There are a few things you need to know about Noma Australia, the hotter-than-hot restaurant in Sydney’s Barangaroo. Yes, it’s a pop-up but it doesn’t look like it – it acts as a fully fledged restaurant with all the accoutrements. Sorry but you will have to time your visit to the bathroom – the Noma team likes to have everyone at the table when a dish arrives and will have no hesitation in politely steering you back should you choose an inopportune moment to make a move. No, you won’t love everything on the plate but regardless, it will all thrill you.
This is dining as spectacular theatre. The field trips René Redzepi and his team have taken around Australia to understand our culture really pay off on the plate.
If you were one of the lucky ones to score a spot before tickets sold out in four minutes (at the handsome price of $485 per person, excluding wine), you will taste Australian flavours you have never tasted before from a Danish chef.
Get your head around that and prepare to taste an extraordinary schnitzel of abalone, zested with finger lime. Or snow crab from Albany in Western Australia surrounded by an egg yolk sauce and, ahem, fermented kangaroo juices. Don’t scoff – it was our favourite dish of the night.
The combinations are like something from a children’s adventure book (marron and magpie goose! Seafood platter and crocodile fat! Mango and ants!). There is a feeling of giddy surprise each time a plate is placed on the table.
Does it all work? No – the intense flavour of a dried scallop pie won’t be to everyone’s taste and at our table, opinions were divided on the sea urchin and tomato dried with pepper berries. But it’s incredibly clever cooking that may make Australians think differently about the native ingredients in this vast country.
The 12 courses are washed down with a selection of boutique wines from small producers around Australia, one saké and a peculiar smelling “snakebite”, an aged beer mixed with pear and apple ciders.
Redzepi has brought some 80 staff over from his two Michelin star restaurant in Copenhagen and the service is exceptional. Friendly, knowledgeable, and light-hearted when it needs to be.
This is no po-faced dining experience. It is simply a whole lot of fun from one of the best restaurants in the world.
So is this the best restaurant in Sydney? Right now, yes.
See also: 10 dishes to try in 2016