Last week we visited the refurbished seaside restaurant Signalen in the capital of Norway. The presentation was nice, but the food is hardly worth the price or the ferry ride from downtown Oslo. The bad dining experience started already with the reservation system. Service was not at all on the menu at this new seaside restaurant in Oslo.
Although reservation, wine, beer, décor and service all figure into my final analysis of a restaurant’s worth, for me the most important ingredient is the food. However, last week at Signalen, a simple thing like the reservation system foreshadowed my expectations.
Let me first explain why the reservation system disappointed me. I wrote a polite mail to the restaurant’s reservation mail address three days before our visit without receiving any confirmation. Therefore, I called the restaurant the day ahead of our scheduled date and they said they couldn’t find my mail. They reserved a table for two though.
At arrival we were seated at the window row but at a distance from an open window door giving some fresh air into the sun heated venue. It was a beautiful summer day and the restaurant was far from fully occupied. I asked the waiter if we could move to a table nearer to the open sliding door, and after some time he offered us a vacant table. We studied the menu. ordered two beers and and ordered a summer pizza and my summer favorite, pan fried mackerel.
The position of our table let us observe a number of staff members who seemed to go well together, but the staff’s warmth for each other, didn’t seem to extend to the customers. However, after a while a friendly waiter passed and asked if everything was well. I said we were waiting for the food.
We waited at least 25 minutes.
Signalen opened after a long-awaited reconstruction in 2019. In 1900 it was a beach hotel here with a capacity for about 50 guests. In 1914 it burned down. A new hotel was established in the late 30s, but an ugly international episode destroyed the marked for high end beach hotels. Instead, it was used as a party room for occupying forces and a place for recreation for front fighter wives during WWII.
After the war, the decay continued until the early 60s when everything was demolished. For decades, Nesoddtangen was just a grey, sad pier.
Dag Tjersland has gained a good reputation by being perhaps the foremost exponent of Italian cuisine in Norway, and his dream of establishing a new restaurant at Nesoddtangen was realized in 2019. But the devil is in the details. The bread accompanied by a slice of smoked salmon was under any criticism. Serving two huge rolls consisting of a doughy mess in a country full of delicious bread is a disgrace.
Signalen’s menu is dominated by seafood. 25 minutes after ordering we were served our pizza and mackerel. The pizza was ok, but the mackerel was a huge disappointment. I honor good chefs experimenting with dishes and ingredients, but this good fish and the new potatoes were dipped in a spicy mass so strong that it took away all the flavor.
Related: To Norway to Eat Pizza
The absent service
I stopped eating and placed my fork and knife in a position signaling I was finished eating. Now I was in the mood of experimenting. I was just sitting watching the waiters passing by – for more than an hour! Then I couldn’t wait anymore. I got eye contact with one of the waiters and told him how impressed I was by the waiters being able to totally ignore our table. We paid and left.
This place is in desperate need of a head waiter.
There is a ferry service from downtown Aker brygge to Nesoddtangen, Nesoddfergene, leaving every half hour. The ferry ride takes about 20 minutes.
So, we enjoyed a wonderful dessert and wine at the charming outdoor section of one of the fine dining restaurants behind Town hall (Fr. Nansen’s Place) downtown.
Service Was Not On The Menu At New Seaside Restaurant in Oslo, written by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top): Signalen