In 2016 the excellent restaurant Maaemo in Oslo won three Michelin stars, and since then there has been an excitement around restaurants and bars in the Norwegian capital.
When foreigners are asked where they can eat the best food in Scandinavia, many inevitably answers Copenhagen, probably due to the Chef René Redzepi of Noma and the Danish food activist Claus Meyer, often credited for founding the philosophy of the New Nordic Kitchen.
But in my opinion that is a limited view, since there are equal good food in the other Scandinavian capitals, Stockholm and Oslo, and the most interesting restaurants are not always best defined by Michelin.
For instance, Sentralen in the city center of Oslo specializes in Nordic cuisine with modern twists and excellent natural wines and is a very good choice as well as affordable. The restaurant is hidden within the walls of the former Christiania Sparebank building, and was established by Even Ramsvik and lead by head chef Mads Andre Hansen.
Oslo may have had an element of underdog complex regarding the capital’s restaurant scene, but during the past 10 years a lot has happened. The dining and drinking scene has evolved really quickly – and is super focused on quality.
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An example is Brutus, perched innocuously on a street corner in the multicultural Tøyen district. There you can enjoy a superb taster menu for NOK 595 (USD70) with dishes such as mackerel with kohlrabi, crab on Icelandic flatbread, free-range Norwegian sweet and sour pork and potato cake with milk ice cream.
On the southern fringes of Oslo docks, the area is thriving with restaurants and bars. A new food hall that opened one year ago is called Vippa.
You can enjoy small plates in a communal atmosphere at Arakataka just around the corner from the Rockefeller Music Hall. Arakataka is a proof that New Nordic cuisine doesn’t need to be too precious or fussy. There are high stools for sitting but many diners opt to stand while cradling their drinks.
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Oslo also has some of the best baristas and coffee roasters in the world, and we wouldn’t dream of ending a Norwegian meal without a decent brew or a perfectly pulled espresso. Tim Wendleboe is an award-winning barista who spends half the year visiting farms in Africa and Latin America finding the best beans for his cool coffee shop.
Fuglen (The Bird) is worth a visit for the elegant Scandi decor alone, but also does a great cup of coffee before turning into a cocktail bar by night.
Kulturhuset is an excellent place to sit down and do some work with a hot drink or catch up with friends in the evening over a beer. It’s a place where young business people as well as students meet. It’s open from 8.00 am to 3.30 pm.
For avant-garde cocktails, head to Himkok, a “hidden” joint in the center with unusual concoctions including several signature drinks.
New Era Fine Dining and Drinking in Oslo, compiled by Tor Kjolberg