Many places in Scandinavia are located off the beaten track, as there’s a lot of empty space and long stretches between traces of civilization. But you don’t get more in the middle of nowhere than the old mining community of Longyearbyen, now the science and tourism capitol of the Arctic. In the wintertime the harbour is frozen over, so produce is only shipped in every fifth week. Not the easiest conditions for chefs that are used to an abundance of fresh produce being accessible every day. But somehow the restaurants up here are thriving, attracting great young chefs and service staff from all over the Nordic region. Huset, the social heart of Longyearbyen since the fifties, has been the northernmost fine-dinging restaurant since it first started serving wine in the 1990s. Even if the competition from Svalbard’s other establishments is stronger than ever, Huset is still the best place to eat north of the Arctic Circle. Current Chef Simon Idsø has added a more contemporary feel to the food served here. Inspired by the surrounding environment and the current preservation movement, his menu would hold its own in any of the major Nordic cities. Considering his whereabouts, this is a singular performance. One of the appetisers is an outstanding stew of reindeer lungs. Naturally, reindeer is served throughout the whole menu – cured and as a pâté accompanying the bread; in a sausage paired with cabbage and Västerbotten cheese; and as the evening’s main course, topside with onion and butter. We especially enjoy the raw sirloin of bearded seal, thinly sliced with rapeseed oil and sea lettuce, as well as a beautiful serving of slow-roasted celeriac topped with vendace roe butter. The wine list at Huset is legendary, boasting almost 20,000 bottles, some of which have been aging here for over twenty years. Our sommelier of the evening, Mattias Nodvall, presents both the wine list and the wine pairings with enthusiasm, and the pairings are interesting and thoughtful. It pleases us to see such a passion flourish up here in the middle of nowhere.
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.