9 restaurants that nail New Nordic

It’s a style of cuisine that’s given rise to a restaurant that has topped The World’s 50 Best list, but who are its greatest exponents today and how has New Nordic evolved from its original manifesto?

Of all cuisine categorisations, New Nordic is one of the latest to land in the dining lexicon. Until relatively recently, the moniker had no meaning; it wasn’t until pioneering Danish restaurateur Claus Meyer and 12 of his contemporaries compiled the New Nordic Food Manifesto in 2004 that we were gifted with a label to apply to the Scandinavian-influenced restaurants springing up in all corners of the world.

This culinary genus is as closely tied to ethics, health, regional diversity and sustainability as it is to flavour. As the farm-to-fork movement reached its zenith in the mid-Noughties, in many regards, it passed the baton to New Nordic in terms of the multitudinous benefits of eating local and staying true to roots. The proceeding 15 years have witnessed New Nordic’s rise to one of the most successful and of-its-time cuisines on the planet, introducing iconic, once-in-a-generation chefs in the process. Here are nine restaurants that define what New Nordic cuisine means today.

Maaemo, Oslo
Defining dish: Langoustine roasted in pine butter

The ancient Norse translation of Maaemo is ‘Mother Earth’, making this restaurant arguably the closest to the true identity of New Nordic cuisine – by name at least. The menu backs it up: designed as a journey around Norway’s varied topography, it takes in a visit to the brackish waters in the north that yield some of the world’s finest seafood, as well as mushrooms of international renown from the country’s delta in the south. Chef Esben Holmboe Bang’s much-vaunted destination restaurant is about to re-open in a new location next month, shortly after making its debut on The World’s 50 Best list. Due to celebrate its 10-year anniversary later this year, Maaemo remains Norway’s only three-star Michelin dining establishment.


Maaemo scallops

Geranium, Copenhagen
Defining dish: ‘Razor clam’ with minerals and sour cream

Chef Rasmus Kofoed’s home turf high up in the gods of Copenhagen FC’s stadium in the north-east of the city is looking to evolve New Nordic cuisine. Having achieved the No.5 spot in last year’s 50 Best list, it majors in local seafood with an 18-course menu that combines far-reaching technique and hyper-stylised plating with a respect for local ingredients. Kofoed’s business partner Søren Ledet runs front of house where – alongside a critically acclaimed wine list that helped Geranium win the Art of Hospitality award in 2018 – a juice pairing menu is given as much consideration as the wine matches. It offers a next-generational view of how New Nordic cuisine is imagined today.

Counter seating at Geranium

Ora, Helsinki
Defining dish: Lake perch with fennel and cucumber

Lake meets land at this restaurant by Sasu Laukkonen, where the chef looks to showcase the very best of Finland’s natural larder. From the furnishings made by local artisans to the foraged ingredients delivered daily by locals, it stays true to every tenet endorsed by the New Nordic manifesto. Flavour combinations sound simple but come served with seriously evolved technique. Lapland reindeer is spliced with suede and juniper, while beets are pine-grilled with currants and served with caramelised cream. With only 23 seats – all of which that have a view of the kitchen – it’s a small restaurant and diners need to book well in advance.

Lake perch from Ora

Relæ, Copenhagen
Defining dish: Pork with elm shoots and XO sauce

Think of Relæ as a neighbourhood-style restaurant that is informed by the principles of New Nordic, but not a strict acolyte of its doctrine. Here you’ll find flashes of other cultures’ cuisines in the forms of its saucing and accoutrements, but it retains a locavore identity at its core. Indeed, Christian Puglisi’s Copenhagen favourite is the only place to have won the Sustainable Restaurant Award at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants twice. Plating and service here is relaxed: guests pour their own wine, take their own cutlery from a drawer on their table and prices are somewhat lower than many of its fine-dining New Nordic neighbours.

In service at Relæ

Inua, Tokyo
Defining dish: Maitake mushroom with slow-smoked kōji

A slice of Scandinavia in Tokyo, chef Thomas Frebel has exported the learnings he took from his role as head of research and development over 10 years at Noma to Japan. Similarities between Japanese and Nordic styles of eating are manifold: freshness rules supreme, ingredients are rooted in local culture and respect for regionality lies at their core. Frebel uses Japanese ingredients in New Nordic style, for signature dishes such as seaweed mille-feuille, Golden-eye bream rib and flower tart and plum leather with fresh aromatic flowers.

Inua chef Thomas Frebel

Koks, Faroe Islands
Defining dish: Razorbill Wellington and mahogany clams

This is a destination restaurant in its purest form. With a remote Faroe Island location at the end of a winding dirt track, on arrival at the restaurant guests pass ingredients growing that will feature on the menu that night. Traditional techniques – salting, smoking, fermenting, air-drying – are applied to produce that is only found in the Faroes. One of the stand-out dishes, fermented callow lamb fat, tastes like a heavily aged blue cheese, such is the length of its fermentation. Indeed, the Faroese language has six different words for various grades of fermentation; English, by contrast, has one.

Koks signature mussels

Aska, New York
Defining dish: Seaweed with blue mussel emulsion

Native New Yorkers were confused when New Nordic rode into town – in the Noughties, Scandinavian sensibilities were diametrically opposed to what would be considered fine dining here. Though locals were quick to catch on. Aska – launched in 2016 – marks the culmination of New Nordic’s integration. Swedish-born Fredrik Berselius runs tried-and-tested routes from the full New Nordic playbook, using local New York State ingredients and techniques of fermentation, preservation and smoking for a 12-course season-focussed menu that features hits such as king crab with broth, skate wing with dill and birchwood ice cream with mushroom.

Fredrik Berselius of Aska

Credo Restaurant, Trondheim
Defining dish: Tartare of milkcow from Skjølberg Søndre

A Norwegian restaurant which takes provenance to the next level, Chef Heidi Bjerkan and her staff can recount the names of the cows that give up their flesh for the evening’s menu. Credo is set in a one-time tank factory and uses the full arsenal available in the New Nordic canon. The 25-course menu is described as a journey around the Trøndelag region, providing added details about the unique ingredients incorporated and served with a side-story of how each dish came to be. Potetlompe, a potato pancake that is made with a mix of local potatoes tubers that have been aged and then fermented, is a perfect example of how Bjerkan elevates simple ingredients through considered technique.

Heidi Bjerkan in Credo

Noma, Copenhagen
Defining dish: Hot smoked and barbecued Arctic king crab

If New Nordic is a religion then René Redzepi is its high priest. Opened in 2003 in a 18th-century harborside warehouse in Christianshavn, Noma immediately rose to prominence for its value system of sustainability and innovative takes on traditional Nordic ingredients, inspired in part by Redzepi’s discovery of an old army cooking manual provided to recruits on surviving in the wilderness. Its second iteration in a roomier site just out of the city centre – dubbed Noma 2.0 – has been as equally well received as the original, which itself topped the 50 Best list on four occasions. Redzepi and his multi-national team have developed a cooking style that blends modernity and innovation with local heritage ingredients, now presented in three separate seasonal menu manifestations a year.


Seastar with cardamon toffee and saffron-fried cod skin with chocolate

For more updates from the 50 Best family of restaurants and bars, stay tuned to 50 Best Stories for all the latest news, openings and interviews.