In Norway one does not live by salmon alone, although the fish in question represents one of the main items of the thriving economy of this Scandinavian country, immediately behind oil and natural gas. Land of explorers and sailors since the time of the Vikings, who sailed to the Mediterranean, to Greenland and, with all due respect to Christopher Columbus, to the Americas, the Norwegians get a real treasure from the sea. If one were to elect a fish ruler of the tables, however, rather than the salmon it would be fair to attribute the crown to the most “popular” cod. Whose meat in our country is better known as stockfish or cod – Italy has been the main export market for this product for centuries – but here in Oslo it is ennobled in a thousand different ways. Merit of an ancient wisdom certainly, but also of the last generation of young Norwegian chefs who contribute to making their city deserve the palm of gourmet destination.
From king crab to reindeer
Raw materials are not lacking. Molluscs and crustaceans arrive fresh from the sea, with the giant king crab (legs included can reach almost two meters) to dictate the latest trend of the palate. From the hinterland vegetables, wild herbs, farmed meats and game of the highest quality, because “sons and daughters” of an environment that is still unspoiled. With these weapons available, it is easy to understand how it was enough for young Norwegian chefs to travel and experience abroad to be able to turn on the engines and give an exciting acceleration that for too long remained a bit static.
Michelin stars and sustainability
Even the Michelin Guide realized that it granted the third star to Esben Holmboe Bang, not even forty who in 2010 opened his Maaemo, literally “mother earth”, a stone’s throw from the central station of Oslo and the super-photographed tiger statue that greets tourists since 2000, bronze symbol of the “tiger city”, as Oslo a Norwegian poet defined it. Esben Holmboe Bang mixes the Nordic gastronomy tradition with an avant-garde approach seasoned with the most current Norwegian imperative. Which is precisely sustainability. At Maaemo you follow the seasons, experiment on preserving products, resorting to foraging, the practice of collecting wild herbs, and offering delicious and provocative dishes like sour cream porridge with dehydrated reindeer heart. And there is not too much surprise of the reindeer because its meat has always been a custom on Norwegian tables.
Avant-garde and secular bases
Capital of a modern and tolerant country, but also a land of immigration and consequent melting pot, Oslo knows how to be versatile even at the table. At Hos Thea, for example, the chef’s cuisine blends Spanish origins, the culinary journey in France and the love for Norwegian products in a beautiful poutpourri of colors and flavors.
100% Norwegian, so much so as to seem torn from the set of Vikings, is instead the young chef patron of Kontrast. Mikael Svensson, who after having made his bones around Europe, with stops at the Spanish courts of Quique Dacosta and Martin Berasategui, was voted among the best 300 chefs in the world and proposes an innovative but at the same time respectful cuisine of nature. Which is a bit the distinctive trait of the Norwegians who have learned to respect nature, often hostile to them, to be able to live together. And that today therefore, although they can boast a stimulating wave of avant-garde cuisine, they do not forget the secular bases of their diet, from the “pinnekjøtt” (salted and dried lamb chops) to the “brunost”, the strange brown cheese obtained from a partial caramelization of goat’s milk to finish with the salt extracted from algae. But they process them, interpret them and ferry them into the new millennium, giving new emotions to food travelers who go up here not only for the aurora borealis or the midnight sun.
Don’t miss Oslo
The most coveted tables, to be accommodated to which we suggest to book in advance, begin from the first and at the moment the only Michelin-starred Michelin restaurant, the Maaemo (maaemo.no) founded and directed by Esben Holmboe Bang. Second stop is the Hos Thea (hosthea.no) with Spanish chef of French studies but of absolutely local raw materials. The Kontrast (restaurant-kontrast.no) is instead the stage for Mikael Svensson, a Viking face and an up and coming talent that will make food critics talk for a long time.
If you want to “breathe” the sea and appreciate the freshness of the catch of the day there is Tjuvholmen Sjømagasin (sjomagasinet.no): among lobsters, king crabs and molluscs there is plenty of choice but, be careful, the kitchen follows strictly the fishing seasons. Finally, more classical but certainly valuable, the Statholdgaarden (statholdgardeen.no) which offers the best halibut, a flatfish that vaguely resembles a rhombus but can reach the size of a human being, never eaten in life.
Underwater restaurant; the structure, an inclined concrete pipe 34 meters long and partly positioned out of the water and partly under the sea, was designed by the architecture and design studio Snøhetta.
Taste refined starred dishes with a view of black cod, mackerel, new-born lobsters, rare jellyfish and wrasse, the colorful fish of the North Sea: a few weeks ago you can do it in the “Under” restaurant, the first underwater restaurant in Europe, in waters of Lindesnes, in southern Norway, surrounded by a wild marine nature. In Norwegian the name “Under” means “below” but also “wonder”, “wonder”; and it is precisely this that inspires this record-breaking, unique and original venue, with its 5 meters of depth and the large panoramic windows of 11 meters wide.
The structure, an inclined concrete pipe 34 meters long and partly positioned out of the water and partly under the sea, was designed by the architecture and design studio Snøhetta.
The avant-garde cuisine is managed by Nicolai Ellitsgaard, a young Danish-born chef, at the head of a brigade of 16 people with experience in starred restaurants. For an underwater dinner we spend about 230 euros per person, excluding wines, for a total of 18 courses based on rare red and tiny algae but tasty local crabs, among the most curious raw materials of the menu. To dine underwater, however, you have to wait for September or put yourself on a waiting list.
A treat for architecture enthusiasts
The building itself is an architectural gem. It is reminiscent of a rock formation that is rising out of the sea; almost like a kind of art installation. The award-winning architect firm, Snøhetta, has designed the spectacular building.
Half-sunken into the sea, the building’s 34-meter long monolithic form breaks the surface of the water to rest directly on the seabed five meters below. The structure is designed to fully integrate into its marine environment over time, as the roughness of the concrete shell will function as an artificial reef, welcoming limpets and kelp to inhabit it. With the thick concrete walls lying against the craggy shoreline, the structure is built to withstand pressure and shock from the rugged sea conditions. Like a sunken periscope, the restaurant’s massive window offers a view of the seabed as it changes throughout the seasons and varying weather conditions.
A monumental glass wall provides panoramic views of the sea
When you step into the restaurant, your unique undersea journey begins. Here you can descend all the way to a depth of five metres without a diving suit. Just walk down the stairs. At the mesanin there is a bar with a relax area where guest can sit before and after the meal.
Down in the restaurant, the notion of an “ocean view” takes on a whole new meaning. There, a huge glass wall will give you an unique insight into the bustling life in the sea (Skagerrak) outside.
You will get to watch all sorts of fish species swim by, depending on the time of year. Normal fish species in this area is pollack and cod, colourful wrasses, urchins, crabs, lobsters in gladiator battles, spiny dogfish (i.e. mini sharks) and distinctive seaweed and kelp in the changing seasons… And you can see a live performance of the roaring, stormy sea when nature is in turmoil.
Seals have also been observed outside the window, but marine researcher Trond Rafoss hope it will not visit very often, as it scares the other fishes away.
Locally caught fish, seabirds and wild sheep on the menu
Of course, the restaurant experience is not just about the fish that swim by outside. The fish and seafood that is served on your plate is a very important ingredient. Naturally, there will be an excellent selection of seafood at Under. But you also have the option of tasting seabirds and wild sheep that have grazed in the archipelago nearby.
The head chef at Under is named Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen, and that means that the food is something to look forward to. Pedersen was formerly the head chef at the acclaimed gourmet restaurant “Måltid” in Kristiansand city centre, and he has also worked at the Michelin-starred restaurant Henne Kirkeby Kro in Denmark.
Underwater restaurant … Are you ready to try this experience? Save the map and the info below for your next travel.
Norwegian national day is 17 May and commemorating the signing of the constitution on that date in 1814. In Norway, the Constitution Day is huge.
Whilst many countries celebrate their national day with a military parade, Norway’s 17 May is more of a party for everyone, especially the children. Before they take to the streets, many will gather for a 17 May breakfast – often a potluck with friends and neighbours – with freshly baked bread, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, and for the grown-ups, champagne.
Children’s parades then take place across the country, and led by marching bands they walk through their communities. The largest of the traditional parades attract tens of thousands of people waving flags and shouting “hurra!”. In Oslo, the parade is greeted by the royal family who are waving tirelessly to the crowds from the Royal Palace balcony.
Nationalistic? Perhaps, but the non-militaristic and generally joyous atmosphere, in addition to the children’s special place in the celebrations, makes the day a largely uncontroversial affair. The focus is mostly on eating huge amounts of ice cream and hot dogs, listening to speeches, and playing games at local schools.
The day is also an opportunity for men and women to show off their “bunad”, Norway’s traditional costumes. There are hundreds of different ones, with colours and styles indicating where in Norway the owner’s ancestry lies.
Not drill the Arctic. Hard blow to the Norwegian oil industry by one of its most important political allies. The opposition Labor Party; the country’s biggest force in the Parliament, which has always been a supporter of the sector; has decided to say no to oil exploration in the Norwegian Arctic.
A move that will make oil production in the area even more unlikely than it already was. In fact; the largest party in the Norwegian parliament has withdrawn support for exploratory drilling off the Lofoten islands; considered a natural wonder.
The country currently pumps over 1.6 million barrels of oil a day from its offshore activities. Norway’s largest producer; the state-owned company Equinor ASA; said that access to oil supplies in Lofoten is essential for the country to maintain production levels.
Puncture the ice
But the Labor Party’s decision creates a large parliamentary majority against oil exploration in the area. Confirming the growing opposition to fossil fuels, which have made the country one of the richest in the world.
It was announced by party leader Jonas Gahr Store; who however specified that the Labor Party will continue to be a supporter of the oil industry; but acknowledged that there is now a majority calling for change. For its part, it will continue to support the existing tax system which also includes reimbursement for exploration.
In the seabed of the Lofoten archipelago there should still be 1 to 3 billion barrels of oil. The area had already been kept safe from drilling by Norwegian coalition governments; through various political agreements but was not entirely safe.
Due to the growing concern about climate change; the Norwegian oil industry is getting less public support and legal threats from environmental groups. These challenges add to a lack of major projects since the beginning of the next decade.
Last week; the country also announced that Norway‘s oil companies will have to commit to making the operations completely emission-free.
“The whole industry is surprised and disappointed,” Karl Eirik Schjott-Pedersen, head of the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, told Bloomberg.
The Lofoten Islands are a real paradise, one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights. Our photographer Virag Nobile also told us this with her splendid reportage and the images of the Northern Lights.
Not drill the Arctic!
Psycologist say that 385 children in Norway live at a secret location (address), so-called code 6 and 7, according to Kripos. There must be more research on the consequences this has for the children.
In addition, a number of children live at a secret location under the direction of child welfare services, but these are not national numbers, according to P4.
Psychologist and subject manager Stian Tobiassen at the Stine Sofie Center believes that there is little knowledge in Norway about how such a life situation affects the children in the long run.
“Their entire lives are rigged around trying to avoid danger. We know the unpredictability from comparable situations that is creates an unhealthy life, over time,” says Tobiassen.
He says these children are in many ways ‘on the run’ in their own country.
“These are children who live with a potential danger in their everyday lives, and that one does not have the opportunity to protect in any other way than by withholding their identity,” says the psychologist.
Children living in code 6 are children who are deprived of their childhood environment. He believes this can create challenges and strains that the children already have become more difficult.