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.
“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.
The visitor is greeted by Madam Fox and Misters Wolf and Bear. They are in full party swing. But unlike the Estonian children’s song, the rabbit isnot invited and the badgers are standing idle - and also this is a still life and the beasts are taxidermied. The game continues in the dining hall, which is a farmer’s dream of a good life: birds and flowers, the kitchen walled off with glass. Even the menu is playful - traditional Estonian food surprises with new tricks. Stick ice cream made of spiced Baltic sprats, buckwheat risotto andcreamy sauerkraut soup are new, yet notas surprising as you might think - the ingredients are familiar and the flavors balanced, and the compositions feel natural to the point ofwondering why no one has ever thought of these takes on the classics before. The playful experiments are supported by local wines, ciders, lemonades and juices in a broad selection.
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.
“A gourmet country kitchen” reads the introduction to Søren Jakobsen and Villiam Jørgensen’s restaurant in Aarhus. The produce featured in the kitchen’s exquisitely crafted cuisine is thoroughly seasonal, including appearances by apple, beetroot, and parsley root and the evening is a parade of beautifully arranged works of art. The menu is composed as a series of snacks. Some are classics, such as a cone filled with smoked cheese and Kalix bleak roe, while the oyster is right on target with a fresh foam of citrus confit and bonito butter. The staff skilfully and precisely navigate through the vocabulary associated with the orchestrated meal, and at times they draw on help from the kitchen. Gastromé is strongest in its seafood and vegetable dishes, while their pot bread is irresistibly alluring alongside a browned butter whipped with crispy bits of chicken skin. Lobster consommé with fresh lobster-filled pasta, poached quail egg and an attractive green lace of powdered herbs is one of the evening’s highlights, served with a balanced 2014 Jura wine, L'Etoile from Domaine Montbourgeau, whose sherry-like oxidised taste is an adroit pairing with the bittersweet lobster. The precisely fried zander is nicely composed with parsley root, fennel, cress and a foam of bakskuld (salted and smoked witch flounder). But the richness, salt and smoke of this excellent local speciality from Fanø lacks acidity, a deficiency that the fresh sauvignon blanc from Philippe Gilbert fails to rectify. The meat dishes pay homage to off cuts, but the pork cheeks are a tad dry in combination with boiled barley grains, mustard and truffle, ultimately comprising too many flavours at once. The dry-aged beef with beetroot in a variety of textures suffers from the same degree of hyperbole. The desserts offer a respite with the return to lighter fare full of sweetness and acidity: passion fruit, apple, pear, lemon, yoghurt and tarragon. In total, the meal is an array of excellent servings, ambition and daring from the kitchen. Though at times the dishes collapse under the weight of myriad flavours, the aesthetic presentation is consistently exceptional.
The GMP Pühajärve Restaurant in the only tower block in the Pühajärve area, surrounded by the ski paths of Otepää, is a place with a long tradition. The legendary party place ofthe Soviet period has ripened into a restaurant that demonstrates toone and to all the undeniable charm of food that is taken straight from the field to the kitchen. Asis customary in the countryside, the autumn dinner was still in the ground in the morning. The rest of the year, the same ingredients are used pickled, salted, or marinated. The GMT Pühajärve Restaurant is divided in two parts. The one serves everyday fare tothose who spend longer at Pühajärve. The other offers formal fine dining to those who come for culinary experiences alone. The snow-white tablecloths and formal black-and-white clothes worn by the staff create anelevated atmosphere for tasting the food with its rustic flavors and complex techniques. From the rye bread baked exactly after an old recipe (some of the best in all of Estonia, bythe way), to the sous-vide lamb saddle with its beetroot-flavored groats, rhubarb mustard, goat cheese and peppermint sauce, local ingredients are added maximum value through deliciously inventive combinations. The GMP Pühajärve serves modern genuine Estonia. But now (attention!) only with reservation - the chef is specially booked to prepare your experience.
After a short period of renovation the hotel has again opened its doors. This famed Viennese-style café had its glory days in the late 1800s, when it was frequented by the likes of the Nobel Prize-winning writer, Henrik Ibsen. Over a period of nearly one hundred years the awe and well-deserved cool the writer and his friends attracted was replaced by elderly ladies dressed in furs and wearing as much musk as their skin could retain. The air no longer has the residual odor of animal skins and the interior décor is fresher, albeit the walls are now darker, in the classically modern way. The food, on the other hand, is lighter and more inviting than ever with its modern take on, well, almost every cuisine possible. Describing the origins of the courses stated in the menu is easier done with a sawed-off shotgun and a world map. It’s all over the place. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as the kitchen is as fine-tuned as a German-Japanese Formula One team. This fusion fare is served in small and medium-sized courses and while it’s good, every dish seems to be hiding all the same ingredients. A dry-aged entrecote is quickly seared in a pan, thinly sliced, drenched in sesame oil and then hidden under small shrapnel of spiralized daikon. It’s fresh and mouth-filling but, sadly, the taste of the aged meat is drowned by the vinaigrette and overwhelmed by the aggressive texture of the small bush of greens. A tartare of beef with cured scallops is covered in crisps, so there is texture to match the cold meat and mature-smelling scallop emulsion, but the funky smell gets lost in the sweetness of the blend of sea and land. The celebrated caviar of the north, vendace roe, is placed on top of a Belgian waffle the size of a small mattress. The fish eggs are accompanied by sour cream, dill and vast amounts of crisps. The wine list has more to offer blue-haired ladies than the absinth-drinking writer. Grand Café is a good place to go for decennial celebrations in the autumn of life, although the wine and food will resonate better with a younger crowd.
In 2001, Iceland received a sensational bronze medal in Bocuse d’Or – the unofficial World Cup for chefs. In 2017 Iceland’s time came again, with Viktor Örn Andrésson at Grillið. However, it is Atli þór Erlendsson who is the head chef here. The dining room on the 8th floor of the Saga Hotel has been carefully restored and the view over Reykjavik is magnificent. It raises one’s expectations. The meal starts deliciously with charred scallops with salted cucumber, drops of ramson oil and vendace roe accompanied by dried roe, both as grains and as an emulsion. It’s a fresh start with finely tuned sea flavours. However, the vermentino wine that is paired with the dish is far too simple. The same goes for a Chilean gewürztraminer with a pan-seared ling fish with butter-baked cabbage and chives, fermented garlic cream and sea urchin foam – they are difficult flavours in an unbalanced arrangement. We expect a lot more from a sirloin with a variation on Jerusalem artichokes and red wine sauce and oyster mushrooms – even though the garnacha wine Tres Patas adds to the flavours. The red beet trilogy on hot ceramic dishes offers delicious flavour combos, where the smoked and creamy Icelandic cumin cheese called Tindur matches the earthy red beet notes and whole grains of barley. The natural wine Sota Mon Soleu, a merlot from Ardèche in France, is right on the money with its soft fruitiness. The service is more correct than personal. The desserts are worth waiting for. A granité of rose petals with dried raspberries and meringue is elegant with a half-sweet moscato wine. The chocolate ganache with malt ice cream and native blueberries mingles well with a porter from Borg Bregghús. Grillið is a cultural treasure worthy of cherishing.
Gro has long since found its formula for success and now plays mainly safe bets. They serve two four-course menus at SEK 500, one for vegetarians and one for omnivores. Both are declarations of love to the seasons. Each plate is like a family photo album, where seasonal produce is displayed in various stages: roasted seeds, baby shoots, raw pieces, pickled paper-thin slices, poached and broken down into a smooth purée in the blender, and dried until chewy. Serving super-cute frozen baby grapes from the abbey in Vreta before dessert is a confident stroke of genius. At best it is certainly endearing to get to hang out with the different generations, but this can sometimes feel a little predictable in the vegetarian menu. Even better is when Gro abandons the formula and simplifies to really blunt minimalism, like when a hearty slow-cooked lamb neck is accompanied by both raw and baked beets. The pitch-perfect wine choices add their own distinct voice to the meal. Unlike many other restaurants, Gro’s wine pairings are very affordable and a nice introduction to the world of natural wines. When a variation on Jerusalem artichokes, both puréed and raw, with apples and dark-roasted hazelnuts meets a delightful, elegantly oxidized sauvignon blanc from Alexandre Bain, the taste buds start spinning. The crowd consists of quiet-voiced food purists. The service succeeds in creating warmth and a presence in the uningratiating and brutally stripped down tiny, white room where naked bulbs hang on wires from the ceiling. Little Gro continues to be a higher alternative for locavores.
This inn could kick back in one of the armchairs in front of the crackling fire in the drawing room and step into the role of tourist trap. It could be content to rest on its laurels with nearly four centuries of history at this location by the picturesque square with old wooden houses and the mythical atmosphere that the incomparable Carl Jan Granqvist created here for decades. This, however, is not the case. The kitchen shows that it is still well worth a journey. The fancy silver cloches are still in use, but no longer lifted with the previous almost comical devoutness, which we appreciate. No, here the service is relaxed and professional, which is evident from the moment we arrive. The engaged and knowledgeable staff guide us through the meal, but above all through Bergslagen’s treasure trove, the wine cellar, and just that is worth a visit. The menu is regional and seasonal and there are two starters and two main dishes to choose from on the four-course menu. The mushroom terrine is a beautiful creation with alternating slices of king trumpet mushrooms, served with chanterelle cream, crispy mushroom flakes and a warm mushroom consommé poured over the dab of truffle butter to melt it down. It is also a courageous move to lift up the different fungal flavours instead of garnishing the plate with some more flattering detail. The spice-blackened steak from Närke is barely touched by fire, flavourful and tender, and it covers creamy, mashed almond potatoes spiked with Västerbotten cheese, salted celeriac and a crispy slice of rye bread. A very successful dish.
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.