It’s impressive how quickly you can get from the hustle and bustle of Copenhagen’s Nyhavn to the peaceful surroundings of Refshaleøen. Here one finds Charlotte Amalie’s Bastion, a gunpowder magazine built in 1744 and now the home of Restaurant 56°. The old wooden beams holding up the whitewashed ceilings and the lambskin-clad wooden furniture are reminiscent of Noma, and 56° certainly shares Nordic cuisine as its guiding star. The room has a warmth and tranquillity, enhanced all the more by our pleasant waiter, who provides impeccable and informal service. The menu’s three courses showcase seasonal ingredients, some of which are grown by the restaurant itself while others are sourced from local biodynamic farmers. A couple of appetisers in the form of poached quail egg with fermented garlic and pickled Jerusalem artichokes in a Jerusalem artichoke foam set the Nordic stage before we move on to the first course featuring lumpfish and horseradish. At the centre of the dish is a moulded horseradish mousse packing a spicy kick. It’s topped with lumpfish roe and surrounded by smoked lumpfish, wild herbs and crisp pieces of pear. The pear proves essential with its succulence and crispness, providing an exquisite contrast to the tender lumpfish and soft mousse. Our waiter pours an exotic still white wine of pure pinot noir from Beaufort in Champagne, which is far too acidic on its own, but paired with the dish is a perfect match – a daring and impressive choice. The main course combines the rustic and elegant: young pork shanks on the bone, served with pommes fondant, herbed mashed potatoes and an intense cognac sauce. The dish could have used more of the pickled slices of daikon for freshness in this somewhat heavy serving made from otherwise excellent ingredients. A rich desert of coffee caramel and dark ale ice cream round out a superb meal, where rustic and refined techniques go hand in hand with the beautiful surroundings.
With high ambitions in terms of ingredients and the technical execution of complex dishes, Aabyudengaard serves an inspiring array of re-envisioned Danish classics, taking a playful approach while surprising us along the way. We begin with a tour de Denmark whose route passes through Northern Jutland, Funen, the Wadden Sea and Bornholm. The technical finesse of the kitchen is evident in their take on a Danish classic “Sun over Bornholm”. A beautiful egg yolk confit in a velvety coating of smoked cream accompanies a wonderful smoked herring, topped tableside with a potato salad in chiffon form: an amazing combination of rich flavours, soft textures, salt and smoke. Our tour moves on to the Wadden Sea with a fresh and deliciously composed oyster topped with aquavit foam and rosehip gelée. A surprise comes as the waiter removes the empty oyster shell and reveals the second part of the serving: turbot with saltwort, sweet jelly and crisp breadcrumbs, topped at the table with a split seaweed sauce. This cheeky and intense surprise is initially somewhat unattractive in appearance, and the fish drowns in the flavours, but the fresh and highly acidic 2015 trousseau from Baud in Jura is an intelligent and solid pairing. For dessert, we end up on the island of Funen with Denmark’s “brunsviger” cake, traditionally made with a yeast dough coated in a brown sugar glaze. Here it begins as a wonderful apple crumble on a delicate ice cream with goat’s cheese, all of which goes nicely with an Austrian trockenbeerenauslese. The second part of the serving features a daring and successful combination of apple granité with the flavours of brunsviger in a kefir cream with vanilla and nuts. The coffee is brewed at the table and served with a sublime sea buckthorn sorbet with caramelised white chocolate, rounding off an exquisite evening with surprising, innovative and ambitious double servings.
Guests sit rather tightly packed in the lively restaurant, where the menu and drinks are presented elegantly in bound books, reflecting the great effort and attention dedicated to ensuring a memorable dining experience. The book about the dishes also reveals the kitchen’s affinity for local ingredients, while the wine book features profiles of the curated winemakers. The five-course menu begins with an ultra-tender lamb carpaccio with fresh acidic rhubarb that goes nicely with an elegant hazelnut cream and crisp shredded hazelnut. The delicate lobster bisque with the familiar intense flavour of the crustacean’s rich sweetness contains fresh langoustine tails with the taste of the sea, crème fraîche and chive oil, and is paired perfectly with a crisp and mineral riesling 2014 from the Alsace winemaker Leon Beyer. Arriving next on attractively arranged plates is lamb shoulder on the bone, cooked for twelve hours in Carls Special beer at 90°C and then roasted in the oven for one hour at 200°C. The coarse-fibred, juicy and rich meat is served with poached egg, celeriac purée, root vegetables and a delicate fatty lamb jus. The next serving offers a choice between cod or lamb loin. The flavour of the lamb fully justifies the fact that, even here i Tórshavn, Faroese lamb is more highly prized than that from New Zealand. The freshly roasted pink meat has exquisite structure and taste, with the fine accompaniment of small new potatoes in their skins, blanched herbs and jus. A range of dessert options are offered for the finale. We sample a rhubarb compote with roasted nuts and whipped cream, which is a bit tame. But the well-executed liquorice ice cream served with a brownie has pure anise notes to balance the cocoa flavour, and is adroitly paired with a characteristically oaky and creamy sweet Ximénez-Spínola sherry.
The guys behind the Ved Stranden 10 wine bar have embarked on an ambitious new project. At Admiralgade 26, the excellent wine is joined by cuisine that is personable and unassuming, yet still maintains an edge. The decor reflects a controlled chaos with designer furniture scattered throughout. Each evening they choose to adorn one of the raw wooden tables with a Damask tablecloth, making it the “elegant” table that diners may end up at by chance. The bistro also has an academic touch, with its own newspaper featuring such luminaries as Rilke and Kafka. Consideration must also be given to sustainability, various dietary interests and other matters of importance in the upper echelons of the gastronomic world. The restaurant’s chosen style is assured with the adept Chef Jonas Hillgaard (formerly of Relæ and Manfreds) in the kitchen: there is room here for culinary enjoyment and luxurious indulgence. The menu inevitably offers oysters and caviar, but in combination with great creativity and artistry. The starters tend to be stingy in size, but the house bouillabaisse is nonetheless worthy of mention. With a reduced, rich fish stock, loads of fresh fish and shellfish, and a generous use of liquoricey herbs, this soup teems with flavour. The main course of hanger steak is succulent and intense with bits of rich marrow and sharp, pickled onions. The juicy pata negra pork is wonderfully chaperoned by a wealth of small chanterelles and slightly bitter cress sprinkled generously on top. Mustard adds an edge to the flavour of both meat dishes, which are of the highest class in terms of ingredients and preparation. Many of the wines are within the realm of organic/natural, though not dogmatically, and every wine on the menu is also available by the glass – a sympathetic touch. We enjoy a 2010 Barolo from Eugenio Bocca in La Morra. With a remarkably elegant combination of classic notes of warm herbs, white flowers and tobacco held together in a highly tannic body, it’s the type of wine you dream of meeting again. Add to this the competent and empathetic service, and it should come as no surprise that we certainly will be paying a return visit.
Few people in Sweden’s restaurant industry are as freely controversial as John Jureskog. Not just because he played Robespierre in the meat revolution Stockholm underwent a decade ago, but also because he still insists on the virtues of meat at a time when bloody steaks are as modern as fax machines. That’s nothing compared to the shock that swept through the masses of root vegetable hipsters, organic food freaks and sourdough disciples when Jureskog stepped down into fast food Hades and developed three gourmet burgers for McDonalds last year. Still, Jureskog is relentless in his mission. And total salvation is what you get at his meat temple on Kungsholmen. The entrance is like stepping into a horror movie. Heavy carcasses hang on shiny hooks in the huge glass fridge. Tiled walls have the right slaughterhouse vibe. The bizarre ham tree gives you the heebie-jeebies. The approach is brilliant and AG is one of Stockholm’s hottest and sexiest restaurants. The first course is a difficult choice between, say, air-dried Wagyu, lightly smoked bacon or pork pâté with pata negra, Parmesan cheese and pickled vegetables. The main courses are just as direct in their articulation. Some more complex dishes are available but one does best by ordering from the cuts in the fridge: Rib-eye, T-bone, club steak, porterhouse. The sides are classic, like béarnaise with fries or potatoes au gratin. Jureskog likes to go for the meat hot and hard and this lovingly harsh treatment of the excellent raw ingredients results in pieces so heavenly good that we ignore the facts about meat’s carbon footprint and instead let the sin become part of the spice.
You should treat yourself to a dinner menu at the always-packed hipster hole-in-the-wall all the way down on Roslagsgatan. Agrikultur has certainly found its home in the flavours, and the food is delicious, as it only can be from cooking on low heat and with lots of love. For there are happy cooks in this kitchen, and it’s not just a marketing ploy – it shows in the atmosphere. Sure, it can feel a little pretentious when Philip Fastén comes lugging in their firewood for the stove, but the grin on his face is far from affected. The presentations could easily be described as “heaps of food” – but who cares when it tastes this good? Like the comforting broth of over-night-roasted cabbage that kicks off the meal. It is poured from a chipped enamel coffee pot over a potato foam and Gotland truffles. What more could you ask for on a cold November night? The trout dish closely resembles a salad with raw, tender kale and smashed potatoes. “I’m going to splash some sauce over it”, says the chef as he swirls a delightful liaison sauce over the top, flecked with popping trout roe. For wine recommendations beyond "What do you like?" you must practically pester the staff, and this is where the relaxed philosophy goes a little overboard, because it’s difficult to judge from the menu what flavours might be hiding in the dishes. Like the umami-intense moose shank with caramelised beets, goat's cheese, black currants and a generous sauce. It’s only this good when, in Chef Fastén’s own words, “you have stopped making food to impress people”. Hats off to that.
This restaurant and its owners exude enthusiasm and dedication. In the middle of Copenhagen’s Vesterbro district, three talented restaurateurs who present themselves as Partick, Johann and Andreas have opened a wine bar with a five-course daily menu, from which diners can also order à la carte. The room resembles the rustic living room of a local designer. In the back is the treasured collection of wine constituting the establishment’s primary raison d’être. But make no mistake: the food is excellent and excellently priced. The cuisine here is inspired by the leading Nordic restaurants and a love of flavour. Take, for example, an invigorating and delightful cut of perfectly prepared cod on a fresh and creamy potato purée with miso cream and a forest of cress, topped with crisp rye flakes. The composition of this evening’s dishes is exquisite. Nordic cuisine is in full effect with pickled leek, burnt leek, chopped pickled parsley stems that taste like capers and small islands of ramson mayo. The wines are available by the glass or bottle – all of which cost less than DKK 500. In our glasses, we enjoy bubbles from Mas Candi, Tinc Set from Penedes, and a north Catalonian L’Esprit de l’Horizon, which despite its warm origin is cool like a burgundy and razor-sharp – and, of course, biodynamic. The service is remarkably attentive and professional. If you don’t happen to eat lamb, which is the main course today, the kitchen can instead whip up a serving of pork neck. In which case the wonderful Comté with browned butter is substituted with an inventive celeriac dish. With a lively glass of red Loire wine from Hervé Villemade, we arrive at the lemon soufflé at the end of an inviting meal that’s perfectly suited to a weekday evening out, as well as slightly more festive occasions.
We are sitting on discount café chairs and the table is far from spacious. There’s music in the background and the decor is neutral at best. Yet none of this matters because food and people are what it takes to create atmosphere and a great experience. Mads Hyllested’s cuisine is grotesque, in the positive sense: affordable yet innovative, humorous, and perfectly served in complex compositions. We choose a 2012 German biodynamic riesling from Clems Busch, but could just as well have chosen another from the many excellent options. The wine list is well composed and even the cellar wines are inexpensive. The service is youthful and relaxed, but highly knowledgeable and capable. Our starters include delicious and sticky teriyaki-marinated chicken drumsticks with a bold marrow cream full of ferrous notes. This dish is surpassed in its coddling of our instinctive pleasure receptors by a crushed potato confit in browned butter with rich sour cream swathed in lumpfish roe with a perfect balance of salt and acidity. A slice of grilled, oil-drenched bread with a discreet Høost cheese sauce and crisp, generously salted chicken skin on an artichoke cream is a true incarnation of Hyllested’s genius and economic acumen. It’s a simple yet rousing seasonal dish with a wise use of ingredients – but comfort food first and foremost. The baked cod with acidic and crisp marinated kohlrabi and a blanquette sauce with smoked butter is a bit dry, unfortunately. But we are spellbound by the magnificence of the roasted Brussels sprouts and Tuscan kale with parsley cream and shredded, dried lamb heart, which of course packs umami and a powerful depth that would bring a smile to the lips of even the greatest of cabbage sceptics. A little twist of lemon here adds to the brilliance and testifies to
Hyllested’s gastronomic deftness. Applaus is a venue for small dishes that showcase popular flavours, though often surprising in concept and composition.
Not that it’s a totally new concept, many restaurants display art, but few turn their dining rooms into full-fledged galleries. When wittily named Art Priori opened in 2015 the restaurant became an immediate hit thanks to the inventive cuisine and the perpetually rotating, young chefs preparing it . The first group of them is already triumphing elsewhere, Orm Oja, for instance, was entrusted with managing NOA Chef’s Hall. In Estonia’s most prominent restaurant kitchen, the present kitchen crew is still extremely young and talented. An eatery where the chefs change as quickly as the paintings on its walls? It’s rather unheard of in the restaurant world, normally that’s a surefire recipe for failure, not so here. Though Art Priori isn’t receiving as much media attention these days, the food is still great, the tasting menus have been replaced with à la carte options, but everything is still as interesting and innovative as it used to be, supervised by rising star Chef Aleksander Kolomar. Lately, he’s snuck Russian nuances into his offerings, stroganina with three types of fish, accompanied by artisan horseradish aquavit is a perfect example.
Artipelag combines art and architecture, and the food is just as beautiful. The pines sway welcomingly when we arrive, and the waters of Baggensfjärden seem to stand up and wave. The dining room is modern and pared down. The maître d’ is jovial; he greets us with warmth and a boisterous laugh. It’s nice here, far out in the archipelago. The salad made from pickled celeriac, portabello, Jerusalem artichokes and farm eggs is candy to the eye, as well as for the palate. Greens from Artipelag’s roof are chopped up in the salad. More nature is served up during a casual yet exquisite outdoor barbecue buffet on summer weekends. It takes place at Bådan’s, the somewhat simpler restaurant on the ground floor. Late in the fall we eat bleak roe with nicely carved vegetables. The fish that follows comes at a price, but falls apart so nicely in sheer layers that we want to applaud. We conclude with a raspberry bavaroise and supernaturally good chocolate.
Astral is housed in an old cooperage on the bank of the Akerselva River at Lilleborg, an old factory complex which used to produce vinegar, soap and wallpaper glue. Inside the building is a glorious space with high ceilings, red brick walls, big arched factory windows, and wooden design furniture. This is a large restaurant and on our visit it is only half-filled with diners ranging from couples on their second date to groups of friends starting their night out with a meal. After conferring with the waiter we go for a sparkling Austrian wine to go with the first part of the meal. His service is professional, friendly and earnest. The food is modern Nordic. Although the first snack on the table looks like pita bread with hummus, the bread is house-baked and flame-grilled, and the hummus isn’t hummus – it’s a purée of dried local green peas. A snack of lingonberries, sour cream and grated cured reindeer meat gives us a taste of the mountains, while crispy rye biscuits with a duck liver mousse are an earthy treat. A poached egg with ramson broth and pickled celeriac is nicely balanced, as is a dish of white asparagus, butter sauce, chewy dulse seaweed and toasted almonds. The meal’s only let-down is an dish of raw marinated mackerel with not enough seasoning and a skin that’s hard to chew. The disappointment is soon forgotten, however, because the desserts are stunning: first up is a combination of rhubarb and celery with dried yoghurt, a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity that's very refreshing. The second dessert is nearly as good – an earthy Jerusalem artichoke ice cream with brown cheese that leaves us feeling mellow and relaxed, satisfied but not stuffed.
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.
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.
A prime location and ambitious décor; eye-catching chandeliers, wood paneling and generous windows affording breath-taking views of Riga’s most beautiful park. The ambiance is sublime, the service impeccable; Biblioteka knows how to impress. Start with a drink; there’s no cocktail menu here, instead, libations are tailored to the guests’ individual wishes and preferences. After that you’re going to want to spring for the chef’s nine-course tasting menu with the beverage pairing. Ox tongue, simmered for 36 hours is a melt-in-your-mouth-splendor, served with a 2015 Pratto from Cà dei Frati that lifts the dish to next-level perfection. Chef Maris Jansons dishes are a ‘flavor library’ containing wild tales of intrigue and idyll, they makes for riveting eating.
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.
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.
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.