Most Memorable Meal: Dollybakes

25 Oct

So, I’ve known Rachel (aka Dollybakes) since I was a teenager, and our friendship has lasted over the years, in no small part down to our shared love of troughing and a strong mutual respect for our hometown’s best baked good; Aussie Crunch. As well as being an ace baker, Rachel is seriously adventurous when it comes to eating out, and has been to some incredible places that its unlikely I’ll ever get to, so seemed the perfect person to invite to be the first person to share her most memorable meal. Enjoy…

Hi, I’m Rachel and I eat a lot…

I’m a blogger, baker and recipe creator at www.dollybakes.co.uk. You’ll generally find me in a restaurant or the kitchen, and hear me talking about food or my increasing fear of developing gout.

When Lauren asked me to do a post for her blog, I was both thrilled and utterly terrified. I am quite happy to rant a way on my own, however writing for someone else always feels like I am on best behaviour because I’m a guest in their house… She asked me to write about my most memorable meal. Eating is my favourite hobby. I am a baker because ultimately I am a champion cake eater first*. Therefore it was hard to pick one meal that stands out above the rest.

* Disclaimer: I have won no actual awards for my cake related gluttony, however I have come from a long line of cake eating thoroughbreds, prized for our cake polishing prowess.

So we went to Copenhagen for our Tea…

Really the decision was made for me, because it’s the one I am asked about most frequently. In March 2011 we went to Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s been voted the San Pellegrino Best Restaurant in the World three years in a row now, so it was a red rag to a bull! We made the decision to go about four months before we went, quite happy to fly to Copenhagen for our tea, then back home the next day. Getting into Noma is tricky at best. Notoriously one of the hardest in the world to get into, it’s all about perseverance. Two people from our party were both trying via the preferred online system. In the end my husband got the reservation, whilst trying on three separate web browsers! We were really lucky to get in the first time we tried, but we also know people who waited months.

Special… So special…

Lauren asked me to pick somewhere that was special. Apart from the fact that we were giddy as hell fire about visiting the best restaurant in the world, I was sharing the experience with some of my favourite people; my husband and our friends Wayne and Vicki. Together we have trotted all over the show in pursuit of amazing food, so this was an itch we just had to scratch. The Horwich Fine Dining Society were going global! Noma was also my ‘carrot on a stick’ after having surgery to remove four wisdom teeth and a bit of jaw four weeks before, something I had put of for almost ten years! I was also ‘celebrating’ the birthday which marked the last year of my twenties…

The Nitty Gritty

Was it as good as you expected? That’s the first question people ask. Yes. I’d go again in a heartbeat. Noma is as much about the show as it is about the food you eat. The dining room is dimly lit by candles, with sheepskin rugs slung over the back of wooden chairs. It feels thoroughly Nordic in every way. You are welcomed to your table and guided through the menu. ‘Seven different appetizers will be served before your seventeen course tasting menu. The first is in front of you’. At this point we were all gazing into a vase filled with twigs. That’s right. Twigs. Like the ones birds build their houses with. These wooden charlatans were actually malt flatbreads with juniper. Looks like a twig, tastes like an amazing biscuit. Sneaky.

You are reminded from this point forth exactly what is edible and what is not. After all, they had us totally ‘Willy Wonker-ed’ in terms of what you believe you can eat. ‘No, the stones are not edible. But the pebbles are… as is the moss’. You might think these are gimmicky, but they genuinely tasted amazing.

Each course is presented by the chef who created it, who brings it to the table along with an explanation of how it is made. Did you know that reindeer tongue takes over 36 hours to prepare? Neither did I. Nor did I know that it takes a massive pile of sorrel leaves to make one bottle of juice. Had no idea. Noma do an amazing juice menu as well as a wine pairing. As I hate wine with a passion (really…), I opted for this. Other juices included sea buckthorn, apple and pine and elderflower.

Over the next few hours you are treated to one of the best shows on Earth. ‘Muddy’ vegetables in pots, fish sticking out of doughnuts, knives in sheaths, old biscuit tins filled with cookies, giant eggs with smaller ones nestled inside, a bleeding snowman, brown paper packages and bone marrow made of caramel… Sounds ridiculous. It was. It totally confuses what your brain takes for granted and makes you look at food in a totally different way.

Molecular gastronomy (yak, I hate that phrase) has wowed us with poofs of green smoke and sounds whilst we eat. Nordic foraged food left us hungry for creativity in a different form. There’s something strangely bewitching about someone who can get you excited about a dark green juice and eating moss.

Memories to Last a Lifetime

It’s expensive and as we are constantly reminded, ‘it was a long way to go for your tea’. It was worth every penny and mile travelled just to say I have eaten Rene Redzepi’s food and experienced Noma. Regardless of all the accolades, this was one of the best experiences of my life.

Here are some of the pictures we took. As I mentioned, it was really dark inside (think cave…) so it was really hard to get decent shots without blinding the other diners!

The Menu
Moss
Seabuckthorn leather
Cookies
Leek
Fish doughnuts!
Sorrel juice
Picked vegetables with bone marrow
Snowman
Packaged caramel bonemarrow
Chocolate crisps

I am going to use a little artistic license with the brief… Noma was my number one, but I’m giving you my top five because they were playing on my mind like a child accidentally left home alone at Christmas…

  1. Noma – see above!
  2. Frantzen/Lindeberg, Stockholm – some of the best vegetable sorcery I have ever seen. Similar to Noma in content with a style all of their own.
  3. The Fat Duck, Bray – we went here for our Hag Do (we refused to have Hen and Stags…) again with Wayne and Vicki. An experience I will cherish forever and a show I will never forget!
  4. The French Laundry, Yountville – nearly killed us getting in, this was part of a trip for our 30th birthdays just a few weeks ago.
  5. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London – still a favourite after all these years. Fantastic food with incredible service.

I could write just as much on burgers and tea rooms, but I shall end it on this. A good meal is not determined by the number of Michelin stars, AA rosettes, its Good Food Guide number or ranking in the San Pellegrino top 50. For me it’s all about how comfortable I feel, the entertainment value, the taste and ultimately the people I am sharing it with.

Please feel free to ask questions or just say hello!

Blog: DollyBakes

Twitter: @dollybakes

Facebook: DollyBakes

Nosy at my pics: Pinterest

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One Response to “Most Memorable Meal: Dollybakes”

  1. Desiree October 25, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    Brilliant article – I want to go to all of these places now! With DollyBakes! I can’t stand wine either. Only trouble is, I may not come home!

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