The MICHELIN Guide Nordic Countries 2021 – covering Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – was unveiled in September. Two new restaurants were awarded the ultimate accolade of Three Michelin Stars. Here we learn a little more about these restaurants and find out what makes them worthy winners of such a distinction.
Maaemo originally opened in 2010, receiving two Michelin Stars in 2012. In 2016 it became the first restaurant in Norway to be awarded Three Michelin Stars.
In 2020, Maaemo moved to new premises in the regenerated port district of Bjørvika, which is known for its contemporary architecture: the beginning of a new chapter in its story. It re-entered The MICHELIN Guide Nordic Countries 2021 with the highest possible award of Three Michelin Stars.
The Michelin inspectors describe Maaemo as a very special restaurant which offers an exceptional dining experience. Guests receive a warm welcome at the discreet entrance, before being led downstairs to a cosy, candlelit lounge to enjoy snacks and an aperitif. Then it’s back upstairs to a dramatic, high-ceilinged, windowless dining room for an immersive few hours of eating.
Guests are seated at large wooden tables with views of the theatrically lit open kitchen and, from the décor to the cutlery, everything is elegant, minimalist and stylish. An open fire emits a smoky aroma and you feel like you’re in some secret, fairy tale world, where times stands still. The attentive, professional serving team work smoothly together, explaining each dish with passion and checking on their guests with sincerity and charm.
Ultimately, Michelin Stars are awarded for the quality of the food and here Chef-owner Esben Holmboe Bang offers a surprise menu which showcases Norwegian produce of a remarkable quality. Expertly crafted dishes could include ‘King crab and reindeer heart’, ‘Grilled tail of langoustine’, ‘Spring lamb cooked over burning embers’ or ‘Wild strawberries with summer milk and rose oil’. These deceptively simple dishes are wonderfully balanced in taste and show harmonious contrasts, some of which will remain in the memory forever. To accompany these sublime flavours, interesting wine pairings are suggested to each guest by the sommelier – Maaemo’s impressive wine selection has over 900 bottles.
As well as winning Three Michelin Stars, Maaemo was also awarded a Michelin Green Star in the 2021 guide. All produce used is either biodynamic, organic or wild and the guests are made aware of where it comes from. The team ensure every measure is taken to minimise their environmental footprint, with the aim of being as close to zero waste as possible.
Noma has held Two Michelin Stars since 2019 – when it moved to new premises – and in its previous incarnation between 2007 and 2016. In The MICHELIN Guide Nordic Countries 2021, Two Stars became Three for this elegant urban oasis owned by chef René Redzepi.
The world-famous restaurant is located 2km east of the city centre in a quiet green area surrounded by canals – and many guests actually arrive by bike. Its strong connection to nature becomes apparent on arrival: guests walk through a beautiful flower-filled garden, past a series of greenhouses, before being welcomed in to enjoy one of the most extraordinary dining experiences on the globe.
In the middle of the restaurant is the open kitchen; on one side is the main restaurant and on the other, the quieter lounge, where guests can enjoy a drink while the philosophy of the restaurant is explained to them before dining. Styling is rustic yet refined and natural materials are everywhere, from the blond wood tables to the floral decorations and the hanging plants. The relaxed atmosphere ensures guests feel at ease and the opportunity to take a tour of the kitchen is not one to be passed up.
The test kitchen at noma is one of the most advanced in the world and a meal here is certainly one that won’t easily be forgotten. The 16-course set menu changes with the seasons; summer saw a focus on vegetables and seafood, while currently being served until the end of December is the ‘game and forest’ menu: a celebration of all things meaty, with mushrooms and berries from the forest as well as preserved greens and flowers foraged over the summer. Dishes like ‘Warm berry salad’, ‘Sautéed wild blue lobster with wild flower petals’, ‘Egg custard with saffron’ and ‘Cardamom candle’ are original, creative and complex, with spectacular presentation and vivid natural flavours.
As well as winning Three Michelin Stars, Noma was also awarded a Michelin Green Star in the 2021 guide. Sustainable practices have long served as a guiding light for the team’s creativity, but it’s not just about the way they source ingredients or minimise their carbon footprint; it is also about establishing the best work environment possible for the well-being of their employees.