The upper level of this small, two-story restaurant, with its chequered floor and high bar tables is now a relaxed wine bar. B.A.R belongs to the natural wine school, Malmö’s current wine craze, and serves both classic Italian as well as wines in new, funky bottles with cocky labels. All are well matched by a knowledgeable and very friendly staff. Downstairs the ceiling height is low, carpet pads the bare tiles and the lights hang down, creating a warm glow over the tables along the walls. Here you sit a bit isolated, along with your party, which seems to help diners relax a bit more. The atmosphere is pleasant and easy-going. For some years now B.A.R has been looking for its identity in what nature offers nearby, and they seem to have found it now. The head chef’s carefully prepared food includes a lot of greens and berries, fermented, preserved and pickled, along with seasonal game. Among the starters a perfect, creamy poached egg with fried chanterelles distinguishes itself, along with lukewarm arugula, small pieces of bright pickled lemon, and a nice potato cream flavoured with sweet fermented garlic. With a mushroom broth poured over it to bind it all together, it becomes a pure umami dream. Even wild duck with intense rowanberries is appealing, while sloe berry ice cream with chervil dressing and buckwheat crisp would have been better suited to breakfast. The menu is short but whatever you choose, it’s sure to take your taste buds on an eventful journey through the countryside of Skåne.
Inside an old hotel where several other restaurant concepts have tried and failed, head chef Kari Innerå’s cheery menu and playful palate have given BA53 a note of whimsy in an otherwise stiff-upper-lipped part of Oslo. While one can expect muted conversations about the Dow Jones index and Tesla queues amongst the diners, there’s a substantial amount of colour and brightness in the plates being served. Either you go for one of the set menus or choose dishes yourself (three is sufficient for leaving you well fed but still capable of walking downtown for a night cap), you’ll find intriguing flavours and wonderfully plated portions. Current favourites include a smoked haddock spaghettini, lamb from Buskerud and signature dishes like tempura-fried cod’s tongue with a rich, tangy mayo dip. The cuisine’s inspirations span from Southeast Asia to Central Europe, creating keen, inventive twists with local ingredients. This emphasis on locally sourced meat, fish and produce is one of BA53’s foremost qualities (we wish the beer selection showed the same regional enthusiasm), and its thoughtful compositions are as visually stunning as fulfilling. The dining room itself is huge, and the open kitchen solution is an inviting, natural focal point should the conversation falter. Retreat to the adjacent bar space for a cocktail and you’ll be leaving Frogner smiling, albeit with a slightly thinner wallet.
The gang behind Babette has really become comfortable in their own skin as the little neighbourhood restaurant has become a popular watering hole for regulars, families with children and guests from far away. The feeling of entering someone’s private living room is accentuated by the cordial reception and broad smiles among the staff. Here there are no stiff pretensions, high-flown clichés, or lectures, but just good food, great wines, and an atmosphere that makes everyone feel welcome. Frida Hansson, who most recently comes from Eriks Wine Bar, is the latest sommelier addition at Babette and she guides us with an experienced hand among the restaurant’s treats. The rustic wild duck terrine with pickled onions and a big slice of sourdough bread is washed down with a well-chosen glass of red and the combo is, as promised, very good. Even the fresh leafy green salad with a perfectly creamy egg, crunchy and salty pancetta, crispy beans and sour cream disappears in a flash down the hatch. One cannot come to Babette without trying one of the venue’s famous pizzas. The legacy of the former pizzeria (yes, that was what was in the room before) has been refined and developed and today they serve some of the city’s most delicious pizzas. Smoked beef, soft-baked figs, Parmesan and spicy tomato sauce sounds as good as it is.
The gang behind Babette has really become comfortable in their own skin and the little neighbourhood restaurant has become a popular watering hole for regulars, families with children and visitors from far away. The feeling of entering someone's private living room is accentuated by the cordial reception and broad smiles among the staff. Here there are no stiff pretensions, high-flown clichés, or lectures, but just good food, great wines, and an atmosphere that makes everyone feel welcome. Frida Hansson, who most recently comes from Eriks Wine Bar, is the latest sommelier addition at Babette and she guides us with an experienced hand among the restaurant's treats. The rustic wild duck terrine with pickled onions and a big slice of sourdough bread is washed down with a well-chosen glass of red and the combo is, as promised, very good. Even the fresh leafy green salad with a perfectly creamy egg, crunchy and salty pancetta, crispy beans and sour cream disappears in a flash down the hatch. One cannot come to Babette without trying one of the venue's famous pizzas. The legacy of the former pizzeria (yes, that was what was in the room before) has been refined and developed and today they serve some of the city’s most delicious pizzas. Smoked beef, soft-baked figs, Parmesan and spicy tomato sauce sounds as good as it is.
It takes something special to maintain a leading gastronomic establishment far from the big city and without the option of overnight accommodations. Yet that is exactly what Chef Vivi Schou has accomplished with Restaurant Babette, which she runs with her husband, Henrik Pedersen. The duo has been accompanied throughout the years by the indelible talent of restaurant manager Brian Jensen, and additions like Partrick Godborg and Jesper Dams Hansen have invigorated the kitchen. Babette’s menu now combines an innovative touch with an unwavering respect for classic gastronomy, as reflected in the chef’s choice to offer guinea fowl this evening. The hospitality is exceptional and you feel almost honoured by the opportunity to taste the treasures of Pedersen’s cellar, from old burgundies to ingenious new purchases from worlds new and old. The decor is dominated by golden woods, copious white tulips and large green plants. Pedersen’s past as a florist shines through. The menu is predominantly green, fresh and from the sea, but you can count on it touching on a full range of flavours. The kitchen brilliantly seasons, properly salts and insightfully uses acidity and richness, all while retaining the delicate and pure flavours of their unique ingredients. The result is exquisite. After a procession of diverse and inventive snacks comes the highlight of the evening: a baked halibut, white and firm, under a canopy of dried oysters with chamomile tea and oyster emulsion, vacuum-prepared daikon sticks and leftover stalks of watercress. Waste is avoided with great ingenuity, and the resulting meal is a testament to the enlightenment and enjoyment a dining experience can deliver. The creaminess of the dish is held in check by the frail, bitter chamomile, while the stalks and daikon add texture and bite. The pumpkin ravioli is a surprising bull’s-eye. There’s cream cheese and rosehips in the filling, but it’s not overly perfumed, and the pasta is topped with a frothy sauce and a generous dose of vadouvan. It’s piquant, acidic, rich, and trailed by a bitter, creamy edge. It becomes all the more spectacular paired with an older vintage of gewürztraminer from Zind-Humbrecht, the first of several extraordinary wine pairings. Next is Pouilly-Fumé paired with clear beef consommé with foie gras and pickled mushrooms, and then a 2004 Chambolle-Musigny, which escorts the moist guinea fowl through three variations on onion and ramson. We particularly enjoy the fresh parsnip dessert with a broken gel of lemon and wheat berries, resting on a base of perfect vanilla ice cream. Babette is well worth a trip for its brilliantly executed delectable cuisine and untethered indulgence.
The Baltic Station Market and the Depoo are the recent focus of Tallinn’s street food scene. Several dozen different eateries cater to every imaginable taste and each stall has its die-hard fans. Among the many, the Baojaam can be easy to miss. The small stand crafts five different kinds of bao complete with four soft drink options. Note that during lunch rush, you may have to fight through the crowds for your bun. Things are calmer in the off-peak hours, but don’t count on a fly-by meal even so. The Baojaam – literally the Bao Station – is like any other station: people come and go, and they pick up their baos as fast as they are made; but taste is everything, and no concessions are made to speed. But how to choose your bao? Just pick a filling: veggies, squid, beef, pork or chicken. Each is equally delicious.
During the daytime tiny Bar Centro serves coffee. In the evenings, food and natural wines. The room is actually a bit too crowded, the tiled walls cold and the chairs somewhat harsh. But the cosiness factor is high regardless. On one glass wall stands the cheese menu, sloppily written with the associated numbers and a map so one can see where the goodies come from. We order the four-course dinner with the accompanying wine pairings. The place was previously run by the acclaimed duo, Tomas Reivinger and David Lilja Lundin, who have since left on a Stockholm adventure. Oskar Ahlvin and Harry Wong, who worked here even then, have now taken over. What a stroke of luck! The service is simple, honest, and smart, and so is the food. The quickly seared gem lettuce with oyster sauce and toasted almonds makes the strongest impression. “If I could just eat one dish for the rest of my life it would be this”, cries the head of our table with his mouth full of crisp lettuce and buttery, sea-flavoured sauce. We ask for the recipe for the sauce and receive it. Thanks, Chef Harry! The baked onion with teriyaki sauce and homemade fake truffle is fun. Sure, mushrooms, almonds, black sesame seeds and butter tastes kind of like truffles. Oskar delivers one wine after another and they all happily dance with the dishes. The 1998 aged riesling from Mosel is wonderful with our miso parfait and pear compote. There are no “wet basement” or oxidized notes here (as some wine experts warn when it comes to natural wines). Imagine being able to enjoy such an imaginative and honest, well-made meal on an ordinary Thursday evening.
Adgangen til det intime stemningsfyldte lokale, med klippen som en naturlig del af væggene, sker fra en lille naturstensbelagt gyde, hvor der tørres torsk under tagudhængene. På menuen er flere ’deleretter’, så her er det helt naturligt, at man ’smager hos hinanden’. Køkkenchefens fortolkning af latinamerikansk ceviche - en velafstemt kold fiskesalat på rå havtaske marineret i citronsaft med chili og koriander serveret med rødløg og hasselnødknas – er et komplekst smagspotpourri, der sætter barren højt. Dampet hestemusling med let rødligt kød og smag hen ad sin blå artsfælle serveres med stegt ramsløg på ristet brød – enkelt, men elegant. Bacalao, spansk for udvandet klipfisk af torsk, rørt op med lækre nye kartofler, smør, som tilfører fedme, salt, peber og bredbladet persille, er en rustik, lidt bastant, men indbydende ret, med en klokkeren fiskesmag. Fast hvidt fedtfattigt kød af dampet kuller har en fin let koncentreret torskesmag, der matches af en sart romesco, som især bæres af grillet peberfrugt, mandler og soltørrede tomater. Disse indledende øvelser matches af en 2015 Kremser Sandgrube på grüner veltliner fra østrigske Krems - en tør, mineralsk sag med en fast grøn syrestruktur. To ting på menuen må du ikke gå glip af, det ene er torskehovedsuppen med karamelliserede løg og safran, hvor den sarte fiskesmag indgår i en symbiose med karamel, afdæmpet løgsmag og filigran safrannoter, mens det andet er nye kartofler med skræl og traditionel baskisk pil pil-sauce med perfekt konsistens lavet på klipfisk, udvandet så saltet har trukket sig, hvidløg, jomfruolivenolie og en smule chili - stedets svar på naturens egen sauce bearnaise. På Barbara tør køkkenchefen gå sin egen vej, og det sker helt uden slinger.
The happy-go-lucky mood masks a superbly run restaurant with a tight team of pros that like to work hard and play hard. Waltzing in early at 6 pm definitely doesn’t guarantee you a table. If the place is packed, the most you’ll get is a seat at the bar – which is not a bad thing, as the staff will draw you into the hustle and bustle. Dining alone is not a problem here, especially given the heart-warming amount of attention you receive from the smiling owner (who gets his hands dirty just like the rest of the eight-person team) and even the faraway chef in the kitchen. They see, they notice, and they pay attention to every swing of your mood. It’s uncanny. The food here is created from the highest quality ingredients available. It’s hard to resist creamy burrata cheese with bright mint and basil and some really expensive olive oil. The steak tartare is also a treat you don’t want to deprive yourself of, served Italian style with Parmesan, lemon and soft morsels of the highest quality meat. Wash it down with a sparkling rosé which at first tastes like a salty farmyard; the food and wine complement each other so well we consider ordering another glass. The white asparagus is as brittle and crunchy as the homemade bread and its nutty flavour is made even more enchanting by the thick, traditional buttery hollandaise that goes with it. The wine, Revolution White Solera from Weingut Johannes Zillinger in Austria, springs forth with a rebellious blend of chardonnay, scheurebe and riesling, bringing acidity and tropical fruit flavours to this traditional German dish. The coup de grâce of roast Iberico ham with BasBas’ version of a Waldorf salad makes us feel certain we’ve died and gone to heaven. Like a good relationship, the Anjou Rouge from the Mosse winery brings out the best in the meat while the food highlights the raspberry notes in the wine. We practically swoon. Did we mention that the wines are mostly natural and, if they’re not, they’re certainly organic? The wine menu is limited to no more than ten handpicked bottles carefully tasted by the sommelier and staff to find the right match for each dish. You get the idea? Many others do too, so be sure to book in advance.
Bass is a bar – a bar with very good food, actually. And it’s trendy. When a restaurant has this type of buzz in Grünerløkka, a not-so-recently gentrified neighborhood of Oslo, a line of people is bound to form outside. Some of them will probably stand there because others are already standing there, but the rest are there because they’ve heard about the guilty pleasures, such as sinful and juicy pieces of chicken nuggets and hearty portions of vendace caviar. The restaurateur seems to be relishing this moment: knowing there’s a line outside, they can dare to be themselves and let go of any restraints. Which will probably both keep the buzz going and lead to longer lines. The menu is reassuringly short, full of tempting items. Bass leans less toward fine and more toward fun dining. Although there are few choices, there are enough to woo even the more seasoned diners. It all starts well; the food is playful and elegant in its rough plating. Bass has a wine list that would make both sides of the natural wine feud happy. They cater to all; the only thing that matters is that it tastes good, and it does. The wine is poured generously, so what starts out as a fairly calm evening tends to turn into a party and you might wake up with a number of new Facebook friends. They serve their beloved Danish cheese, Thybo, and a generous amount of fried chicken and dip, but the highlight this evening is raw beef. Raw slices of aged meat topped with vendace caviar is like an imaginative take on a Norwegian taco. It’s paired with a glass of vodka. The stereo plays hits from the eighties. This it where it starts.
When a place has been hot for as long as Bastard has, it’s not unlikely that the autopilot might kick on now and then. If that has happened here, no one is the wiser. Instead the ingredients, atmosphere, service, and guests have resounded in beautiful harmony for almost eight years, and very, very seldom sounds a false note. In the beginning the restaurant was known for odd cuts of meat, for the pig figurines scattered all over the place, and the plank with delicious charcuterie that’s a permanent fixture on the menu. But Bastard’s best-kept secret is that this meat restaurant, which eventually toned down the more visceral elements, often shines brightest when it comes to the vegetables. Vegetables now constitute two, three, no, four dishes on the menu and they are so good that they steal the show from a pig’s cheek. Take the beautiful, pickled orange coils of pumpkin, for example, with watercress and roasted pumpkin seeds on an herby bed, or the umami-packed cold Gruyère tart. Naturally, we drink wine with all this, which the skilful waiter matches with precision. The desserts are another of Bastard’s trump cards, where one usually finds ice cream, like one made of brown butter with rosemary, caramel, and toasted hazelnuts – so good it makes you melt. The environment and atmosphere is something special here, especially in summer in the Wes Anderson-like inner courtyard by the giant wood-burning oven where Malmö’s tastiest pizzas are baked.
Austevoll is the home of Bocuse d’Or winner Ørjan Johannessen and his renowned chef and brother, Arnt Johannessen. Together they run the kitchen at Bekkjarvik Gjestgiveri where their parents cooked throughout their childhood. After arriving on this small haven of an island, you quickly realize that there is nowhere you would rather be. The view is stunning and some of what’s swimming nearby will later appear on your plate. When booking a table for dinner here, make sure you also have a bed for the night. You do not want to hurry back to catch the last ferry, nor will you want to drive home, because the wines are interesting, priced so you feel like you're getting value for money, and definitely worth the stay. For the best experience, book a room in the main building. This is also where you’ll find the best ambiance for dinner. The evening starts with a langoustine that has barely touched the grill. It has an intense flavour that works well with the cauliflower cream, and it’s light as a cloud with a velvety texture. This is just the beginning of the local produce that leads us down a steady and traditional path along the west coast of Norway. Next up is pollock, a fish historically used as bait in Norway. It is served with a fresh riesling foam, peas and sauerkraut. We carry on with a smooth and soft monkfish before arriving at the most tender lamb meat imaginable – we barely need our teeth to chew. The sweet, intense sauce is made from a local recipe and has been reduced for three days. The waiter attends to us throughout the evening with unique dedication and knowledge, and a lifetime of experience to share. We especially enjoy his expertise when it comes to the wine, juice and coffee, all of which have a clear thought behind them. Dining at Bekkjarvik is an old-school,classic experience, with waiters in uniforms and tables covered with white linen.
As lively as the street is outside, it is beautiful and quiet inside Bertha.The light, cool decor with oak contrasts with the stony façade. This is where the city’s young avant-garde gather to appreciate the progressive cooking. The wait staff is knowledgeble, charming and friendly. The kitchen comes out strong with homemade butter and bread, the latter still warm from the oven. A Finnish semolina porridge immediately follows the bread, topped with cranberries and spruce shoots. The domestic theme continues with minced pike that, along with charred seaweed and fermented savoy cabbage achieves a nice balance on the palate. The sauce made of cod adds salt to the dish. The endive with cheese sauce and honey has a slightly burnt taste that is somewhat balanced by the sweetness of the extraordinary French cider served with it. An oxtail that has been lingering in the oven for two days is particularly tender, and with a thin slice of kohlrabi and butter sauce flavored with radishes, it is the strongest dish of the night. The dish of celeriac, cabbage, and slow-braised pork belly, which is quickly turned on the grill before serving, is a close second. The wine recommendations are reliable, and particularly a light pinot noir stands out. The chocolate dessert comes with a crispy tuile that’s just on the edge of burnt, accompanied by a cool Italian malvasia. Overall, everything is just right here at Bertha, especially the forthright staff with their great beverage knowledge. They make the visit a pleasure.
Light charcoal and grays. Wood and wool. The interior got a redesign in 2015 and breathes Scandinavian. It plays well with the New Nordic cooking that Niclas Yngvesson and Gustav Knutsson have become known for. If restaurants were measured in dog years, Bhoga would be about 35 by now and in its prime, and that would explain the maturity, self-assurance, creativity and courage that characterise the experience. Everything they touch gets turned and twisted around, tried and tested, and all with a rare sense of calm and confidence. Diners can choose the menu of five courses, or expand it to seven or nine, all beautifully presented on rough, elegant ceramics. The initial brown-buttery pumpkin tartlet and corresponding pumpkin broth with a vinegar note makes you forget the squash’s sugary-sweet Halloween associations. A fino sherry is a nice pairing, but so is the recommended Bellini cocktail, which has been delicately showered in absinthe. A scallop comes with an unusual and lovely seared exterior and rests in a buttery Ingrid Marie apple broth seasoned with thyme. Those who like the plant kingdom are in luck, for they use animals more like a seasoning here. One example is the perfectly round disc of celeriac confidently seared and topped with yogurt and crushed crunchy chicken skin – but it’s the fresh tarragon leaves that add to the simultaneous feeling of over-indulgence and elegance. So lovely! The mushroom dish is a bit like Bhoga personified: a porcini cream forms a luxurious cushion for the fungi of the year, the king oyster mushroom, lightly pan-fried, flanked by opposition in the form of crunchy buckwheat and raw mushroom slices. Beside it lies a pool of emulsified cream ale, topped with rose hip powder. The contrasts are sublime – in texture, flavour and appearance. It’s hard to say what we like most, the idea or the taste. On the whole, everything related to beer here is done well, from the selection to the matching, to the knowledge and enthusiasm. Those who choose the beer pairings get a journey through time and space. The wines are natural and biodynamic. Thoughtful non-alcoholic pairings are also available. A Muscovy duck (a native Swedish breed) attractively plated on a cream of fermented cherries is the only real meat dish. It comes with a flurry of zealously groomed Brussels sprout leaves and on the side, a crispy rye bun with a hint of fermented garlic. It’s the evening’s hit combo. Then comes cheese and wine. A smooth cream of Anno 1225 cheese from Almnäs topped with a ruffle of grated chervil makes the taste buds turn somersaults with a 13-year-old auslese riesling. The tempo is high without ever feeling stressed. The service is relaxed and charming. Each serving is beautiful and balanced. We get our Ethiopian coffee served in wine glasses, and why not? At Bhoga, anything goes.
In the simple, low-profile building located in a sculpture park a few kilometres outside Umeå, Peter Stenmark and Jacob Markström have created a unique gathering place among the artwork, pines and birches. A favourite of Umeå residents, it brings together families with children, older couples, girlfriends and colleagues, who are all met by the experienced and confident staff. Self-confidence is at its peak in the kitchen, but without being snobby or exaggerated. Year after year this charming restaurant continues to deliver well-prepared and stylish dishes. The menu changes more and more often and is completely seasonally based, and sometimes experimental – though blackened Fröya salmon with tart apples, sharp horseradish and smoked sour cream is not the most successful combo. The house-stuffed duck and truffle sausage, on the other hand, has just the right amount of truffle and it’s our clear favourite together with the foie gras sauce and a buttery purée of almond potatoes. The menus are mostly composted of French and rustic Norrland dishes, and the portions are seriously sized. When it comes to the beverages there is an equally careful selection and the service staff happily suggest beer from some of the region’s microbreweries.
Seven years of success have proved that distinguished Chef Marko Palovaara made the right decision when he left one of the best restaurants in Helsinki and opened a bistro of his own in a small town well outside the capital. O Mat has become popular particularly among commuters. There’s nothing posh here (the restaurant is actually situated by the parking area of a large supermarket) and the food speaks for itself. Dinner on an ordinary Wednesday night shows that their kitchen keeps up with the trends. Parsnip has become increasingly popular in Finnish restaurants of late. Here it’s made into a creamy, almost foamy soup where strips of duck leg balance some of the root vegetable sweetness. The main course is perfectly roasted zander, and it seems to be tagging along on another popular trend, namely the adding of a surprising amount of smoke to ingredients where it does not usually belong, like in the butter sauce. At this bistro they know their wines, and they recommend sauvignon blanc from New Zealand with the dessert, a crème brûlée with rose hips. It tastes new and unusual, and comes with a trendy fennel meringue.
We ascend the stairs to the inconspicuous villa on the outskirts of Pildammsparken full of expectations. In the gold-shimmering entrance stands an energised group of young men and women prepared to make a night of it. “Good evening, welcome”. (Everything is in English here.) We get no menu; we cannot know what is being served. “Are you nervous?” The show can begin. It is a five-course tasting menu (that’s no secret), but the star of the kitchen, Chef Titti Qvarnström will ensure that there are at least ten trips to the table, and all at a furious pace. The amuse-bouches are brilliant, like a divine oyster in its foam, which we recognise; raw, grated cauliflower; scallop accompanied by tangy dabs of yuzu and seaweed; and watercress with sea buckthorn berries. On the latter, a pitch black bread – black with blood? No. Octopus? No. It is activated carbon! Small, nice, dark pink pieces of game? It is the heart of the deer. A 2011 merlot from Blaxsta contributes with a note of berries and flowers. But what is the cute little mini-burger made out of? Taste it! Otherwise you will not know that it is bull testicle. A blue-blooded piece of... bird? It is wild duck, with tart apple cream, cubes of rutabaga and turnip, along with pieces of the thigh in flavourful autumnal alliance with black trumpet and parasol mushrooms. A small, elegant pan-seared potato and pistachio dumpling with nice pieces of bacon becomes the evening’s most memorable dessert. Then Bloom’s famous tube containing a chartreuse mixture of ginger and green tea arrives, overflowing with smoke from the dried ice, and waiting to be downed. Dazed, we head out into the park, full of hindsight.
The dining room must be one of the most beautiful in Sweden, still in its original condition, created by Ferdinand Boberg, the architect of the NK department store. Crystal chandeliers, wood-panelled walls in light birch. Its low-key luxury and glamor is conducive to extravagant lunches. If you are lucky and get a window seat the view over Kungsträdgården and off toward the water is breathtaking. The staff consist of the kind of hospitality professionals who know whether or not it’s appropriate to fit in a little joke. In the kitchen, it’s Bjorn Frantzén who sets the tone, from a superb shrimp salad served on a marble tray to the rustic favourite that many flock here for: homemade blood pudding doused with both cognac and port wine. A little pan with gratinated scallops makes a masterful introduction, perfectly cooked with luscious truffle cream and a hint of Parmesan cheese, watercress and chives. Small, delicate croutons add crunch and it’s topped with plenty of finely sliced truffles. A glass of petit chablis is the finishing touch. After that comes tender, juicy pieces of seared country chicken and crispy skin in a smooth tarragon velouté with bright small gems of corn, beans, savoy cabbage and soft, pressed almond potatoes. The dill for the cured salmon is clipped with scissors over the plate and the lemon half is thoughtfully wrapped in gauze to prevent the seeds from falling out. Then a finish that brings a tear to the eye: caramel tart with poached pears baked inside, topped by an almond milk sorbet. The desserts are a hallmark here and presented accordingly, on a trolley.
This small restaurant on the western side of Oslo, on a street where boutiques are few, small and expensive, is no longer the new kid on the block. It’s now a neighbourhood cornerstone, a place where the shopkeepers can guide their customers when they are done selecting bags and blazers of brands only known to holders of black credit cards. The dining room and kitchen are almost naked in their minimalism, decorated sparsely with a couple of erotic paintings. In the basement, where the restrooms are, someone had the idea of incorporating a nature theme. The wallpaper depicts a vast forest and the sound of birdsong spills out of the speakers; we appreciate their sense of humor. The dinner kicks off with an actual bonsai tree surrounded by soil made out of cream cheese and toasted rye crumble, topped with fried moss, fresh spring radishes and small mushrooms. It’s a tribute to spring, and all that green that promises to come with it, freshly produced by their beloved farmer Finn. Paired with a welcome British take on the sparkling traditions of Champagne, the meal is off to a good start. An oyster emulsion with fresh thin cauliflower shavings and cauliflower purée takes us from the earthy field down to the seashore. Just recently back from a trip to the United States, Chef Simon Weinberg shares with us his take on the most American dish of all: fried chicken. The serving is called “Yoda’s Fried Chicken” and is a tribute to his dog. A roulade of deboned chicken leg is filled with chicken liver, then deep-fried and served in a “YFC” take-away box together with embers of spruce. An emulsion of young spruce shoots as a dip hits the spot and gives the juicy, tender chicken a foresty feel. Inspiration from America is also detectable in the meat dish. The beef is blackened before it is cooked sous vide for 24 hours and served with a juniper cream broken with a jus made from the grill drippings. An ice cream made from milk steeped in rosemary melts alongside the meat and gives it all a sweet and tangy taste. The ending comes in the form of a fresh milk ice cream with beetroot and tarragon. It’s not the sweetest of desserts but nicely sums up the playfulness of the kitchen. The coffee comes from a small roaster in the maître ’d’s hometown of Aarhus. Bokbacka keeps confidently evolving in its own direction and is a great place to visit when you find yourself in dire need of a new experience.
There’s little room for doubt at the Fagerborg local favourite, Bon Lío. Here you have only one dining option: the “Full Pupp” menu, consisting of a number of unannounced and ever-changing dishes, faithful to the early 2000's fad of “whatever the chef is in the mood for”. While this can be perceived as arrogant and reactionary nowadays, the high quality one can expect throughout the experience efficiently removes any qualms one might have had walking in. This is a Spanish restaurant in every sense of the word, from a “La Rambla” sign by the counter to the kitchen’s use of Mediterranean ingredients and cooking techniques. On a normal day your menu will consist of as many as 12-13 dishes, including the appetisers, where you will be exposed to diverse aspects of this concept. From an amuse-bouche of ramson and Avruga caviar via a shot of the traditional, cold almond soup called ajo blanco, to a profusion of fish preparations, like a cod escabeche and a halibut ceviche. One can also expect the omnipresent chorizo and Iberian pig to make appearances, all the while accompanied by Spanish wines from both well-known and up-and-coming producers. The dining quarters, spread out over two intimate floors, have an intense, loud, sometimes overly cordial atmosphere where the open kitchen becomes part of the interior and the buzzing conversations. Generous wine pours and a somewhat prolonged wait between courses makes Bon Lío a good choice when you have the following day off.
Bord 13 was originally conceived as the casual dining side of B.A.R – but the division has never been spot on, and the food here has always been too good for the narrow concept of a wine bar. Now instead the mother restaurant has been bistro-fied (à la carte) and Bord 13 has gone fine dining (menu only) – a wise decision, because the innovative, flavourful, and natural food cooked here is fully capable of fighting it out at the top of Malmö’s restaurant range. The service is quick and friendly, without unnecessary flourishes and, above all, they are well versed in what is served on the plate and in the glass. We begin with Sylvain Bock’s Trou Blanc – funky, unfiltered and wonderfully versatile. It works with the small “eyes” of bone marrow fat, red beets and dark chocolate, as well as with the lamb tartare with small crunchy flakes of chicken skin, encompassing both the elderflower cream and the pickled rose petals. Like all wines here it is produced with minimal intervention from the winemaker. Pontus Elofsson (formerly of Noma and now a natural wine importer) and his predilection for natural processes is evident in the extensive selection. In fact, Bord 13 is one of the best places in Sweden to explore this wine category. The same philosophy also encompasses the kitchen, where neither red-listed fish nor medicated mammals shall cross the threshold. So it is with a clear conscience that we take a little more of the bright green pig fat with accompanying pork sprinkles served with the dark bread made with wheat from the island of Öland and Danish porter. The next dish could be called a seasonal hit with its nutty, raw-planed chestnuts and beurre blanc, baked kohlrabi, pine needles and saithe powder. And the matching juice made from pressed apples with lemon thyme is spot on. It is a low-intensity dish, filled with interesting textures, in which every mouthful contains a new dimension. The contrast could not be greater with the wild duck that follows. It is intense, bloody, and dramatic with sweetness from carrot, acidity from the plums and dried blueberries, crispiness from the fried kale and deeply flavoured with black garlic. The Valencia wine from the Bodegas Cueva fits like a glove. We calm our nerves with a fluffed curdled cream with salty caramel sauce, cacao nibs, pine oil and rosemary – a delicate encounter between the classic and New Nordic dessert traditions that provides both an interesting gastronomic experience and (not least) soothes the sweet tooth. Bord 13 presents modern cuisine at a masterful level – complex but at the same time as nakedly clean as the room it's served in.
For more than 30 years Karin Fransson and her husband Owe have been running this inn on Öland, she at the pots and he standing ready with a highlighter pen at his podium to check off the evening’s guests. Mrs. Fransson’s kitchen is sophisticatedly elegant, with its own high profile. She has made a name for herself – close to the status of international legend – by using exciting local flowers, leaves and herbs, popularizing the use of everything from marigolds to oysterleaf. Now it seems as if “the herb queen of the island” has turned up her technique ambitions (perhaps because of the star that landed on the place in 2016), somewhat overshadowing the focus on local ingredients. We are served sourdough bread with liquorice, and butter whipped with white balsamic, and goat's cheese cream topped with lovage. Not a lot of Öland there. Late summer has always been the best season to enjoy Borgholm’s gastronomy, when it’s based around beets, summer chanterelles, lamb, sweetbreads and always strawberries and of course, seasonings from their own herb garden. The lamb now comes from the mainland, though the waiter does not know exactly where. Sometimes it can be nice not have to hear where each plant had its root or in which pasture the lamb fell silent, but we wish the staff were more knowledgeable, or ready and willing to return with an answer when they are not. The elevated technical level and the eagerness to modernize many components and structures do not always hit their mark. Sure, the steamed turbot works with elderflower-perfumed green pea sauce and lesser calamint, even if it comes with “pacotized” yoghurt and lemon-flavoured snow. But a slow-braised veal tongue with fried sweetbreads topped by “street food onion rings” and red onions, raspberries, caperberries and oxalis flowers scattered around the plate simply does not come together, and is hardly helped by “red beet” in five consistencies. Rather, one of the tasting menu’s best dishes is a wonderfully simple radish, thinly sliced and served in brown butter with a sourdough cracker on the side. With eager anticipation we look forward to the wine tasting dinners that Owe Fransson mentions he is thinking about starting so that visitors get a chance to taste the many treats on their wine list, including a particularly impressive Pomerol section.
A high-spirited atmosphere and a cheerful chatter fill the small yet busy restaurant by the Old Church Park in central Helsinki. The lighting is dim, the ambiance cosy and the flickering candles are reflected in the copper-clad tables. A corner houses a well-stocked bar where a large number of cocktails are being shaken. The drink menu also includes an extensive list of wines and a good cellar selection. The food is influenced by Mediterranean cuisine – either in the form of a familiar dish or as a side or even just a spice. All of the dishes on the menu are served family style – a social, fun-dining concept recognisable from other restaurants by the chef duo Tomi Björck and Matti Wikberg. The dinner starts with a spicy pepper gazpacho poured over a fresh shrimp cocktail with a tangy cilantro kick. It is well paired with an exotically aromatic Italian wine. The arrival of food and wine is not entirely synchronized and although the staff are professional, they seem at times stressed and at other times inattentive. A bit of DIY is needed when the shish kebab arrives on a tray with traditional sides. The skewered lamb is extremely juicy and tender and the fennel salad adds a tangy crunch. Throughout the dinner the flavours are balanced and exquisite – even though sometimes of the more subtle-tasting ingredients get a bit lost among the Mediterranean flavours.The kitchen shines when the desserts enter. A simple paper cup holds soft green tea ice cream. The round bitterness of the tea adds complexity and depth to the smooth ice cream. Simple, but oh so tasty!
Natural wines paired with a fusion of New Nordic and Italian cuisines may not sound like a bulletproof recipe for success. But as these elements unfold while dining at Brace, the result is marvelous. After a year at Era Ora, Chef Nicola Fanetti has taken the helm at Brace to pursue his passion for Italian simplicity, where ingredients combine on the plate in a visually tight and artistic presentation. Take, for example, the grilled flank steak with slightly bitter kale and sharp horseradish bordered by black lines of fermented garlic and golden drops of orange reduction – a presentation reminiscent of a work by Miró. The ambitious Fanetti showcases an array of techniques that add surprise and edge. Although the ingredients are primarily Nordic and Italian, the flavour palette touches every corner of the world during the 12-course menu. This diversity is manifest in an unconventional but delicious dish, sous-vide Danish octopus with crunchy puffed quinoa breading, arranged over a purée of pumpkin with ginger, mint and wood sorrel. The octopus is perfectly paired with a glass of white Rhône wine, La Coudée d'Or from Philippe Viret, which combines the right amount of acidity and frutiness to balance the minty refinement of the dish. Our incredibly skilled sommelier, Felix Chamorro, has composed the wine pairings with impressive flair and cadence. In the middle of the menu a bold tannic red wine from the volcanic terroir of Etna matches a blast of warm lamb carpaccio with pasta, fried oyster mushrooms, lamb reduction foam, nasturtium flowers and sour raspberry powder, arranged to replicate the Italian flag. This is followed by a refreshing chardonnay from Fanny Sabre in Burgundy to accompany a surprising and innovative dish of salsify covered with slices of beet, celeriac and a piquant kick of garlic purée. The dish is a peppy zinger in the midst of our meat fervour, while the refreshing white wine provides a boost in the tailwinds of the relatively heavy red. It is a rare feat indeed to see such elegant compositions of food and wine intertwined so seamlessly. With bold originality and flawless presentation, Copenhagen’s New Nordic Italian is definitively top-class.
Make your way around Kjell Engman’s blue glass bar at Kosta Boda Art Hotel and slip in through an inconspicuous door. A half flight down reigns Chef Edin Dzemat, White Guide’s Rising Star of the Year in 2014, and the winner of Sweden’s chef competition TV show in 2016. Compared to the hotel’s main restaurant, the notes here are muted wood and dark metals. The flirtation with the glassworks’ history is apparent. With this cosy environment as a framework Edin Dzemat’s dishes function as small works of art, carefully conceived, down to the smallest crust and crisp. In fact, Dzemat himself stands out in the dining room, adding final touches to each plate. The menu is constructed in the spirit of the times, around small plates. Two to three should be enough, depending on what you order. When Dzemat worked at Linnéa in Gothenburg he developed a signature dish (named White Guide’s Dish of the Year in 2014), and you can also get it here: pan-fried lobster with iced lingonberries and brown butter sauce. Beautiful as a painting, the lobster’s sweetness and soft sauce are broken by tangy lingonberries. “39° char” is a subtle taste sensation in small format, with grilled asparagus as rustic buttresses. Those who yearn for something more substantial can delve into the perfectly pink venison with cream of porcini mushrooms and tangy ramson capers. A blackened salmon is more modest, made good by a light crust of toasted rye bread. Beef tartare is served spread out on the plate with minimally chopped crunchy potato sticks on top. From the cellar, which is now integrated into the dining room, you can order a number of wines by the glass. The service follows the diners’ pace responsively, although there is some imbalance in the level of knowledge.
With over 100 Masters Level restaurants, the Nordic countries offer a wide variety of excellent culinary experiences. The Top 30 are all at the Global Masters level and they include some of the best restaurants in the world.