In the era of Instagram, it could be said that a restaurant’s success depends as much on its decor as the quality of its food. At the best eateries, though, there’s strength in both aspects, and the food and the environment work in tandem to elevate the whole experience. There’s perhaps no better example of this than Noma, Copenhagen’s twice Michelin-starred and four-time Restaurant magazine Best Restaurant of the Year. René Redzepi and Claus Meyer’s restaurant put Nordic food on the map with innovative preparation and presentation, served up in an environment that served to—at the optimal time of fascination with all hygge— underscore the restaurant’s Danish roots and reverence for nature.
When Redzepi decided to reinvent the restaurant with Noma 2.0, he doubled down on design cachet, enlisting none other than Denmark’s architectural wunderkind, Bjarke Ingels to work with original Noma architect David Thulstrup on design. Throughout the creation of both interiors, Redzepi also worked with a more under-the-radar partner: Dinesen, a 120-year-old family-run Danish wood manufacturer, whose nuanced understanding of materiality has balanced Noma’s star quality food for the past six years. Of the company, Redzepi says: “Their approach to nature’s materials is amazing, and it makes me happy to have their wood around us and our guests.”
It seems an appropriate pairing: Dinesen’s process of selecting wood for Noma’s floors, walls, ceiling, and furniture is perhaps as intensive as Redzepi’s of developing its recipes. The company’s current head, Thomas Dinesen, is educated in forest management and dedicated to finding the most high-quality, sustainable wood on the planet. “We are as passionate about the new Noma as Rene and his team are,” says Dinesen. “We share the same values, pay attention to details, and keep going until we reach our goal.” That can be some time: The entire process for Noma’s materials, from selection to installation, took over a year.
To Dinsen, it’s all about finding the wood that best aligns with Noma’s atmosphere and vision. “Our task was first and foremost to transform the natural tranquillity and balance of the forest into a harmonious feeling of well-being and ease and bring that into the new Noma,” explains Dinesen. “When that feeling is present, Noma’s guests have the best preconditions to enjoy Rene Redzepi’s many surprises.”
That tranquility came in the form of oak and Douglas fir, which swathes the floors, walls, shelves, and waiter stations, and whose unique attributes show both the restaurant team’s attention to detail and a certain reverence for nature. Though patrons may not know that the Douglas HeatOak on the floors is from trees as old as 200 years, their cracks and rings imbue the space with warmth and texture.
Like much of Noma’s food, these are things that may be hard to create, but when done well, are near tangible. “We often compare the way in which Dinesen makes floors with the making of good food,” Dinesen says. “We need to know where to find the best raw material which we need to store and handle correctly. We must have the right appliances and the good recipes. And especially, we need the skills and a passion to create the finest result. Every single time.”