The company behind Denmark’s Noma—which was voted last year as the world’s best restaurant for the fifth time—is in talks with Singapore billionaire Peter Lim to explore business opportunities in the lion city and around Asia.
“Peter is a good friend,” Peter Kreiner, CEO of Noma, told Forbes Asia during his visit to Singapore last week. “I have been in dialogue with him to discuss how and what we can do to be closer to the amazing world which Asia represents.” A representative for Lim confirmed that Kreiner and Lim met in Singapore but declined to provide further comments as details have yet to be firmed up.
Founded in 2003 by Danish chef René Redzepi—famous for his foraging and fermenting techniques—Noma topped the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list last year, an accolade it won in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. The list is compiled by U.K.-based William Reed Business Media, which tallies the votes of more than 1,000 restaurateurs, chefs, and food writers.
Redzepi and his partners also operate three other restaurants—Barr (Nordic cuisine), Sanchez (Mexican food) and burger joint Popl—as well as the Hart bakery chain in Copenhagen. This month, the group launched garum, a smoked mushroom pasta sauce, making available the ingredient available to home cooks in the U.S. the U.K. and the EU.
The Noma group of companies had previously ventured into Asia with the opening of Inua restaurant in Tokyo in June 2018. However, the restaurant was shut in April 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic upended the global economy, disrupting industries and businesses.
The restaurant industry is among the hardest hit by the pandemic as governments enforced lockdowns and restricted international travel to curb the spread of coronavirus. The Noma group of companies suffered losses not just in Japan but also in Denmark during the pandemic, but the outlook is turning better, with the group close to breaking even, Kreiner said.
“It has been a challenge. It has been difficult, it’s been loss making,” Kreiner said of Noma’s experience during the pandemic. “Overall, we’re looking good. We’re coming out of it.”
Burger joint Popl was launched at the height of the pandemic in December 2020, enabling the group to tap into the booming food delivery business when dining in at restaurants was not allowed.
With Singapore gradually reopening its borders to international travelers via the vaccinated travel lanes, Kreiner said he came to the lion city to discuss potential opportunities with Lim. “I wanted to follow up and meet my good friend Peter,” Kreiner said. “There’s so much to explore in Singapore and the broader region,” he added.
While there are no immediate plans to open another restaurant in Asia, Kreiner said the Noma group of companies is looking for opportunities in the region. “It’s extremely fascinating what’s happening in this part of the world,” Kreiner said. “It’s so rich. It’s so large. It offers so many things and it’s fun and an exciting place to go.”
Lim, 68, has been investing in property, healthcare, and sports after cashing out of palm oil giant Wilmar over a decade ago. With a net worth of $2.6 billion, Lim was ranked No. 15 when the list of Singapore’s 50 Richest was published in August. He recently ventured into education, partnering with top British boarding school Wellington Colleges to set up international schools across Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in the next few years.