I like to think of myself as a hermit even if it is really a fantasy. The same way I like to say that I am a country girl because of the summers I spent as a child in Mashta el-Helou in Syria and Reshmaya in Lebanon. In reality I am neither, and my life is mostly very urban and thankfully full of excitement, with the most recent being a day trip to Copenhagen to eat at Noma, invited by my lovely friend Seen, who you can see in the picture above talking to Rene Redzepi and Lars Williams who brought us most of our dishes, explaining everything in detail in his soft voice. He was utterly charming, as was everyone at Noma. It is part of Redzepi’s brilliant philosophy which makes his restaurant such a perfect place, both for the amazing food and the setting from the welcome and the attentive and friendly service to the aesthetics of the whole place, inside and out as well as front of house and back in the kitchens. I had already been there, also with Seen and her husband Fred and other friends, in summer two years ago and I was intrigued to see what the menu was like in winter. Naturally, it was very different except for one dish, the classic moss which this time was flavoured with cepes. Here are the photos of what we ate.
I will always regret it. The year must have been 2002, perhaps even earlier. I had rented a flat in Barcelona to test recipes for my offal book and was there for 3 weeks. During that time, I could have easily gone to El Bulli whenever I wanted. I had a well-connected friend who would have organised it for me — in fact he had organised an amazing offal dinner at Can Fabes and an exquisite lunch at Ca L’Isidre where the owner gave me their recipe for tripe. But El Bulli was far and I was not so taken by molecular cuisine after a disappointing meal at the Fat Duck. So, I didn’t even try to get a booking. Then it became incredibly difficult to get in and now it is closed. Since then, I decided never to miss eating at a restaurant I was interested in even if it means travelling. Last year I went to Noma and I am just back from Faviken where I had the most amazing dinner followed by a terrific breakfast in the most serene if slightly ascetic atmosphere.
Every now and then I go to a restaurant which I adore. It happened at Noma last summer and at Dabbous this winter. And yesterday, it happened again at Agapé Substance. A tiny space decorated with perfect taste including the most beautiful bouquets of strips of wood from Vacherin boxes. As for the cooking, it is meticulous without being prissy with fabulous ingredients and perfect seasoning. Some have described the chef, David Toutain, as a culinary genius and I have to say I totally agree. He is exceptionally talented and supremely creative. If you are visiting Paris, you have to eat there. I am only sorry we didn’t take my group on the culinary weekend with Francois Simon but we had an amazing degustation dinner at le Comptoir and another cooked by the great critic himself. So, we didn’t do too badly.
Æbleskiver and muuiko: a brioche-like doughnut with a fried fresh water baby fish spiked into it — that and Boulette’s Larder doughnuts are the best I have ever had
I don’t normally subscribe to ‘best of’ lists. I find them rather limiting. Mind you, my blog has just been chosen by the Independent as one of the 50 best food sites and I am thrilled to be included! Anyhow, in Noma‘s case, it may just be the best in the world and if not, certainly up there with the very best. Rene Redzepi‘s food is simply spectacular: sophisticated, inventive, delicious and healthy! And you are given enough of each course to savour it fully without feeling full at the end of a meal which in our case included some 25 dishes — we had asked for the full treatment! The setting is also perfect. Simple, elegant and comfortable with lovely natural light and views over the water. As for the service, it is flawless: attentive without being intrusive and supremely knowledgeable.