Lighting makes food the hero in Noma

If the guests are focusing on the lighting, then the food mustn’t be good enough… When it came to designing the lighting plan for his Sydney pop-up, Noma Australia, head chef Rene Redzepi asked design studio Foolscap to make his food the hero.

Rene could be described as a purist when it comes to the dining experience. And with just cause! He’s renowned as one of the world’s top chefs. For his Noma Australia outing (a 10-week residency in Sydney), he was keen to do away with any hint of decorative lighting, instead requesting simplified and technical lighting that would pinpoint the table tops and keep the focus on the food.

Secondary to this, says Foolscap director, Adele Winteridge, was “to create the feeling of that uniquely warm, sun-drenched Australian afternoon light for day sittings, and a dark, moody and shadowy atmosphere for night”.

It was a unique project for Foolscap, whose main focus was to create a distinctly Australian experience for the restaurant who DNA is quintessentially Danish. The restaurant itself would sit within Lend Lease’s newly developed Barangaroo waterfront precinct.

The design concept and resulting fit-out for Noma Australia needed to reflect the preparation of native ingredients – most sourced from coastal regions and surrounding bush and prepared using fire.

“We developed an overarching concept [around] the idea of north and south, land and water,” says Foolscap strategy and design director, Dhiren Das. “Our process was to essentially reflect that of Noma: to source and celebrate the most interesting materials and explore their limits.”

The dining experience itself is based around elemental materials, the concept of ‘land’ represented by solid mass, weight, charred textures and earth; the concept of ‘water’ represented through light, shadow, glass and spatial volume.

When it came to the lighting design, says Adele, “the solution we worked on with Light Project was to specifically highlight the table tops and certain elements such as the rammed earth walls, the artworks and Xanthorea (grass trees) with a warm spotlight.”

IBL Lighting was placed above each table in the bulkhead and suspended out into areas of full height volume using a customised track system. Lights were programmed to be individually dimmable, allowing front-of-house staff to adjust the lighting on each table according to which course was being served.

This worked to highlight the table tops as the centre of the action, leaving the space around each table shadowed in dark, moody relief.

Since opening earlier this year, Noma Australia has received rave reviews. Perhaps best summed up as an “astonishing experience” that reminds us “to look at what surrounds us with fresh eyes, count our blessings and perhaps try a little harder to appreciate it”.

Start designing the lighting program for your hospitality fit-out today. We’ve got plenty of architectural lighting products to get you started, and can work through solutions with you.

Images: courtesy of Lend Lease