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.
Highly conceptual, Džiaugsmas, which means joy in Lithuanian, is cutting edge, playing with perceptions and expectations, a monochrome restaurant in black on black, on black again. Walls, ceilings, tables, chairs…everything is inky-toned, with just a tiny bit of vividness brought by moss-colored accents. Džiaugsmas it says in discreet, restrained lettering on the tealy-grey façade of the building that houses the restaurant, it used to contain offices and homes, hence the rather humdrum hallway behind its front door. Never mind that, you’re here to enjoy an ever-changing menu, dictated by availability and the seasons. If there are cod doughnuts on offer, don’t miss them. You’ve never seen such a black dish; the beer-battered cod nuggets are colored with squid ink, served out of a black pot, standing on black coals. Chic, nuanced and very tasty. These snacks are perfectly fried, their fish flavor enhanced by the airy batter. Of course not all food is black, oven-roasted beets and eel brighten the somber palette. The waiters might not be the most talkative but they do provide ample answers to each of your questions. Džiaugsmas warrants return visits to experience the 50 shades and nuances of black.
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.
Owner, sommelier and chef Damiano Alberti hails from Piedmont and makes simple Northern Italian food at Enomania, which since our last visit has doubled in size to also include a wine shop. The menu changes on a daily basis and you can order the full menu or à la carte in large or small portions. This is a flexible establishment with a keen understanding of guests’ individual needs. We start with grissini and luscious focaccia served with a grassy olive oil and assorted Italian charcuterie. Our friendly waiter pours hay-yellow greco di tufo from Campania to accompany the risotto with white asparagus and a cut of steamed cod. The risotto is simply perfect in its creaminess - neither too thick nor too thin. The grains of rice are al dente and there’s a ton of asparagus flavour – it doesn’t seem heavy in the slightest. In fact, this light starter only piques our appetite for more. We practically lick our plates clean. Homemade filled pasta – cappelletti – with cockerel mince and purée and crisps of Jerusalem artichoke is a pleasure to eat. The pasta has a good bite and the light mince benefits from the staunch smoked umami of the Jerusalem artichokes and the dark chicken broth in the bottom of the bowl. New peas add a fresh touch and we drink a sublime 2012 Barolo from Burlotto Cannubi. Tonight's wine pairings are well composed and a good value, but you can also choose to run amok in Enomania’s renowned wine cellar, which sports superb wines – especially from the Piedmont, Tuscany and Burgundy – featuring top winemakers such as Méo-Camuzet, Armand Rousseau and Gaja, in addition to other well-chosen and more affordable wines. If life on Earth were coming to an end, we would spend our last days in Enomania’s wine cellar.
Rapidly evolving gastronomy is most often characterized by turbulence. There are no guarantees that you’ll get the same menu and a similar experience next time you return to that new favorite place. That’s why we like Entresol, it’s impressively dependable and solid. They’re probably not trying to be the country’s best restaurant, but they’ve definitely contributed to the development of the new Latvian cuisine and helped shine a light on it. Knapas, or Latvian-style tapas, don’t exist anywhere else. And we’re not talking about things that come out of tin cans and jars, served straight up with bread; these are amuse-sized little bites such as smoked duck with pumpkin purée, octopus with potato or rabbit pâté with lingonberry jelly. The kitchen recommends fashioning your own appetizer by choosing three from the vast variety featured on the menu, more than half of them have local accents, all boast the unmistakable aromas of truly fresh ingredients. If you happen to visit on the early side of lunch, you’ll spot local farmers personally delivering newly plucked produce to the restaurant’s doorstep. The ostrich filet main course is a truly Latvian creation. Unbelievably, the giant birds are farmed all over the Baltics these days. This one is served grilled with potato foam, marinated mushrooms, reduction sauce and the value-added bonus of grilled ostrich heart. The waiters in Latvian restaurants don’t usually entertain their guests with too much information, Entresol is a pleasant exception. Here they always point out specials and explain everything in detail. There’s something to be said for quality and consistency, not everything needs to inventive and new.
“Good evening, signori,” says our waiter, and thus begins our evening. Era Ora is the consummate fine Italian restaurant and the service is sublime: attentive, discreet and confident. Since the turn of the millennium, Chef Antonio di Criscio has carried the torch for Denmark’s most iconic Italian food. Being an Italian gourmet chef is an often thankless task, as the simple fare is difficult to improve upon. Accordingly, a number of dishes on the menu tend towards innovations that work better in theory than in practice. Why, for example, should we eat faux olives when their
Texturas-produced skins turn to crunchy sand in our mouths? The experience is equally off-putting when sturgeon fillet is served on such a hot stone that the fish becomes overcooked before the waiter finishes explaining the dish. However, when the kitchen embraces the characteristically Italian fanatic devotion to high quality ingredients, the results are outstanding. Raw Sicilian shrimp melt like butter on the palate, evoking a sweet nuttiness that perfectly accompanies the flavours of artichoke and mandarin, and droplets of shrimp bisque and parsley-coriander oil. The firm and creamy tartare of Fassone veal and hazelnuts – both from Piedmont – and a tart serving of dried tomato and pickled daikon further exemplify how the kitchen brings ingredients to the forefront with good balance and a delicate, clean taste. Era Ora won last year’s White Guide award for Wine Experience of the Year, and the wine here is still exceptional. This is largely due to the unconventional cellar and the serving method where all glasses are primed with wine to get rid of any off aromas before they are used. Our sommelier has a flair for pairing food and wine in combinations that accentuate both elements. The wine menu is largely composed of glasses from small producers outside of the usual appellations, making a visit to Era Ora an education in Italian wines. For example, the tartare is served with a 2010 Balconi Rossi from the small producer, Le Vigne di San Pietro. The wine has a refreshing acidity, delicate tannins and a cherry fruitiness, dispelling any notion that the only thing to come out of Veneto is pompous amarone. And, of course, the wine goes perfectly with the elegant dish. The service, wine handling and decor at Era Ora are top-class. The food largely keeps pace, but a little too often we find ourselves longing for greater focus on the ingredients and less show.
At a safe distance above the locks, building excavators and bulldozers currently hacking up Slussen, Gondolen remains impervious. The restaurant, which has over 80 years of history, was reborn by Erik Lallerstedt in 1994 and still caters to a motley crew of families celebrating birthdays, curious tourists and couples in love. It is dressy, popular and booked solid. The flow of guests and different seatings is as smooth as it is well organized. Gondolen is a factory, where the large kitchen produces a democratic restaurant experience practically on an assembly line. The efficiency is impressive. Anyone who harbors a fascination for industrial processes should sit in the tiled kitchen area where the industriousness at the stoves and ovens serves as entertainment. It’s a bit more official and ceremonial in the dining room overlooking the Old Town and Skeppsholmen. Butter and cream are the lubricant in Gondolen’s culinary machinery and, consequently, it runs thick and heavy on the plates. The kitchen handles most things with flying colours, but we do not come here to be confronted with new flavours or techniques. The lobster soup with seared scallop and artichoke is a smooth and piquant introduction. The tartare of blackened veal with cabbage and thyme cream is a heavy foreshadowing of what is to come. Main dishes like baked rainbow trout with pork belly, apple and lobster mayonnaise and whole-roasted veal tenderloin with port wine sauce and lingonberries reinforce Gondolen’s status as one of the city’s heavy- weights.
“This aligoté is only available here and at Septime in Paris”, says Niklas Ödman, the house sommelier, as he pours the 2014 Alexandra Couvreur to accompany the Icelandic langoustine, seared rare with a liaison sauce and pickled Muscat pumpkin. With these words he has aptly positioned Ett Hem as elitist; the exclusive micro-hotel has indeed achieved the status of international icon. The dinner service is primarily for the guests staying in their 12 rooms, but if they have extra seats they open them up to non-residents. All tables are communal – in the kitchen, library or orangery – which enables the city’s most interesting mix of diners with unique possibilities to establish contacts in a relaxed, familial setting. On an informal bench in the kitchen you can study the chef’s feats at the Molteni stove. Up to forty guests can order the same menu, which can make things a bit hectic for their three chefs, Martin Brag, Johan Sundén and Leo Frodell. This is evident in the somewhat rough, almost messy presentations, though they reflect Ett Hem’s philosophy of presenting a lot of big flavours and textures in richly assembled compositions. Under a frothy almond milk hides a tartare of seared halibut with Kalix bleak roe, lovage, toasted almonds, and a nutty foam made from Rossa, a washed rind cheese from Oviken. Add to that both fried and raw, planed Jerusalem artichokes and generous amounts of grated winter truffles. Yum. Crispy fried breast of Swedish duck is served with a cinnamon-cured thigh, semi-dried beets, toasted hazelnuts and watercress – powerful flavours that require a mature Barolo in the glass.
Considering Norway’s unparalleled access to some of the best seafood in the world, one would imagine its capital was overflowing with great sushi restaurants. Unfortunately, they are rather scarce, and mainly consist of cheap, mass-produced take away or overpriced upscale joints. Then suddenly, from out of nowhere, Restaurant Fangst appears. Located in the basement of a Majorstua hotel, doubling as the hotel’s breakfast room, it’s a rather grey and not so inspiring looking restaurant. But don’t let its dull looks fool you because Fangst is a rare catch in this town. It’s run by two enthusiasts who have gathered quite a following among the local residents who flock to the small bar counter. The menu is short and focused on what’s in season, offering both à la carte and a set menu. We especially enjoy the serving of deep-fried cod tongue topped with bleak roe and fresh wasabi. A miso soup is made with dashi and langoustines, served with a delicious Norwegian king crab – an excellent blend of local produce and Japanese flavours. Our bet is that these boys will move on to better and more suitable facilities soon, and we’re looking forward to it!
It begins with a drink list called “Drinks and Roostertails”, a joke followed by the name of the first drink: “Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven”. They offer a lot of entertainment here, which is probably why Far i Hatten reigns in the People’s Park. The restaurant’s name has been around since the park’s inception in 1894. The old pavilion has been spruced up but retains a certain charming patina. In the summer the place attracts people to the large outdoor terrace. Far i Hatten has otherwise profiled itself as having an idiosyncratic kitchen and a beverage range that suits the hipster crowd from nearby Möllevångstorget. There’s a lot of green, natural and organic. The baked carrot with sea buckthorn, marigolds and cream with rye crisp is tangy, crunchy and caramelly with natural wine from La Grapperie in Loire that’s mushroomy and fragrant with berries. Sommelier Jonas Letelier pilots with a sure hand through the dishes and drinks. A Beaujolais from Fleurie is in total symbiosis with one of their autumnal plates – a pumpkin with pumpkin cream, Danish cream cheese and roasted pumpkin seeds. A “Kinder Surprise” of flavours. There are two menus – the vegetarian “green” and the “red” with a hint of meat. The green one beckons with a real beauty, a variation on kohlrabi with Skåne pears, chervil and chestnut crisp. Fresh goodness, enhanced by an improbably tasty orange wine from Friuli. The red menu offers, among other things, a delicious tartare of Skåne lamb with caviar, sea coral and trumpet chanterelles. Rich umami notes of forest, lake and sea. The tempo of the servings is high and the flavours are exciting.
sexy, indie jazz version of “Light my Fire” is strangely appropriate in Farang, a restaurant just below street level in a period building which also houses an art museum. A smooth ride through the tempting flavours of Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia is about to begin. As the music deteriorates into some fusion ambience, the dishes reveal one secret after another. We inhale the aroma of the mussel in turmeric curry and as soon as we’ve slurped up the creamy mix, it leaves us with an unquenchable desire for more. This is exactly what an amuse-bouche is supposed to do. We take a sip of Wittmann Silvaner's “100 Hügel” which tingles on the tongue and tastes like tropical melons with a dash of minerality. With perfect timing, the green papaya salad arrives adorned by cherry tomatoes. The acidity is nice, even necessary, but the salad is disappointing in its unrelenting sourness. However, it does clear the palate for the crispy pork ribs in a roasted coconut dressing served with jasmine rice. A dish called “Morning Glory” arrives, a chunk of tofu that’s tender as a scallop on top of pak choi. Umami, smoke and sweetness mingle on the palate, cleansing it yet again for the Phanaeng lamb curry to follow. With coconut, nuts and cucumber relish on the side, it is enough to make your head spin even without the Jaspi Negre from the distinctive Montsant terroir in Spain – although a brave match, this combo doesn’t work. The Mekong River makes its way to the table in the form of a banana cake with crunchy tamarind on top and coconut ice cream. In this case, the dessert wine is a treat from the village of Monbazillac. Take your time on this journey to exotic lands because you’ll need it, both to digest and to dream a little.
Farm’s curious window display has a way of stopping passersby in their tracks; a party of taxidermied, feral animals having a riotous feast around a rustic dinner table. Who wouldn’t stop for that? But can the food and drink behind such a frivolous storefront be taken seriously? Estonians are considered reserved. Estonia’s culinary heritage could be regarded similarly––it lacks color and taste. When Estonians tell their children not to play with their food they are dead serious about it. Farm thankfully behaves differently, the animal fiesta is perhaps the complete opposite of dead serious, and that’s a good thing. When stepping into this dining room, to the tunes of sober background music, you’re greeted by a slightly over-dramatized interior, and an open kitchen that doesn’t leave room for gimmickry. The restaurant is a brave promoter of new Estonian cuisine, there are no taboos, but there is no playing with food either. The appetizers and soups are particularly successful––even the names reflect the imagination with which the food is prepared. The spiced sprat is offered as an ice pop, cow tail aspic is presented as a warm soup under a cloud of horseradish-spiked sour cream, and the traditional rustic sauerkraut soup leaves you altogether speechless. We have hardly ever seen traditional Estonian food take such bold directions. You should pay close attention to the small Estonian flags on the beverage menu, they represent the local, mostly craft tipples. Rhubarb wine from Allikukivi Wine Manor is a pleasant aperitif, it’s also interesting because its taste evolves as its temperature changes. Good craft drinks are produced in very limited quantities in Estonia, so seize the opportunity to try local berry wines, or if that seems too extreme, a cider or a beer. Estonia’s drinking culture is developing much faster than its cuisine these days.
Feinschmecker could not be situated anywhere other than Frogner. Although the facade is rather unassuming, it is in a neigbourhood with an aura of money, evidenced not only by the clientele, but also by the prices. Run by celebrity chef Lars Erik Underthun, this lush restaurant has been among Oslo’s elite dining venues for over twenty years. The menu reflects this stability – there’s a sense of comfort and tradition throughout the courses. It focuses on execution and luxurious, rounded flavours. There are few elements of surprise, but the feeling of satisfaction is omnipresent. It’s a sinfully pleasant treat to start off with foie gras with oxtail, rhubarb cream and fried brioche while eavesdropping on the various conversations in the stylish, but somewhat confusing dining room. An absence of music and the poshness of the surroundings makes this a radical choice for the young foodie movement; expect a rather high percentage of families and mature couples out for a bite. Neither you nor they will be dissatisfied with the menu. A rich, seasonal chicken breast with fatty, salty rillettes in a sherry sauce paired with sweet onion is a current favourite. The cod loin flavoured with chorizo and contrasted with fava beans doused in a nutty butter sauce will render you perfectly content while chatting with the staff and Under-thun himself, who always takes the time to converse at each table. The flavours and staff make you feel at home and welcome, with a stability and warmth that explains the decades of delighted customers.
Festningen restaurant is perched on top of 700-year old walls at Akershus Castle. From this massive brick building that once housed a prison you can enjoy central Oslo’s best views. The interior of the historically protected building has been carefully refurbished to house a tasteful if somewhat corporate-looking modern restaurant with an open kitchen. If the weather allows, you can sit on the west-facing terrace looking over the sparkling fjord towards shadowy Aker Brygge. The clientele on our visit consists mostly of visiting tourists or groups of friends out for a meal. We overhear some Americans complaining about the incongruous “boom-boom music”, but the food is well worth a try. A crispy croquette of pork knuckle in a panko crust is juicy and flavourful and the rich filling is offset by a pleasantly tart salad with capers, cornichons and onions. The pan-fried cod is served with a purée of charred aubergine and a slightly undercooked cassoulet of borlotti, canneloni and fava beans. The roasted spring chicken in the form of breast and confited leg is moist yet crispy, with an additional taste of spring in the form of peas and asparagus. The same creamy mash accompanies the cod and the chicken, and both compositions are slightly heavy on the salt, but the food is generally well cooked. A white Bordeaux from the extensive wine list is a pleasant compromise to suit both dishes, suggested by the friendly sommelier. The staff are efficient and pleasant, but you need to find your own way through the self-service wardrobe and up the stairs to the restaurant. Once there, enjoy the view and be grateful that the door is unlocked and the food far more pleasant than the prison fare of yore.
Fina Fisken really delivers. Diners can be sure to get well-prepared food made with the finest ingredients. As often as possible, the “new owners” (they’ve been new for 10 years now) see to it that the ingredients come from fishermen, farmers and other producers in the immediate vicinity. Everything is taken care of in the best way. The portions are generous and very nicely presented. The seasonings raise the culinary experience, and the condiments and vegetables are beautiful accompaniments. The menu has shrunk somewhat, but is varied seasonally to take advantage of what the season offers. Everyone from visiting foreigners to children can get a taste of Scandinavian specialties and international cuisine. The memory of a chanterelle soup with sweetbreads and sliced truffle followed by a plaice in red wine lingers long. And their classics are also memorable, like fried herring with mashed potatoes. The service alone is worth a tribute. Fast, knowledgeable and accommodating without applying pressure. And it makes the meal experience feel personal even though the garden and the dining rooms are full of people. In the evening Trädgårdsbaren is Trosa’s watering hole. In the comfortable lounge sofas under the sky they serve dishes from a simple bar menu, and exciting drinks, such as five different flavours of G&T and a variety of champagnes. A bakery with take-away options has further increased our options. But check the opening hours and book a table, as sometimes you can be unlucky and find it closed for a special theme.
The premises have been freshened up, the gold details seem to glisten a little more than before, and the atmosphere seems to crackle on those evenings that Bifångst is open. (Bifångst is a small restaurant inside Fiskekrogen that offers a specially composed menu to 15 guests.) Otherwise, most things are the same at Fiskekrogen, this temple consecrated to the delicacies of the sea. After all, Lars Ahlström has steered the ship for two decades now, and at this point he is wise enough not to change too much in their winning concept: really well prepared dishes using the finest fish and the freshest seafood the west coast can offer. In addition to the popular seafood buffet served on Fridays and Saturdays, the classics are the biggest attractions. Smooth lobster bisque with lobster mousseline; hearty turbot with horseradish and beets; and not least, Ahlström’s codfish balls served with caviar sauce, can make anyone nostalgic. The desire to innovate at Bifångst, which means “Bycatch” (think caviar with pig’s blood and burnt cream) does infect some of the dishes at Fiskekrogen, like those under the title “Together” in the menu, which includes mini dishes, and the intent is that you should eat many of them and preferably share with your party. Crab salad with jalapeno miso, pears and salsify is a few steps too far from the kitchen’s comfort zone and doesn’t play at all, while the tartare of fine bonito is quite excellent in the company of bleak roe and cherry vinegar. The voluminous wine list has a bias towards the classic and is especially crazy about Burgundy. The clientele consists of mainly of business diners and large groups.
Karl Erik Pallesen runs the kitchen at this fishmonger by day, hotspot by night – a place that is widely known for having the best fish soup in the kingdom. As seasoned readers probably know, this is a typical claim written on every blackboard along the touristy pier and around Lågen, from the run-down local dive bar to the more posh establishments fancied by oil executives. The creamy soup with shrimp and ling fish feels like a feast. Here the vegetables are crunchy, and the emerald green oil tastes just as brilliant as it looks. The rumours are true: this is the best fish soup. A ramson risotto follows, and comes out on top. The risotto has a vibrant green colour from the wild and garlicky Nordic leaves. The shrimps and mussels are moist and have the right bite to them. The sweetness of the seafood is matched by pickled carrots. The baked Atlantic cod comes with a butter sauce with salmon roe, cauliflower, cucumber and red oxalis. The menu is written on a big blackboard, and the waiters tour the small dining room with it, at times with such struggle that we’re surprised they don’t feel compelled to put it down on a piece of paper. A group of men who are celebrating something cause the service to come to a halt, though it was attentive at first. In the end it is nearly impossible to get the staff’s attention as they hastily fly by us en route to the men with heavy trays of beers. Fisketorget Lågen is a good place to let your mind wander while enjoying the great seafood this region is known for.
When the thinly sliced pieces of minke whale fillet meet the heat of the Japanese Robata Grill for five seconds, magic occurs. The bitter surface seals the juicy, fleshy flavour from the tender whale meat. The experience is enhanced after we dip it in soy and ginger. The meat is topped by grated horseradish where bits of red currants give an acidic kick to the bitterness and umami. With this we drink a Hrefna Belgian Strong from Borg Brugghús with deep, fruity forest notes of crowberries and blueberries. It’s sensational. Restaurateur and Chef Hrefna Sætran has not only brewed the beer, she is also responsible for the interior in the old yellow wooden house – one of the Reykjavik’s oldest – where the walls are decorated with moss and old tree stumps. The light from the table lamps with shades made of fish leather creates a nice ambiance, to which a knowledgeable and light-hearted service staff contribute. Throughout the meal we choose dishes to share, like a stylish lemon-glazed char with an intense green purée of edamame beans and crispy rye bread. It works well with the sour Leifur beer. The beer and wine pairings are consistently creative. Like a bitter hops Úlfur India Pale ale with red beet-coloured tempura-fried shrimp with melon and jalapeño dressing. Or a bittersweet Úlfrun paired with a lightly salted cod with dried cranberries, sweet celery salad and a silky potato purée. The confited leg of lamb belongs to the island’s best, served with preserved beets and a variation on mushrooms. The Garún Icelandic Stout holds its own with a burnt sweetness. The conclusion is notably good: a grand Icelandic dessert with exotic fruits, ice cream and a smoking crater of raspberry mousse and liquorice.
On a bitterly cold winter’s evening, one can only dream about the magical summer lunches on these verandas bordering Frederiksberg Gardens, but everything in due time. We are comfortably inside, where the decor is stylish and polite, and where the kitchen delivers a culinary experience that incorporates both sublime classics and Nordic experiments. What remains constant is the competent and extremely friendly service. The menus of three to five courses are based on the à la carte options, but even before we reach the first course, we receive snacks that set the bar impressively high: dried wild mushrooms and potato are formed into paper-thin crisps, fried and served with a cream of pine and juniper berry and powdered with burnt leek – a wonderful palette of crispness and umami from the forest floor. The first course is sharp and classic – a silky-soft celeriac soup with a caramelised scallop and roasted apple. The second course, however, is a confusing vegetable dish with fried carrot. The plate combines carrot purée, truffles, and creamed Høost cheese in wonderful harmony, but the carrot itself, poached and fried in pistachio and walnut, lacks sweetness, and the rustic breading is far too dominant. The main course is a safer bet. Apart from the misplaced cubes of glazed bacon, the beef rump from Skåne with creamy polenta and lightly salted broccoli stalk is purely delicious. There isn’t much room for modern ventures on the classic wine list, but we find a cabernet franc from Loire, Domaine De La Chevalerie, which has a fine balance of acidity and fruit; it keeps us company throughout the meal, all the way to a sweet and sour dessert of white chocolate, coconut macaroon and lime cream.
Fru K, the prestige restaurant at hotel mogul Petter Stordalen’s most lavish hotel, The Thief, has rebranded itself once again. Now it’s both meat-free and a lot smaller than before, which was probably a wise move, as the old restaurant was way too large, leaving diners with a feeling of being alone even on a busy night. The shift to pescetarianism is also a smart move, as the kitchen lacked focus before, and now it’s trading in the new and trendy currency of vegetables and seafood. We start with a snack of white asparagus tops, pickled carrot and beetroot to be dipped in a sauce of unknown origin – though it tastes great, for vegetables and dip. But once the first starter arrives, all is well again. We’re treated to a show of great and simple dishes: grilled green asparagus resting in a light asparagus sauce, lobster from Midsund paired with a lobster hollandaise. A perfectly cooked trout with crispy skin, vendace roe and a brown butter sauce comes with the rest of the aforementioned white asparagus. A superb serving of pumpkin, with reduced cream and kale, is bloody good without the blood, and we don’t even miss the Sunday roast. The turbot served with lemon curd and pickled onion is cooked to perfection. This is great quality food and an excellent showcase of amazing produce. The service is just as one would expect at a world-class hotel but when, halfway into our meal, the maître d’ starts setting up the surrounding tables for tomorrow’s breakfast serving, we are reminded that we are indeed in a hotel and not a regular restaurant. We don’t recommend drinking here unless you have deep pockets. The wine list is a bit top-heavy with very few wines priced under four digits a bottle and the wine pairings might be the priciest deal in town as they do not offer much bang for your buck. But, considering the hotel brand and the whole area of Tjuvholmen, the regulars probably do not mind.
The town of Drammen has never been known as a culinary destination. Even though the surrounding area has historically been considered the most important farmland in the vicinity of Oslo and the town boasts two of the best-known quality breweries in Norway, Drammen has had no restaurants worth mentioning – until now. Frukt og Grønt (Fruit and Vegetables) is a delightful improvement to this town. Everything about the place – the food, the décor, the excellent service, the wine list and their attitude – is a breath of fresh air, and not just for Drammen, but for the whole region. The menu is simple: two starters, two main courses and two desserts, enjoyed as a 3-course menu or à la carte, with set wine pairings or by the glass. It’s a great deal, whichever you choose. Their wine list is fairly up-to-date, providing options on both sides of the classic vs. natural feud, and the whole list is even available by the glass at fair prices. The food is all over the map; it’s a mixture of trends and styles, but mostly it’s just delicious everyday fare. Some of the modernistic techniques are a bit out-dated (we haven’t seen spherification in a while), but we enjoy them nonetheless. Frukt og Grønt is the perfect place for a dinner or a glass of wine when you’re in town. We just hope the locals realize it, and keep them in business.
Fusion strives to create an international urban atmosphere, with lounge music in the sound system, high-tech decor and the added bonus of a view of the fjord. The concept succeeds by combining inspiring cuisine with adept service. The long wine list includes renowned makers and regions, but could use a bit of an update in terms of semi-sweet wines that go well with Asian flavours. We are served a soft colossal scallop, fried perfectly crisp on one side, with small broccoli shavings marinated in lime and miso, a mild umami bomb with a liquoricy tarragon oil that could have made more of an impact. Next is a fried, juicy turbot with a crisp crust topped with a poignant sauce of soy sauce, ginger and buttery depth. The plate also contains salsify in three versions – fried slices, crisp chips and a caramel-like purée and a garnish of mild watercress, fennel and nasturtium, adding a discreet touch of liquorice. With the light dishes we drink Louis Roederer Brut Premier. Our server suggests that its depth can stand up to the sweetness, acidity and umami – and he’s right. A succulent roasted thigh of quail with spiced mince and a sauce of chicken stock, blackcurrants and hoisin is a romantic symphony. Yet the highlight comes with the fried sweetbreads with coriander oil and deep base note of ponzu, served with a powerful and creamy potato purée and mighty truffle foam. A sprinkling of kimchi-spiced sesame seeds adds a spicy chilli kick. The desserts are mostly light and fresh. Fusion combines Asian and Nordic cuisine with bravado.
It’s a creative atmosphere at Gallery Restaurant, with its dark mahogany ceilings and classic interior with artwork from Hotel Holt’s unique Icelandic art collection on the walls. This mixture of classic aesthetics and bold innovation is reflected in the grandiose wine menu filled with classic as well as themed wines, which perfectly complement Chef Friðgeir Ingi Eiríksson’s successful Latin-Icelandic melting pot. With more than 4,000 bottles in the cellar, this is the place to go in Iceland if you are a lover of rare and fine wines and spirits. From the moment we enter the room, we are engulfed by the classy yet cosy atmosphere. On the impeccably set round table, the napkin holder quotes the father of modern French cuisine, Fernand Point: “Garnishes must be matched like a tie to a suit”. Then we get our first impression of the kitchen with creamy homemade butter and crisp, airy sourdough bread. The first serving is a daring and delectable langoustine soup that combines fresh langoustine with roasted white chocolate cream – a delightful signature course. It tickles our senses when perfectly paired with a 2012 Alsace Pfaffenheim pinot gris. We are intrigued when a rich 2013 Sauternes complements the exotic fruit flavours of the crisp and tender seared foie gras accompanied by almonds and apricot. As a cold appetizer, we recommend the veal tartare with sour cream, bacon and pickled mushrooms. Not a traditional minced meat serving, it is composed instead out of delightfully tasty cubes of fresh veal and decorated with brawn (aka., head cheese). The homemade tagliatelle with Italian truffles, truffle butter and Parmesan cheese is a well-composed but rather traditional main course, whereas the Icelandic reindeer with Italian truffles and braised celeriac in Madeira with white asparagus and blueberry sauce really showcases the kitchen’s creative approach to combining flavours from the Latin and Icelandic kitchens. The tender meat is garnished with a lot of decorative finesses, such as purple lichen, fresh enoki mushrooms, plenty of truffle shavings and a rich demi-glace – and it all tastes delicious together. The chocolate and tonka bean crème brûlée with characteristic smoky perfume notes from the beans, served with creamy chocolate and raspberry sorbets, completes the meal and highlights how the kitchen fully lives up to the quote on the napkin holder.
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.