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.
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.
It’s all class, all the time at this establishment. Bordoo (phonetic for Bordeaux, naturellement!) can be found in Tallinn’s The Three Sisters Hotel, indisputably the city’s most exclusive lodgings, a Relais & Châteaux property frequented by globetrotting bon vivants. It encompasses a trio of merchants houses from 1362 that were refurbished and fashioned into a design hotel, merging the contemporary with the ancient, and featuring a decadent dining room splashed out in a dramatic red and black color scheme; red representing Bordeaux wine, bien sûr, The restaurant is known for its impressive wine cellar. And as Coravin enables pouring wines from the most valuable bottles without removing their corks, these treasures are being consumed like cake at a kids’ party. The place is full of contrasts, from the interiors to the food- and beverage selections. Make no mistake though, this isn’t a coincidence. The staff is young, the drinks are stiff; new, hip cocktails are offered alongside prestigious, pedigree beverages. The cuisine is imaginative and utilizes the latest culinary techniques. Bordoo’s general goal is simple: be the best of the best, an objective that has been reached with varying degrees of success, until now, when the kitchen is doing better than ever. Despite his young age, Chef Pavel Gurjanov is already a veteran of culinary competitions, his trophy cabinet is mighty impressive. He’s particularly skilled at putting his experiences from the competitions into practice when crafting new dishes, the latest menu contains several we would definitely recommend. The problem here is that Gurjanov is so creative, his menu changes so frequently that making recommendations would be futile. Hence our recommendation is simply to pay Bordoo a visit, preferably several, only then will you really learn to understand and appreciate this class act.
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!
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.
Brasseri France is an institution of classic French cooking located in the middle of Oslo’s tourist district, just off Karl Johan, the shopping street that leads to the royal palace. Chances are, if you ever eaten in Oslo and had excellent service, the waiters have been trained here. Excellent service is hard to come by, but here it is as correct as it is formal. The clientele consists of returning customers and other restaurant workers enjoying a day off work. (Brasseri France is a favourite among chefs and waiters in Oslo.) A round of fine de claires starts off the dinner, with condiments such as vinaigrette, tabasco or a lemon. Chewing on the salty, rich flesh makes us contemplate the past, when this was the food of hardworking men and women, to be eaten by the dozen. The main course of boneless rib-eye is cooked to perfection. A dark brown crust frames the moist and juicy meat, and the marbled fat melts in our mouths as we chew. The acidity from the béarnaise matches perfectly and together with the green beans and pommes frites, it is a classic take on one of the most beloved dishes inherited from French cuisine. The duck confit comes with kale and Pommes Anna. The crispy duck skin is perfect with the buttery potatoes. Brasseri France makes proper French food, the kitchen applies flawless techniques, and the textures and flavours hit their marks every time. Brasseri France is a safe choice if you should find yourself wanting for attention, love and care, and you’ll receive it in the form of food, service and wine. Even on a Monday at lunch.
The celebrity chef duo of Tomi Björck and Matti Wikberg are the creators behind many of Helsinki’s beloved restaurants, and Bronda is the flagship. The restaurant is delightfully spacious and airy, with a stylish interior. A large bar welcomes diners but the real eye-catcher is the floor-to-ceiling wine cabinet that separates the bar from the dining room. Wine is also the big focus of the beverage menu and the wine pairings are competent. The selection of beer, however, is short enough for the server to recite the list out loud. The menu is a bit unfocused and mainly influenced by Italian, Spanish and French cuisine and all of the dishes are elegantly presented and served family style. In the snack section, the green-lipped mussel with shallots nicely combines ocean and herby flavours with the crunch of sweet breadcrumbs on top. The finger-licking good baby back ribs are less elegant but incredibly tender and served with flavourful sweet and sour pickled red cabbage. The meal finishes on a high note with a tiramisu topped with a scoop of coffee ice cream. The bitter flavours from the coffee and the dark chocolate ganache create a well-balanced dessert with the smooth mascarpone cream. The service is alert, warm, and professional, but at times the dishes arrive faster than we can finish them. There’s a strange lack of communication between the kitchen and the floor – especially noticeable as the entire service crew is carrying walkie-talkies.
BROR is an intimate two-storey restaurant that has become known for its emphasis on using all parts of the various animals that come through the cramped little kitchen in the narrow streets of central Copenhagen. The restaurant interior consists of upcycled tables and chairs – even the plates are upcycled and come in all colours and sizes. You don't come here for the decór. Instead you pay a very reasonable price for top-quality produce, good service and very well-matched natural wines. This becomes evident from the start with the unique snacks, which include juicy cod cheeks on rye with dill oil, lightly smoked trout served in its own crisp skin, and a small bag of crisps made from fried pieces of bull’s penis that you dip in a heavy sour cream dusted with ramson powder. It’s tongue-in-cheek and inventive without compromising on flavour. The service here is warm, attentive and to the point, and knowledgeable about the mainly natural wines which accompany the menu. Nothing is wasted here and the omnivorous approach becomes evident in the juicy roast chicken hearts, served almost rare, along with sweet and bitter burnt broccoli, broccoli purée, slices of the stem and a fresh chlorophyllic watercress and whey sauce. A very crisp natural chardonnay from Saint-Veran cuts right through. The desserts include a marrow crème brûlée served in a marrowbone, and it tastes exactly like what you’d expect. The rich, bordering on intensely meaty crème is held in place by a zingy quince and elderflower sorbet, and the creaminess and the burnt sugar notes are precisely matched with an aged sweet Loire chenin blanc. BROR is a top choice for a tastefully provocative meal anchored in quality produce and skill.
If sparsely decorated restaurants serving fermented food and unfiltered wine set on the outskirts of the city centre are any measure of a successful, confident and cultural big city, then Oslo has arrived. Especially if you consider that, up until recently, there weren’t many gourmands flocking to the streets of Oslo, Brutus is an example of how far Oslo has come. Located behind the city jail, in an area that is still in its early years of repopulation, this wine bar turned lacto-fermentation heaven pushes the limits of the aforementioned gourmand’s migratory patterns. The small corner location caters to people’s hunger and thirst every day of the week, all year round. The owners are no strangers to magical fermentations, with their experience from Fat Duck, Noma, Maaemo and other spearheads of cuisine around the world. Now, after working hard with the best for many years, John Sonnichsen, Jens Føien, and the guys in the kitchen led by Chef Arnar Jakob Gudmundsson, do their best to convince you to stay for not only the four courses, but also a bottle or two more of festive pét-nat or a funky red from Loire with simple yet fun and fermented fare. The baked rutabaga with pork fat and breadcrumbs is sweet, sour and salty. The small cups of pickled onions with chicken liver are sweet and sour and good enough to be ordered a second time around. After a bottle of cider. And charred Icelandic flatbread with beetroots. And that amazing dish with leeks, buttermilk and roe. We’ll have another one of those as well.
The table is elegantly clad in a white tablecloth, with blue fluted Royal Copenhagen porcelain atop underplates of silver. Works from the Golden Age of Danish painting adorn the walls. There is an authentic atmosphere of a bygone era, as the impressive historic surroundings seem to make time stand still, evoking a unique sense of tranquillity. This atmosphere is further enhanced by the waiters, who provide service of the highest calibre. Guests are of course addressed with the proper formality, yet with a friendly undertone and room for brief anecdotes on the history of the place. This discerning elegance fits like a glove with the French cuisine of Michel Michaud. The first course on the inspiration menu is an attractive tartare of salmon and Perle Blanche oyster with a lid of caviar that appears to hover over a clear tomato gelée in the bottom of the dish. Fresh and slightly acidic, the tomato provides a good base for the pure taste of fish and shellfish. From there the dishes become even more classic; so much so that at times we find ourselves longing for another nuanced twist like the tomato gelée. There are more than enough reduced broths, velvety smooth purées, classic sauces and expertly precise preparations, but this is exactly where Michaud’s kitchen team is at home. Cauliflower purée, fried wolffish and grenobloise sauce with browned butter, capers and toasted hazelnuts are the few but well-chosen components of the excellent in-between course. Simple and rather straightforward, the spectrum of flavour is completed by a glass of Meursault with buttery notes, a nutty aroma and a nice acidity. The wine list is extensive, and one can confidently leave the choice of a bottle or wine pairings to the waiters, who will undoubtedly find an exquisite match for the classic French cuisine and historic surroundings.
Our evening at Bühlmann begins with snacks in the historic manor’s distinctive wine cellar surrounded by quality bottles and homemade charcuterie hanging to dry. The first bite elegantly contrasts a crisp pickled shell of kohlrabi with a filling of slightly sweet and creamy lobster tartare. The flavours are also well composed in the crispy brioche with sweet onion marmalade, Havgus cheese and a slice of the lardo that has been drying in the cellar. The restaurant itself, situated in one of the old rooms of Hotel Scheelsminde, is pompously decorated with dark wood and heavy tablecloths, but it fits like a glove with the site and its French-inspired cuisine. The first dish on the menu is a cured scallop with a mild taste of the sea and wonderful texture, accompanied by the fresh acidity of green strawberries and a sauce of gooseberries and dill. Once again the flavours are precisely balanced, and a young chardonnay from South Tyrol harmonises nicely with the aromatic complexity and acidity of the dish. The wine pairings reflect careful consideration and are finely presented, while the service staff exhibit great mastery and professionalism with an eye for small details. In the in-between course featuring onion, the strong onion bouillon is adjusted nicely with pickled onions while a poached egg yolk provides the required fat to hold it all together. However, these delicately nuanced combinations are slightly disrupted by the sharp taste of bitter, undercooked raw onion. But such small glitches are easily correctable. With its keen focus on local ingredients, classic taste and good service, Bühlmann has positioned itself among the best restaurants in Aalborg.
Meat ages on hooks in a glass cabinet while a facility above the restaurant produces cheese made from the organic milk of the restaurant’s own cows. Chef Christian Puglisi and his crew are staunchly at the controls of Bæst. Despite its loose atmosphere, nothing is left to chance when it comes to the ingredients and their organic origin. We watch as the chefs pull pizzas out of the wood-fired oven in the ultra-open kitchen. The noise level is moderate on this Monday evening, but the restaurant is full of people. Perhaps that is why the service is so slow. We wait more than a half hour for the first round of charcuterie. Fortunately, the food – like the glass of skin-fermented Garganega from Veneto – is well worth the wait. Ham, fennel sausage, lardo, coppa, wonderous ‘nduja sausage with paprika, dried duck with an insistent aged taste, pork rillettes with the pleasant crunch of crisped rinds and a tiny bowl of pickled root vegetables: let the meat orgy begin! With a little difficulty, we manage to order more wine from the enthralling selection of natural wines, followed by the highlight of our evening – homemade mozzarella. Taking a bite of mozzarella so fresh that thick pearls of milk dribble out between the layers of cheese is – and will always be – a delightful experience. The creamy stracciatella cheese with paper-thin slices of Cinta Senese ham and freshly grated mushrooms is also worth noting for its wonderful air of paysan luxury. Bæst is known for its seasonal pizzas, and this time of year (winter) obviously calls for cabbage, which adds a somewhat funky taste to the otherwise phenomenal soft pizza crust with its perfect acidity and slightly burnt notes. We have enjoyed much better service on previous visits, and the menu would have benefitted from a little more veg. But these things take nothing away from the fact that you can count on carefully considered and excellent flavour for your money at Bæst.
It’s easy to miss the unassuming corner space opposite the train station, despite the large windows facing the busy street. We step inside and straight into the dining room without either a hall or a wardrobe, and feel like we’re crowding the already seated guests. The mixed group of patrons gets here early, even on a Friday night. After a warm welcome by the friendly staff, it’s just to sit down and relax, for this is where they serve the best food in town. The fermented theme appears early, with the aperitif. A “twig” of wheat is covered in powder made from fermented red cabbage. It’s a six-course dinner, but before we begin they manage to give us two amuse-bouches. The other one is a cup made of leek, filled with mayonnaise spiced with local truffles. The first real dish is parsnip with pickled chanterelles. It’s not the restaurant’s strongest card, but the local ingredients are nice. In contrast the tartare of local Kyyttö beef is even better, with fermented green beans and brioche and topped with spruce shoots. With its slightly tarry taste, it is the best course of the night. The pike is served with a smooth potato purée, porcini cream and a fermented aspen leaf. Even more local produce arrives with the goat meat from Nykarleby. The three different kinds of carrots get an international touch with a little Indian bread puff containing a mayonnaise flavoured with funnel chanterelles. After that Finnish blue cheese neutralizes our palates with white chocolate wrapped in spun sugar. An oatmeal ice cream with blueberries is paired with local blueberry wine. Otherwise, the wines are mainly sourced from the Old World.
Like at its sister restaurant Babette in Vasastan that opened in 2015, the atmosphere at Café Nizza is characterised by the well-renowned ownership team. The carefree attitude, down-played food arrangements and relaxed but knowledgeable wine service is understandable when you know that their previous experience comes from star restaurants like Frantzén and Fäviken where the work in the strictly formatted dining rooms is rigorous and prescribed. And if, like Café Nizza, you plan to be open from noon to midnight all week long, you have to be able to relax. The wine selection is refreshingly different, partly because one of the restaurateurs runs a wine import company with a niche portfolio, partly because the gang’s collective years at the aforementioned restaurants has given them a network that extends to the most obscure producers and importers. Here the dishes change every lunch and dinner, but are served on the same round, toned-down, white porcelain. The offerings at lunch have been a little uneven. Sometimes sad, sometimes sleepy. But the evenings are already proving that the place suits their Södermalm clientele to a T. Especially when the extra leaves go into the round wooden table in the middle of the tiled dining room floor to accommodate a large party. Then this place could just as easily pass for a noisy neighbourhood restaurant in Paris.
You might not know it, but not so long ago, Luma used to make light bulbs here by the docks. Now, when you cross the threshold into the remodelled factory, a completely different production is underway. On the wall in the entrance to the sparsely decorated but warm and cosy restaurant venue, you can see how the process of brewing beer works. In this building they make a number of excellent beers, as well as some creative fare. The delicious small clams have been boiled in their own Keller Bier, a malty pale lager, which was a singularly good idea. There are long tables for groups of spirited colleagues out for happy hour, and small tables for two. A brilliant beef tartare is beautifully presented with dabs of porcini cream, rings of pickled onions and crispy-crackly malt. The fried red shrimp enters on a rustic wooden board with a round dollop of mayo, spiced with Mexican Tajín. The burger is rightly a favourite, made with chuck steak, brisket, and marrow, and served with perfect fries. But can you drink beer with dessert? In a place where the focus is on beer, apple strudel fits like a glove. They serve it with hazelnut ice cream and a glass of Primus Lux, the first beer that was produced here. The strong, dark ale fits splendidly with the apple. The ever-present service staff do everything to make you comfortable and give you a little beer knowledge along with something good to eat.
Castenskiold is the Aarhus food scene’s version of the so-called supper clubs of 1930s America: popular all-night destinations for patrons seeking entertainment in the form of food, music and alcohol. This establishment by the city centre waterway remains a hip venue for the creative class to sip on passion fruit caipiroskas or champagne from the excellent wine list on the weekends. But they should also take an interest in the restaurant’s modern bistro cuisine, which is among the city’s best. We are seated right behind the command centre, a large bar lined with concrete pillars, sanguine velvet drapes, designer furniture and understated lighting. Our waiter is equal parts professionally competent and extremely pleasant. He serves us a small glass of cremant to get us started. We choose a variety of dishes from the extensive menu. Our waiter unleashes a sharp, mineral Tokaj in our glasses that waltzes beautifully with a carpaccio of langoustine from the very first bite. The shellfish has an extremely fresh, creamy and intense taste of the sea, adeptly countered by crisp kohlrabi, warm sour cream and grated horseradish. Only the sharp acidity of the pickled green tomatoes misbehaves, but the harmony remains intact, not least thanks to the wine. Even better is the subsequent North Sea cod with Jerusalem artichoke purée. Delectably moist and perfectly fried with an attractive golden colour, the cod is served with a remarkable sauce of mussels and smoked butter. The dish is a bull’s-eye with its nutty and smoked notes. Unfortunately, a Tuscan vermentino proves weak in aroma and acidity, making it overly round and heavy for this pairing. The precise and sharp performance from the chef continues in the form of free-range chicken from Rokkedahl with celeriac purée and kale. Rarely have we tasted such delicious and moist breast meat. The intense poultry flavour is complemented by a nice bitterness from the kale while the brilliant brown butter sauce with hazelnuts is so perfectly salty, acidic and delicious that we manhandle the sauce cup in the hunt for every last drop. Supper club or not, Castenskiold’s bistro cuisine is excellent from end to end.
Norrbotten constitutes a quarter of Sweden and supplies a fantastic larder, filled with unique and pure ingredients from the mountains, the forests and the pristine rivers. And there are, of course, many restaurants that endeavour to create their own variations on reindeer, elk, grouse, caviar, char, cloudberries and more. But not everyone succeeds in refining and developing these genuine ingredients and innovating the experience on the plates throughout the whole meal. A lot of places serve good, well prepared food, but it tends to taste quite similar. There are exceptions, however, and they sparkle like the flaming northern lights. Like CG’s in Luleå, where they have taken steps to cement the place as one of northern Sweden’s sharpest and most creative restaurants. Here those authentic and pure flavours are in the centre. The sauces are balanced and served in small pitchers next to the perfectly prepared venison and Arctic char fillets, which have been touched with the exact amount of salt and spices to bring out the genuine flavours and coax forth sighs of culinary happiness. The plaice is one of the most beautifully composed dishes we’ve seen in a long time. Finish off with the cheese board from the heavenly kingdom of happy cows and a couple of sweet dessert wines. Everyone feels taken care of at CG, which makes them return to the welcoming warmth again and again.
We are welcomed by the sight of a wavering swallow-tailed flag on a background of clear blue skies as we arrive at the old yellow inn in the woods. The setting is beautiful, both inside the inn and at the outdoor tables; a peaceful, old-fashioned mood is palpable throughout the establishment. The style of the cuisine is in no way archaic, however. The chefs understand how to spice up the good local fare, abiding by the virtue of always using the freshest available ingredients – which also explains why the menu varies from day to day. We choose “the whole shebang”, taking us through all of the lunch menu’s eight dishes. A couple of delicious herring servings are followed by an exceptional cut of well-smoked Baltic Sea salmon with grated Havgus cheese, cauliflower and lemon, topped with a creamy clam sauce: a refreshingly simple and well-composed dish where acidity, smoke and the sauce’s richness work impeccably together. The unusually succulent and flavourful corn-fed cockerel with onion and ramson in several variations is an absolute pleasure and, in fact, even better than the otherwise excellent lamb that follows. Our waiter is at first discreet and low-key, but opens up as the meal progresses and we come to greatly appreciate his warm and enthusiastic style. The dessert is a little masterpiece: rhubarb compote with small pieces of baked chocolate, oat crumble and a thick yet airy sauce anglaise topped with wood sorrel. The drops of mint oil on the plate perfect the balance of the dish. The dessert wine from Rhône, Pipi d’Ange (angel pee!), a blend sauvignon blanc, muscat and viognier is an excellent match. A meal in the woods at Christianshøjkroen is always a wonderful respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Things that are hidden in plain sight are usually intriguing: places that don’t advertise; off-the-menu dishes requested only by in-the-know guests; discreet restaurants that savvy gourmets keep for themselves. COD is one of these. Yes, it’s Japanese––traditional Japanese culture is all about discretion, after all. COD might be a well-kept secret, but it’s always busy. The action circles around a robata grill where chefs slowly sear raw ingredients over an open fire, taming even the richest, most robust mackerel into irresistible, subtle delicacy. Coals and embers have a way of making everything taste better. Naturally, there’s tataki, tempura and sushi too, the latter offering some fun surprises like Wagyu beef sushi and goose liver wrapped in seaweed. Sushi joints are ubiquitous in Riga, COD, however has them all beat with superior fish and expertly cooked rice with a well-balanced acidity, The mostly black décor adds a layer of seriousness, even the wait staff is dressed in somber black uniforms, they move silently, appear, and disappear, often almost unnoticed. This is not a place for loud conversations, so whatever you do, keep it down while you knock back your sake. There’s a chef’s table in the kitchen, it seats four––four guests that are really in the know. You don’t have to know a lot, you just have to visit COD once. And then finish your meal with cocktails in the subterranean bar. The signature drinks change often and the beverage list is one of the city’s most extensive.
One of the first things that you see inside the restaurant is the kitchen team, standing almost at attention, ready to carry you safely through one of Bergen’s most detailed and advanced menus. We eat our way through the fjords and mountains, while listening to anecdotes that paint pictures of both the producers and production methods. The service is so accurate that one of the restaurant’s biggest challenges is to loosen up the mood – it’s dangerously close to being stiff and impersonal. The sommelier does his best to break up the vibe with a joke now and then. It’s liberating to hear his laughter as he explains food science phenomena, and the role of amino acids and antioxidants in flavour. The service is hugely knowledgeable and the experience will undoubtedly teach you something new about food and wine. The tasting menu consists of nine dishes, but also gives you the opportunity to choose a shorter way through, with only six stops. À la carte is a third option. Whichever way you choose, the meal opens with three small morsels that summarize the restaurant’s style in a nutshell. A piece of traditional Norwegian flatbread is served with beef tartare, tarragon mayonnaise and nori powder. It is followed by a bowl of fermented tomato juice with fermented celery pieces. Then the small caravan of appetisers ends with a tiny creation of rutabaga in several forms. At Colonialen the kitchen loves to play with fermentation and happily flirts with molecular gastronomy. All of the dishes on the menu are characterized by a huge attention to detail. The menu’s first and last creations are the most memorable on our journey. The mountain trout from Hardanger is served as a tartare with oyster emulsion, cured cucumber, cucumber ketchup, kale powder and watercress. It is a fresh dish, a true Norwegian ceviche, complemented by a wine from Domaine de La Pépière whose proximity to the Atlantic Ocean adds a fresh and delicate, salty hint. It picks up where the oyster leave off. The menu ends perfectly with an egg of hazelnut resting in a nest composed of caramel and chocolate. The middle section of the menu lacks cohesion – like the dish of beets, carrot and rye, as some of these ingredients are swallowed up by other components, leaving a fragmented assortment of flavours. Colonialen is Bergen’s most classic and reliable dining experience, and the service is impeccable. Even the smallest details are thought through – from breadsticks with beef butter to the chair you’re sitting on. You will not be disappointed, even though this is Bergen’s most expensive meal.
Located on "Holmen", an island outside Bergen. Take the boat from shed number 8 at Dreggekaien, Bryggen. Follow the restaurant sign. (GPS POSITION: N 60C 19.784`, E 5C 10.171), 5004 Bergen
A meal at Cornelius is an experience and a journey. Every day at 6 pm a 50-foot shuttle boat takes passengers to Holmen. The sea route is the only way to get there, and the voyage takes 25 minutes. There is hardly a more beautiful way to experience Bergen, whether a storm is raging or the sun is sparkling. The restaurant’s premises are literally carved into the rock and situated amidst the ocean’s bounty. The big windows seem to bring the ocean into the restaurant, making the diner feel an indescribable intimacy with the fresh ingredients, some of which were alive only minutes before reaching your plate. The pools outside the entrance are filled with live crabs and swimming fish. Cornelius offers a meteorological menu that changes with the wind and weather. On our visit we are served a menu with lighter ingredients since we’re on the cusp of spring, but with deep flavours meant to warm us in the miserably wet west coast weather. This is expressed in an extra rich shellfish soup with pollock, shore crab and langoustines; and smoked beets in the main course of cod. The wine cellar is like a natural cave in the rock. The 5,000 bottles from Italy, France, Germany, and Austria are kept safe in the naturally regulated temperature and moisture. The boat trip contributes to making a visit to Cornelius exotic and exciting, but also makes it an expensive proposition. The best value for money is the five-course menu. The three-course menu won’t fill the time until the boat heads back at 10.30 pm. At Cornelius you should go for the full works, or stay on shore.
De 4 Roser is an institution in Harstad, and the longest-running fine dining restaurant in the northern part of Norway. It has outlived trends and stood the test of time thanks to a combination of quality and conviviality that has pleased visitors and locals alike for 21 years. They welcome you as a friend and you leave many hours later both happy and full. It’s impossible to pin down a time frame for the style of De 4 Roser’s plates; they look like they might be from the 1990s, the 2000s, or even last year, but it’s refreshing to eat food this flavourful. You can choose from a three to six-course set menu based primarily on local produce, where they source what’s available during the warm months and preserve it for the cold months. The menu follows the usual setup: fish, meat, cheese and sweets, and their extensive use of vegetables means that you don’t leave the meal feeling overly full. The wine list is well worth diving into, and owner and sommelier Trond Dahle is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge about both wine and local sightseeing and hiking. Although the dining room is in a dire need of renovation, the old wooden building in the middle of the small city center is full of charm and an evening at De 4 Roser is always a pleasure.
A nondescript wooden door with no sign makes Derelict’s entrance blend into the badly worn neighbourhood. But once you’ve rung the plastic doorbell and have been let in, the exposed bricks, hexagonal floor tiles and warm lighting make you feel warmly welcome. A cheerful waiter with slightly baggy jeans presents the concept along with handwritten menus listing the evening’s ingredients. There are three options: a short one with mostly vegetables; a long one with meat, fish and seafood; and a really long one with over fifteen dishes. A chewy taste sensation in the form of beets with charred skins opens the meal. Next we get bread on a stick, a smoked and grilled oyster in its shell with fermented gooseberries, and baked cauliflower soup with pieces of pickled cauliflower. A rather dry elderberry lemonade and Uno, a forward Spanish white wine, make good company. The fennel bonanza is one of the evening’s highlights, showcasing the vegetable in different forms – raw planed, in ice cream, as fronds, puréed, poached and fried. The following three dishes revolve around lobster: tartare, fried claw with broth, and butter-basted with horseradish. They are so flavourful and buttery that the glass of riesling from Zind-Humbrecht is needed just to break it up. The waiter frequently presents the origin of the ingredients in detail: “Mouflon sheep from DeVilda, shot by Micke”. The mutton is served with red currants and a Jerusalem artichoke trio in the form of purée, potato chips, and baked nuggets. Sweet pieces of venison, also from Järna, come with puréed parsnips and water lingonberries to brighten things up. Derelict is one of the hardest restaurants to book a table at not just because it’s hip, but because it is also a carefully crafted, albeit somewhat uneven, dining experience.
No, Chef Mikael Einarsson did not shoot the Sormland deer, not this time anyway. But hunt he does, out of interest in food and perhaps even to maintain respect for animals and the raw ingredients. Even though there is also a completely vegetarian menu, it is the meat that takes center stage, or rather, the animal. They serve one at a time here, every few weeks. And what animals! Cow from Rafna farm, Linderöd pig from Halla farm, deer from Äleby farm, and Ockelbo chicken. To mention a few. The kitchen’s focus also comes through in the interior details – meat scales as a coat rack, taxidermied animals and antlers on the walls, and butchering diagrams on the tables. There are a lot of textiles and a lot of ornamentation and all of it together creates a fun, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. The knowledgeable and sympathetic staff reinforce the homey feeling and the meal with their apt wine recommendations. Already the mouthwatering little smoked venison sausage that comes with lemon and egg foam and dried venison on the bottom of the plate speaks to the solid craftsmanship, especially as we know how difficult it is to make sausage from game. The broth made from the legs lends itself to an umami-fueled dish that has almost everything one could ask for – flank steak confit, suet-fried steak, a trio of cabbage and truffle! The seared tenderloin is the star of the show with thin slices of baked celeriac shaped almost like flowers, pickled rowanberries, fried kale and Comté-baked egg yolk. And there’s “Quiet chair” on the menu: what’s that? Well, it means that you can choose to have the staff keep quiet about the food and allow you to eat in peace. It costs nothing. We like that.
Now that the entrepreneurial academy and its notoriously zany students in this courtyard on Mejlgade have relocated, things here are not quite as unconventional, but they remain highly creative. Restaurant Domestic provides the entertainment with ambitious cuisine focused on local ingredients, fermentation and pickling, combined with attentive yet discreet service. With an aesthetic sense of the beautiful rustic surroundings, the interior is well appointed as a cosy and distinctive restaurant. However, the overall mood is somewhat unsettled by the boom box in a corner of the restaurant blasting out anachronistic 80s music. We begin with eight different snacks, alternating tactfully between the very fresh, salty and intensely umami-rich. Standing out as small masterpieces are a croustade with potato cream and salted cod roe, and a crisp slice of Jerusalem artichoke with pickled gherkin, while the dried lamb proves overly insistent and strong in flavour. The waiter excuses the next dish in advance as one that some people love and others hate. And, indeed, the attempt to deliver a rethought fried egg with rutabaga, egg yolk, lardo and miso sauce feels like an idea that’s still in the works. The dish is undersalted, the poached egg yolk seems sluggish and dry, and the ingredients just don’t blend well together. On the other hand, however, the sherry pairing is an ingenious and daring choice. The ensuing dish is, however, fully complete in conception and execution: roasted beef rump with shank confit, pickled beetroot, elderflower capers, dried rosehip and rhubarb slices. It’s aesthetically composed, well prepared and the flavours are full throttle. In our glasses, Z rouge 2014 is a brilliant partner with its body and succulent bite. The meal ends like a dream with a kombucha-poached pear, thyme caramel sauce, ice cream and a ton of small meringues, rounding off a delightful evening in the good company of the people behind Domestic.
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.