From around 700 to 1200, the Islamic-ruled Spanish city of Córdoba was a rare beacon of religious tolerance in Europe. During the Convivencia, as the period is known, Muslims, Jews, and Christians all coexisted in relative harmony. This cross-cultural exchange led to a flurry of intellectual and culinary flourishing. Moorish dishes, or those created by the Muslim inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula, were often ornate affairs that drew on the vast array of spices and sweet-savory flavors of the Arab world. Yet when the fragile peace of the Convivencia shattered, following a series of conquests by Christian armies, many of these recipes slipped into obscurity or all but disappeared.
Since 2016, chef Paco Morales has been recapturing some of the Spanish region of Andalusia’s gastronomic heritage at Noor, his two-star Michelin restaurant in Córdoba. Each summer, the restaurant closes for creative development, then reopens for a “season” inspired by a specific period in Andalusian history. With space for just eight diners at two daily seatings, one at lunch and one at dinner, Noor’s cuisine is a prized treat.
For the restaurant’s inaugural season, Morales showcased tasting menus based on the Caliphate of Cordoba during the 10th century, while subsequent seasons have marched up through the 1300s. While the presentations are contemporary, each dish is grounded in rigorous historical research. In each case, Morales steers clear of ingredients from the Americas including corn, tomatoes, and potatoes, opting instead for rose petals, bitter coriander, dates, and nuts. Carob beans, for instance, often appear on the dessert menu in lieu of chocolate.
An appreciation for Moorish history extends to the restaurant’s interior, which consists of materials available during the appropriate time period. Architectural studio GGLab loosely modeled the space’s intricate geometric motifs on those in Medina Azahara, a Medieval-era Muslim palace on the edge of the city. Noor translates as “light,” and the place is flooded with it, adding to the inherent drama surrounding menus that dive deep into Córdoba’s past.
Know Before You Go
Reservations here are both coveted and incredibly hard to come by. Start planning your trip well in advance.