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.
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.
It is with nervousness that we approach Dryck och Mat, which has moved one notch to the left in the same building as before (the grand station building). Uppsala’s smallest and most charming restaurant has gone from 16 seats to 60. Will the charm and personality remain? We are greeted by jazz and candlelight among the simple wooden tables. A sigh of relief comes after the starter – a surprisingly flavourful rutabaga cream with bleak roe and root vegetable chips. We sit back, listen, taste, and learn a thing or two, and so the evening proceeds. At Dryck the beverages are the starting point for the menu and the food is composed around them. What is new is that you can now choose between a three-course and a five-course fixed menu and there is also an à la carte. Each glass comes with a detailed description, often spiced with little anecdotes that make the concept easy to grasp. The food is simple but with notable finesse. A hefty grill note underscores the scallops with pomegranate dressing. The moose rib-eye that hides under a serious heap of grated truffle is unfathomably tender and the sides of beetroot and cranberry sauce balance each other perfectly. With this we are served a giant croquette filled with black salsify and yogurt that makes you wonder why croquettes are not included in the daily diet. After the last bite of carrot and apple ice cream that’s served with a sponge cake dipped in raspberry sauce, we conclude that everything is as usual – and we are pretty happy about that.
Everything starts with and egg, and as the name of this restaurant implies, “The Egg” takes you back to the beginning, to what dining is all about: the flavours, the joy, the ingredients, and the fact that food is something social, that should be shared. Egget is hidden inside the basement of a small wooden house. It is a bit difficult to find, but just follow the delicious scent and you will soon find yourself in a rustic and pulsating cave. The restaurant is a bit rough around the edges, like an old tavern, and loud like a great party. This place has only one rule: There are no rules. It is probably one of the most informal restaurants you will ever set foot in. At Egget they strive to keep the ingredients cheap, and the experience exclusive and exciting. But nobody will bring you cutlery or fold your napkin here. And you don’t pay for that either. You pay for great food. Chef Tony Martin has experience from restaurants like Re-Naa, Tango and Bagatelle. He took over the stoves at Egget in January 2017, and with him came the possibility to book tables here. But you still won’t get a menu. The meal starts when the chef says ’Go!’, and stops when you are full and happy – and remember to let the kitchen know you’ve had enough. First out is a three-step serving of fried bread with ramson gremolata, beets with goat’s cheese and cress, and a ceviche made with cod and leche de tigre. They are all fresh, simple, and down to earth, and plated on brown paper. From the get-go, Egget fearlessly crosses national food boundaries. The menu starts off quite humbly with a halibut with celeriac purée made with cashews before building up the tension with reindeer hearts and tongue. The same glass keeps getting refilled with ecological and rebellious wines like a pét-nat from Cristoph Hock and a mature orange wine from Domaine Matassa. A visit to Egget is fun and exciting and will leave you happier than you ever imagined possible without dessert.
Nestled in the eastern hills of Oslo, the gloriously functionalist 1920s Ekebergrestauranten was brought back to life and reopened in 2005 after decades of neglect. The restaurant is a destination in itself, as much for the panoramic vista and the iconic architecture as for the food. The high ceilings and the white tablecloths make for a formal yet unstuffy atmosphere. The diners are mostly well-dressed families out for a special occasion, along with the odd group of overseas vacationers, so the choice of hit-list r&b music seems out of place. The food is not daring, but solid. Trout confit, served with crispy apple and radishes, is correctly cooked but refrigerator-cold and slightly lacking in salt. A pumpkin soup with pork belly and a grilled scallop has a slight bite of chilli. The best dish is a pan-fried piece of halibut balanced on spring cabbage, new potatoes and caramelised onions accompanied by a well-balanced butter sauce. The dessert, described as a chocolate truffle cake, is more of a cold fondant, served with a rock-hard blood orange sorbet. The service is eavesdroppingly attentive. The wine list is extensive and traditional, with the odd foray into macerated white wines. The atmosphere and the setting make Ekebergrestauranten worth a visit. Hunger is the best spice, so make sure to work one up by first going for a stroll in the nearby sculpture park.
Outside there’s a discreet sign and a golden doorbell. Igi Vidal, who also runs Bloom in the Park, has decorated the old house with wall panels and antique, carved furniture. It feels stately and private, the service is omnipresent and the atmosphere low-key. There’s no music, because here it’s all about the conversation, the drinks, and the food. The tables are few, there is a bar area where the house serves gin with homemade tonic and upstairs you can choose a wine that you fetch yourself and pay for when you go. The tasting menu is eaten (unless otherwise agreed) at a community table together with other guests. But first champagne, served on sofas in the salon with dainty hors d’oeuvres like oysters with tonic tapioca and neat, grassy flavours. The charismatic and talkative restaurateur makes sure the guests all introduce themselves to each other, getting the evening’s discussion underway. Here Chef Julia Hansson, who for years trained under Titti Qvarnström's wing, has started on her own journey and takes us through the land of Sagrantinia with a little beef tartare, pickled mustard seeds and quail egg, served under the lid of a jewellery box, and wild boar (which she might have hunted herself but which comes from a local hunter). The dishes are aesthetically delicate, like cottage cheese ice cream and fennel on a mirror of divine caramel sauce, which immediately affixes to our collective food memory. Each dish is also well matched by Vladan Jakesevic, who picks his own favourites from the wine cellar. On some evenings the restaurant is open until two in the morning, in which case the conversation continues into the wee hours in the salon beside the beautiful digestif cabinet.
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.