René Redzepi finally opened New Noma in Copenhagen last week — but, the grand opening happened a full day later than originally planned. Vanity Fair reports that days before the slated return date of February 15, the restaurant called the 80 guests with opening-day reservations and told them that Noma 2.0 wouldn’t be ready. Instead, the restaurant served its first guests Friday, February 16, and the lead up to that first lunch service was a bit of a mess.
Bookings opened months before construction ended, creating a hard deadline. But, at one point, Noma staff feared they would have to cancel the entire first week of service. A week before February 15, the dining room didn’t have a ceiling, the lounge needed windows, and staff worked through the night to install insulation and haul planks. When delayed kitchen tops arrived on Monday, they were missing essential parts.
By Wednesday, Noma looked like a working restaurant and the team was on-track for a Friday opening, but they worked frantically until that first lunch service. Thirty minutes before the first seating, builders were constructing a walkway to the restaurant’s front door. Guests arrived as Redzepi was still raking mulch outside.
But opening stress started well before opening week. “We’re about as financially pressured as we could be,” Redzepi said to Vanity Fair. Rent on the new space, which includes 11 different buildings, is high, and Noma far exceeded its original construction budget. Plus, Redzepi kept staff on payroll in the year between Noma’s February 2017 closure and its relaunch, and during that year, he and some of the team took a research trip through Nordic countries.
A full quarter of Noma’s $375 tasting menu price covers food costs, so to make sense financially, Noma must sell every seat. So far, that hasn’t been a problem: The reservations for Noma’s debut seafood season sold out in less than a day. (Noma scheduled an additional service over the weekend to accommodate the guests with original opening-day reservations.)
Noma is still not complete. The garden needs to be landscaped, and Redzepi may consider adding a few tables or extending hours. But, Redzepi doesn’t regret the way things worked out. He told Vanity Fair, “It always would have been a push. And we needed a deadline to focus on.”
• “You Want Order, You Work at Eleven Madison”: Inside Chef René Redzepi’s Mad Dash to Open Noma 2.0 [Vanity Fair]
• 20 Questions That Explain René Redzepi’s Relaunch of Noma [E]
• Take a Look Around René Redzepi’s New Noma [E]