Oslo’s Most Essential Coffee Spot
I love coffee. It’s a huge passion of mine and I’m a coffee nerd. For anyone who’s into coffee, Tim Wendelboe is an essential place to visit when you visit Oslo. Tim Wendelboe only serves coffee, no food, and the options are limited. This is not because it’s trying to be difficult, it just wants you to experience coffee as it’s intended to taste. I don’t know any other coffee shop that makes a more consistent brew every time – no matter which barista is behind the counter. Ever since he won the World Barista Championship in 2004, Tim Wendelboe has been one of the world’s most famous names in coffee. Early on, Wendelboe advocated for buying directly from farmers to make sure they get fair payment and can make an honest living from coffee production. He’s even gone so far as to invest in a coffee farm in Colombia. At least four times a year, Wendelboe visits the farm – he has established a plantation there of his own – and helps them research better ways to grow sustainable, organic coffee.
The Coffee Scene in Oslo
Supreme Roastworks started out roasting coffee from a garage and selling to other coffee shops in Oslo. After a year or so, they opened their own café which has become one of the most popular coffee spots in the city. It’s a favourite for coffee nerds, but it’s also very much a neighbourhood coffee shop. I also need to mention Fuglen, which has been a coffee shop since 1963 and the interior has been kept as it was back then. The owners run a vintage furniture business on the side, focused on Scandinavian design. Everything in the store can be purchased: every chair you’re sitting on, every table, every lamp or whatever’s hanging on the wall. Fun fact: there’s a sister café in Tokyo, also called Fuglen, and they’re both coffee shops by day and cocktail bars by night. Java and Mocca are two other great coffee shops in Oslo – owned by the same people but located in different parts of the city.
Where You’ll Most Often Find Me
The restaurant I frequent the most in Oslo is Katla by chef Atli Mar Yngvason. Before Katla, he ran Pjoltergeist, one of the most popular restaurants in the city. Pjoltergeist was the spot in Oslo among foodies and chefs, a crammed venue in a dark basement that was really difficult to find – almost like a speakeasy. Atli cooked delicious chef-style food: meaning a lot of meat, fat and salt. All the good stuff, basically. The vibe was just incredible – it was a great place to be. Unfortunately, it closed but thankfully, Atli partnered with new people to open an even bigger restaurant. It’s much more spacious and open, with big windows and high ceilings, so it’s a totally different ambiance, but the food is very much the same style. They’ve also managed to create a good, albeit different atmosphere in there so once again it’s become my favourite place in Oslo. I really like Atli’s cooking – he’s a true talent. Unlike many of his peers, he hasn’t gone down the strict New Nordic path at all. He’s still using local ingredients, but for the most part his techniques and flavours are influenced from places like Mexico, Korea and Japan. Everything is packed with flavour. It’s just tasty food. Katla also has a bar area that serves food until 1:30am making it a great late-night hangout.
Restaurant Or Bar? Dinner Or Supper?
Another restaurant I visit a lot in Oslo is Arakataka. This place also has two sections – a food bar and a restaurant. The main dining room is a semi-fine dining kind of place where you can have a five-course tasting menu or choose à la carte. There’s also a food bar – like a wine bar with food – which is open until 1am. It’s another spot that’s great for late-night eating.
About The City’s Ramen Boom
Ramen is one of the latest trends to hit Oslo, although a bit late. Until 2017, the city did not have a proper ramen shop, but then it had a mini ramen boom and three new places opened. The best of the three is Hrimnir Ramen, which puts a New Nordic twist on the dish. These guys are super passionate, making every little element from scratch from high quality, organic ingredients: noodles, broth, the lot.
Where the Industry Dines on Sunday
Le Benjamin is an establishment in Oslo where a lot of industry people go, especially on Sundays. It’s typical French bistro food but made using mostly local ingredients. Instead of traditional luxury items like lobster, it serves Norwegian langoustines, which in my opinion, is even tastier. The tarte flambée is another classic on the menu, as well as the witch flounder with spaghetti, beurre blanc and caviar. Le Benjamin is always packed with locals and people from the neighbourhood, so make a reservation if you want a seat.
Norwegian-Style Brasserie Cooking
At Sentralen, Chef Christina Grønning cooks Norwegian brasserie-style food: simple and modern and using local ingredients. The beet tartare is my favourite dish on the menu. It includes slow-cooked, smoked beetroot with a tarragon emulsion, topped with roasted sunflower seeds, horseradish and an egg yolk. This thing is an umami bomb: salty, fatty, acidic, well-balanced and packed with flavour.
The Food Traditions Of Norway, Updated
Located near the Oslo Opera House you’ll find Vaaghals. While the cooking there is based on the food traditions of Norway, most of the presentations are quite modern. It offers a tasting menu in addition to à la carte options. Dishes are typically served family-style and meant to be shared. The dining room looks like a contemporary Norwegian cottage, with a warm and relaxed atmosphere.
Think Local, Cook Norwegian (Sometimes)
Smalhans is a neighbourhood restaurant open from lunch to dinner and the only restaurant in Norway with a Bib Gourmand rating in the Michelin guide. The lunch menu is quite simple and focused on burgers and salads, but for dinner it gets more unique. Between 4pm and 6pm every day, Smalhans serves a daily special which is based on a rustic, home-cooked dish from somewhere in the world. It could be a traditional Japanese dish or something Norwegian, but it’s always a cornerstone dish from the country of choice. Most of the time, Smalhans serves strictly Nordic food, but for these two hours, the chefs can find their influence anywhere. It’s extremely popular and always packed. At 6pm, the place morphs back to a Norwegian restaurant where it offers the choice between a four-course or eight-course tasting menu.
Fyr Bistronomi is another restaurant rooted in local ingredients and a Nordic style of cooking, but with more freedom. There is more international influence in some of the dishes, like the wagyu cooked on Himalayan salt rock or the Norwegian Caprese salad. The dishes often have grilled elements, with the chefs using a Josper grill to add smokiness and umami flavour. Like the name indicates, the restaurant is inspired by the French bistronomy movement, so it’s quite affordable.
Norway’s Only Three Michelin-Starred Restaurant
Maaemo is the only restaurant in Norway with three Michelin stars. It opened in 2010 and in 2012, received two Michelin stars, entering the guide at the two-star level, which is quite rare. The name is actually Finnish and means “mother earth”. Chef Esben Holmboe Bang interprets Norwegian food traditions in a modern way by looking at our culture through a contemporary lens. His creations always pay homage to the original dishes. It’s something he does better than any other chef in Norway, which is ironic since he’s actually Danish. Maaemo has some signature dishes that have remained on the menu since day one. There’s a sour cream porridge, which is topped with shaved reindeer heart and a spoon of aged plum vinegar. My favourite dish is the brown butter ice cream.
Doing New Nordic His Way
Kontrast, as the name indicates, explores the concept of contrasts: both in flavours and textures. One signature dish, for example, is a salty confit egg yolk wrapped in a sweet, crunchy, egg white meringue. Throughout the seasons, it changes, and you can also get it served in a crispy potato “bird’s nest”. Swedish chef Mikael Svensson is cooking New Nordic food his own way and that has earned the restaurant a Michelin star three years in a row. The design is modern, urban and industrial: a Nordic minimalistic style with steel and concrete surfaces, contrasted by big open windows and soft, organic furniture materials.
Special Occasion French
While the trend among Oslo restaurants is to be affordable and available for everyone, French fine-dining restaurant Restaurant À L’aise is going in the complete opposite direction. Chef Ulrik Jepsen is a sucker for classical French cuisine. At À L’aise, you’ll find plush carpeting, white tablecloths and waiters in uniforms wearing gloves. Get ready for a trolley parade! Everything – champagne, cheese, desserts and petits fours – has its own assigned vehicle of transportation. The restaurant’s crown jewel is a duck press in pure silver. It doesn’t get more old-school than this. However, the chef and owner will argue that it’s not for the sake of being posh or formal: they simply want to create an atmosphere where the guests can relax, feel spoiled and celebrate a special occasion. There’s even a smart casual dress code: leave your sweatpants and sneakers at home.
The City’s Most Exciting Newcomer
No carrot is too crooked, no broccoli too brown and no tomato too bruised for restaurant Rest. The name means “leftovers” and Chef Jimmy Øien and his team are working towards a zero-waste philosophy that also involves using ingredients that no one else wants. It could be parts of the crab that are too difficult for most chefs to make delicious, or cheese that is considered out of date when it’s actually better than ever. You may think that you’re about to eat the trash that no one else wants, but Rest turns garbage into gold and cooks a 20-course tasting menu of exceptionally high quality. Rest is without a doubt the most exciting newcomer on the Oslo dining map. Even the plates at Rest are made from leftovers such as old oyster shells and chicken feet. It’s a unique collaboration with the Norwegian ceramics company Odd Standard.
Oslo’s World-Famous Cocktail and Cider Bar
Himkok is a huge place stretching over three floors with different departments to explore. On the ground level, you find a speakeasy with bartenders mixing classic cocktails. There’s also a cider bar specialising in different types of ciders and an in-house distillery. If you go to the second floor there’s a much bigger cocktail bar where they focus more on premixed cocktails on tap. Upstairs there’s also a barber shop that is linked to the cocktail bar so you can order a cocktail while you get a shave.
Norway’s Next Bars To Watch
Not far from Himkok is another beautiful little bar called Torggata Botaniske. The whole space is covered in green plants and herbs from floor to ceiling, which makes you feel like you’re entering some sort of jungle or oasis. As you’d expect from a place with this many plants, a lot of the drinks – including the signature basil sour – are based on herbs. Another nice cocktail bar nearby is Andre til Høyre. The name means “second on the right”, because you enter through a different bar, go up a set of stairs and it’s the second door on the right. Andre til Høyre is a combined wine and cocktail bar that has been designed to look like an apartment. There’s a living room, which is the cocktail bar, and a kitchen, which is the wine bar. The idea behind it is to make you feel at home and relax. If you just want to hang out in the kitchen and drink wine, that’s fine. Other bars I really like include Bettola: an Italian-inspired aperitivo bar with retro 1960s interior and Scandinavian vintage furniture. Svanen (the swan) opened in 2018 in an old pharmacy, complete with the old counter and medicinal drawers. It was founded by the former CEO of Himkok, Yunus Yildiz, who helped the bar climb on the world stage.
Olso’s Best Wine Bars
Territoriet is my favourite wine bar in Oslo. It has one of the largest selections of bottles offered by the glass in the world. The owners’ curated selection of old records play over the speakers, which the bartenders flip every half hour in between pouring fermented grape juice into wafer-thin Zalto glasses. Although I love some of the wine offered, I go here more for the music and the vibe. Another great wine bar is Merkur Bar. It’s run by one of Oslo’s best bartenders and specialises in sake, cocktails and natural wine. This is another one of those venues that has been preserved from the 60s, but for many years the location was an office for a small architectural company. Luckily we’re all able to enjoy this beautiful space once again. No one builds rooms like this anymore.
New-School Pizza and Wine
Vinoteket is a newly opened wine bar and pizza restaurant, where Italian chef Beniamino Bilali makes a modern style of pizza that reminds me of renowned Franco Pepe (Italian pizza maker and owner of Pepe In Grani). The sourdough is soft and stretchy, but with a thick, tall and airy crust. Toppings are very untraditional and some are a bit over-the-top – like amazing pata negra ham and burrata cheese, Norwegian scallops and truffles and løyrom (a type of fish roe) crème fraîche and dill – but they’re always great quality.
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