

Favourite dish?
Reese: The pumpkin with burnt tea leaves in a cream sauce.
Grace: A green circle in the middle of a dry-ice bowl, broccoli and squid. And the one with ants – they tasted like citrus.

Is it all about the presentation?
Reese: It’s not a flashy presentation. It often goes beyond aesthetic. For example, the squid bowl was made of ice – so it kept the food cold. And they served duck over a bed of hay. It was more than just for the eyes – it was part of everything and so well thought out.

Here’s the big question everyone wants to know. What was the price tag?
Reese: It was 1600 kr for the food and then 1000 kr for the wine.
Grace: Yeah, I had some drinks at the beginning too as well as the wine. So I just went for it!

So it looks like alcohol made up a good chunk of the price?
Reese: I had just intended to get the meal, but I looked around and was like – I’m only going to come here once – I might as well do it right!

The tough questions

Was the wine anything special?
Grace: There were about seven wines – so each one would last two or three courses. We went white, red, rose desert wine. They were all delicious.

“I’ve always worked. I worked three jobs in Melbourne to pay for my time in Denmark.”

Did you get your money’s worth?
Grace: We got 22 dishes which I think change pretty regularly, but there’s no choice really, unless you have dietary requirements. But it was totally worth it.

Do you get money from the government to study here?
Grace: Yes, I do, but I also work here – I work in restaurants.
Reese: Yeah, through my home university. I get a scholarship.

Ok, let’s say you heard a story – Australian government pays for student dining experience or Canadian university foots the bill at the best restaurant in the world – how would you react to that?
Grace: Are you writing that story!?

No, no. I’m just showcasing your experience.
Grace: To be honest, I think it would be pretty funny. But for me I don’t feel like that – as I’ve always worked. I worked three jobs in Melbourne to pay for my time in Denmark.
Reese: I think it’d be funny as well. As I know kids who come from families who can easily afford university but they take out loans and then cash it in and spend it on whatever they want – so it’s sort of interesting most students can now do this sort of thing.
Grace: It’s easy to put a label on it and make it into a bit of gimmick, but we just like food – other students spend money on other things they value and are interested in.

Just do it!

Reese, you said students can now afford these kinds of experience – are you rich?
Reese: I’ve always worked, and I don’t get much money from my parents, so I don’t think I am.
Grace: I wouldn’t say I’m rich. But I do have more of a disposable than most of my friends in Copenhagen because I work.

What would you say to someone who is on the fence about going to Noma?
Reese: Go! Just Go. It’s so much more than just going for a meal, more than an event. It’s a cultural experience. To me it was like going to another city, or seeing a famous art museum. It’s like the birthplace of an art movement.
Grace: Just f*cking do it!

See some of the dishes in the gallery below.

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