It’s easy to miss the unassuming corner space opposite the train station, despite the large windows facing the busy street. We step inside and straight into the dining room without either a hall or a wardrobe, and feel like we’re crowding the already seated guests. The mixed group of patrons gets here early, even on a Friday night. After a warm welcome by the friendly staff, it’s just to sit down and relax, for this is where they serve the best food in town. The fermented theme appears early, with the aperitif. A “twig” of wheat is covered in powder made from fermented red cabbage. It’s a six-course dinner, but before we begin they manage to give us two amuse-bouches. The other one is a cup made of leek, filled with mayonnaise spiced with local truffles. The first real dish is parsnip with pickled chanterelles. It’s not the restaurant’s strongest card, but the local ingredients are nice. In contrast the tartare of local Kyyttö beef is even better, with fermented green beans and brioche and topped with spruce shoots. With its slightly tarry taste, it is the best course of the night. The pike is served with a smooth potato purée, porcini cream and a fermented aspen leaf. Even more local produce arrives with the goat meat from Nykarleby. The three different kinds of carrots get an international touch with a little Indian bread puff containing a mayonnaise flavoured with funnel chanterelles. After that Finnish blue cheese neutralizes our palates with white chocolate wrapped in spun sugar. An oatmeal ice cream with blueberries is paired with local blueberry wine. Otherwise, the wines are mainly sourced from the Old World.
Like at its sister restaurant Babette in Vasastan that opened in 2015, the atmosphere at Café Nizza is characterised by the well-renowned ownership team. The carefree attitude, down-played food arrangements and relaxed but knowledgeable wine service is understandable when you know that their previous experience comes from star restaurants like Frantzén and Fäviken where the work in the strictly formatted dining rooms is rigorous and prescribed. And if, like Café Nizza, you plan to be open from noon to midnight all week long, you have to be able to relax. The wine selection is refreshingly different, partly because one of the restaurateurs runs a wine import company with a niche portfolio, partly because the gang’s collective years at the aforementioned restaurants has given them a network that extends to the most obscure producers and importers. Here the dishes change every lunch and dinner, but are served on the same round, toned-down, white porcelain. The offerings at lunch have been a little uneven. Sometimes sad, sometimes sleepy. But the evenings are already proving that the place suits their Södermalm clientele to a T. Especially when the extra leaves go into the round wooden table in the middle of the tiled dining room floor to accommodate a large party. Then this place could just as easily pass for a noisy neighbourhood restaurant in Paris.
Purtse Castle, an intriguing mix of gothic and renaissance styles built in 1533, is most definitely Estonia’s most unique architectural structure. Touring this astonishing mini-chateau is a weekend-only affair as it’s closed to the public during weekdays. A visit here should imperatively be crowned with a meal in the fortified manor’s ground floor restaurant where you’ll enjoy straight-forward, home-cooked meals in a dining room whose walls are thicker than you are tall. Everything is local, from the herring and the venison, to the foraged mushrooms and herbs. And, everything should be washed down with the castle brew, a Trappist beer with notes of honey and hops. There are now eight types of Purtse beer, each of which has a story to tell, mostly about the hard life in the surrounding industrial landscape.
You might not know it, but not so long ago, Luma used to make light bulbs here by the docks. Now, when you cross the threshold into the remodelled factory, a completely different production is underway. On the wall in the entrance to the sparsely decorated but warm and cosy restaurant venue, you can see how the process of brewing beer works. In this building they make a number of excellent beers, as well as some creative fare. The delicious small clams have been boiled in their own Keller Bier, a malty pale lager, which was a singularly good idea. There are long tables for groups of spirited colleagues out for happy hour, and small tables for two. A brilliant beef tartare is beautifully presented with dabs of porcini cream, rings of pickled onions and crispy-crackly malt. The fried red shrimp enters on a rustic wooden board with a round dollop of mayo, spiced with Mexican Tajín. The burger is rightly a favourite, made with chuck steak, brisket, and marrow, and served with perfect fries. But can you drink beer with dessert? In a place where the focus is on beer, apple strudel fits like a glove. They serve it with hazelnut ice cream and a glass of Primus Lux, the first beer that was produced here. The strong, dark ale fits splendidly with the apple. The ever-present service staff do everything to make you comfortable and give you a little beer knowledge along with something good to eat.
Castenskiold is the Aarhus food scene’s version of the so-called supper clubs of 1930s America: popular all-night destinations for patrons seeking entertainment in the form of food, music and alcohol. This establishment by the city centre waterway remains a hip venue for the creative class to sip on passion fruit caipiroskas or champagne from the excellent wine list on the weekends. But they should also take an interest in the restaurant’s modern bistro cuisine, which is among the city’s best. We are seated right behind the command centre, a large bar lined with concrete pillars, sanguine velvet drapes, designer furniture and understated lighting. Our waiter is equal parts professionally competent and extremely pleasant. He serves us a small glass of cremant to get us started. We choose a variety of dishes from the extensive menu. Our waiter unleashes a sharp, mineral Tokaj in our glasses that waltzes beautifully with a carpaccio of langoustine from the very first bite. The shellfish has an extremely fresh, creamy and intense taste of the sea, adeptly countered by crisp kohlrabi, warm sour cream and grated horseradish. Only the sharp acidity of the pickled green tomatoes misbehaves, but the harmony remains intact, not least thanks to the wine. Even better is the subsequent North Sea cod with Jerusalem artichoke purée. Delectably moist and perfectly fried with an attractive golden colour, the cod is served with a remarkable sauce of mussels and smoked butter. The dish is a bull’s-eye with its nutty and smoked notes. Unfortunately, a Tuscan vermentino proves weak in aroma and acidity, making it overly round and heavy for this pairing. The precise and sharp performance from the chef continues in the form of free-range chicken from Rokkedahl with celeriac purée and kale. Rarely have we tasted such delicious and moist breast meat. The intense poultry flavour is complemented by a nice bitterness from the kale while the brilliant brown butter sauce with hazelnuts is so perfectly salty, acidic and delicious that we manhandle the sauce cup in the hunt for every last drop. Supper club or not, Castenskiold’s bistro cuisine is excellent from end to end.
Norrbotten constitutes a quarter of Sweden and supplies a fantastic larder, filled with unique and pure ingredients from the mountains, the forests and the pristine rivers. And there are, of course, many restaurants that endeavour to create their own variations on reindeer, elk, grouse, caviar, char, cloudberries and more. But not everyone succeeds in refining and developing these genuine ingredients and innovating the experience on the plates throughout the whole meal. A lot of places serve good, well prepared food, but it tends to taste quite similar. There are exceptions, however, and they sparkle like the flaming northern lights. Like CG’s in Luleå, where they have taken steps to cement the place as one of northern Sweden’s sharpest and most creative restaurants. Here those authentic and pure flavours are in the centre. The sauces are balanced and served in small pitchers next to the perfectly prepared venison and Arctic char fillets, which have been touched with the exact amount of salt and spices to bring out the genuine flavours and coax forth sighs of culinary happiness. The plaice is one of the most beautifully composed dishes we’ve seen in a long time. Finish off with the cheese board from the heavenly kingdom of happy cows and a couple of sweet dessert wines. Everyone feels taken care of at CG, which makes them return to the welcoming warmth again and again.
Ten years in the business and nothing has really changed since Chedi first opened. Chefs have come and gone, but the cuisine––modern Asian––has remained the same. Occasionally, a dish has been swapped out for something new, the former sorely missed and the latter welcomed with open mouths, like the terrific steamed bao bun. Stir-fries prepared at very high temperatures (800°C) have a special, unique consistency and flavor that you cannot forget. Addictive, we’d say, partly thanks to the cooking method and the woks developed by Chef Alan Yau of Hakkasan fame. The one thing that’s been updated to mirror more contemporary tastes is the beverage list, now featuring craft tipples such as Põhjala beer and Tori-Jõesuu cider. It turns out local drinks pair very well with Asian cuisine, and the knowledgeable wait staff is happy to make recommendations.
We are welcomed by the sight of a wavering swallow-tailed flag on a background of clear blue skies as we arrive at the old yellow inn in the woods. The setting is beautiful, both inside the inn and at the outdoor tables; a peaceful, old-fashioned mood is palpable throughout the establishment. The style of the cuisine is in no way archaic, however. The chefs understand how to spice up the good local fare, abiding by the virtue of always using the freshest available ingredients – which also explains why the menu varies from day to day. We choose “the whole shebang”, taking us through all of the lunch menu’s eight dishes. A couple of delicious herring servings are followed by an exceptional cut of well-smoked Baltic Sea salmon with grated Havgus cheese, cauliflower and lemon, topped with a creamy clam sauce: a refreshingly simple and well-composed dish where acidity, smoke and the sauce’s richness work impeccably together. The unusually succulent and flavourful corn-fed cockerel with onion and ramson in several variations is an absolute pleasure and, in fact, even better than the otherwise excellent lamb that follows. Our waiter is at first discreet and low-key, but opens up as the meal progresses and we come to greatly appreciate his warm and enthusiastic style. The dessert is a little masterpiece: rhubarb compote with small pieces of baked chocolate, oat crumble and a thick yet airy sauce anglaise topped with wood sorrel. The drops of mint oil on the plate perfect the balance of the dish. The dessert wine from Rhône, Pipi d’Ange (angel pee!), a blend sauvignon blanc, muscat and viognier is an excellent match. A meal in the woods at Christianshøjkroen is always a wonderful respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Ten years ago, Estonia was full of pubs. Today, not many of them remain, though the pub as we know it is by no means an endangered species; if anything, it’s coming back with a vengeance; Estonia might be a small country, but it’s a big producer of craft beers; among brew lovers Põhjala Brewery might be more known than Estonia itself. Per capita, Estonia probably has the world’s largest number of craft beer breweries. Gastropubs, on the other hand, those convivial eateries with quality food and pleasant drinks, are few and far in between. Clayhills, situated in a charming medieval house, was Estonia’s first restaurant of this kind, it boasts a wide selection of said brews and serves straightforward dishes distinguished by intense, flavored sauces. Marbled Sirloin steak with a secret house sauce is a perpetual favorite. Value added bonus: Clayhills is also a lively music venue.
Jonathan Berntsen has a style all his own in the upper echelons of gastronomy, manifest in everything from the bird-studded wallpaper to alternative interpretations of classic dishes that buck the modern trend and pursue sweetness and richness over acidity and umami. Thanks to Berntsen’s ingenious craftsmanship and uncompromising professionalism, our meal is a memorable and refreshing contrast to the prevailing Nordic winds. The service adheres to all of the classic virtues. An army of tuxedoed waiters and chefs appears with every dish, providing thorough explanations of the wine pairings and their insightful balancing of flavours. However, the alcohol content of the evening’s wines seems somewhat extreme given the refined menu. Sherry, limoncello and Pineau des Charentes in the same menu is a bit over the top, especially when we are also treated to an excellent 2002 Wintzenheim gewurztraminer from Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace, whose age and golden colour practically require a knife and fork. The cuisine, on the other hand, combines assertive sweetness and playfulness, weaving tales of the culinary traditions of Denmark’s historic bourgeoisie, such as the clever reinterpretation of the Danish classic, foreloren skildpadde (“mock-turtle soup”), traditionally a pork and fish ragout served with boiled eggs. This dish features four precise small elements in a veal broth with “turtle flavour”: corned veal tongue with foie gras, a fried fish ball, a marbled quail egg and a crisp and hearty croquette with lamb’s brain. Berntsen cannot resist playing with form and he loves technical challenges, like when he serves razor clams with a good spoonful of Oscietra caviar under a net of crispy thin stripes of pressed, dried and sweetened caviar. Despite the almost malty taste of the caviar net, the dish is fresh and invigorating. The kitchen’s experiments include combinations of veal tail and smoked lardo as the filling in a squid dressed in olives, with a side of black bean cassoulet, the tentacles of the squid and a crisp wheat chip blackened with squid ink. Your attention is required in order to understand and interpret the dishes, but the reward is a one-of-a-kind experience you’ll not soon forget. The desserts further underpin the chef’s approach, with a white and airy intro of lime, banana and yoghurt, followed by a powerful finale of re-interpreted Crêpe Suzette, which could have been fresher and more acidic. But Berntsen has his characteristic style and he upholds it with an elegance that proves how, despite differences in taste, genius is something we can all agree on.
Things that are hidden in plain sight are usually intriguing: places that don’t advertise; off-the-menu dishes requested only by in-the-know guests; discreet restaurants that savvy gourmets keep for themselves. COD is one of these. Yes, it’s Japanese––traditional Japanese culture is all about discretion, after all. COD might be a well-kept secret, but it’s always busy. The action circles around a robata grill where chefs slowly sear raw ingredients over an open fire, taming even the richest, most robust mackerel into irresistible, subtle delicacy. Coals and embers have a way of making everything taste better. Naturally, there’s tataki, tempura and sushi too, the latter offering some fun surprises like Wagyu beef sushi and goose liver wrapped in seaweed. Sushi joints are ubiquitous in Riga, COD, however has them all beat with superior fish and expertly cooked rice with a well-balanced acidity, The mostly black décor adds a layer of seriousness, even the wait staff is dressed in somber black uniforms, they move silently, appear, and disappear, often almost unnoticed. This is not a place for loud conversations, so whatever you do, keep it down while you knock back your sake. There’s a chef’s table in the kitchen, it seats four––four guests that are really in the know. You don’t have to know a lot, you just have to visit COD once. And then finish your meal with cocktails in the subterranean bar. The signature drinks change often and the beverage list is one of the city’s most extensive.
One of the first things that you see inside the restaurant is the kitchen team, standing almost at attention, ready to carry you safely through one of Bergen’s most detailed and advanced menus. We eat our way through the fjords and mountains, while listening to anecdotes that paint pictures of both the producers and production methods. The service is so accurate that one of the restaurant’s biggest challenges is to loosen up the mood – it’s dangerously close to being stiff and impersonal. The sommelier does his best to break up the vibe with a joke now and then. It’s liberating to hear his laughter as he explains food science phenomena, and the role of amino acids and antioxidants in flavour. The service is hugely knowledgeable and the experience will undoubtedly teach you something new about food and wine. The tasting menu consists of nine dishes, but also gives you the opportunity to choose a shorter way through, with only six stops. À la carte is a third option. Whichever way you choose, the meal opens with three small morsels that summarize the restaurant’s style in a nutshell. A piece of traditional Norwegian flatbread is served with beef tartare, tarragon mayonnaise and nori powder. It is followed by a bowl of fermented tomato juice with fermented celery pieces. Then the small caravan of appetisers ends with a tiny creation of rutabaga in several forms. At Colonialen the kitchen loves to play with fermentation and happily flirts with molecular gastronomy. All of the dishes on the menu are characterized by a huge attention to detail. The menu’s first and last creations are the most memorable on our journey. The mountain trout from Hardanger is served as a tartare with oyster emulsion, cured cucumber, cucumber ketchup, kale powder and watercress. It is a fresh dish, a true Norwegian ceviche, complemented by a wine from Domaine de La Pépière whose proximity to the Atlantic Ocean adds a fresh and delicate, salty hint. It picks up where the oyster leave off. The menu ends perfectly with an egg of hazelnut resting in a nest composed of caramel and chocolate. The middle section of the menu lacks cohesion – like the dish of beets, carrot and rye, as some of these ingredients are swallowed up by other components, leaving a fragmented assortment of flavours. Colonialen is Bergen’s most classic and reliable dining experience, and the service is impeccable. Even the smallest details are thought through – from breadsticks with beef butter to the chair you’re sitting on. You will not be disappointed, even though this is Bergen’s most expensive meal.
Located on "Holmen", an island outside Bergen. Take the boat from shed number 8 at Dreggekaien, Bryggen. Follow the restaurant sign. (GPS POSITION: N 60C 19.784`, E 5C 10.171), 5004 Bergen
A meal at Cornelius is an experience and a journey. Every day at 6 pm a 50-foot shuttle boat takes passengers to Holmen. The sea route is the only way to get there, and the voyage takes 25 minutes. There is hardly a more beautiful way to experience Bergen, whether a storm is raging or the sun is sparkling. The restaurant’s premises are literally carved into the rock and situated amidst the ocean’s bounty. The big windows seem to bring the ocean into the restaurant, making the diner feel an indescribable intimacy with the fresh ingredients, some of which were alive only minutes before reaching your plate. The pools outside the entrance are filled with live crabs and swimming fish. Cornelius offers a meteorological menu that changes with the wind and weather. On our visit we are served a menu with lighter ingredients since we’re on the cusp of spring, but with deep flavours meant to warm us in the miserably wet west coast weather. This is expressed in an extra rich shellfish soup with pollock, shore crab and langoustines; and smoked beets in the main course of cod. The wine cellar is like a natural cave in the rock. The 5,000 bottles from Italy, France, Germany, and Austria are kept safe in the naturally regulated temperature and moisture. The boat trip contributes to making a visit to Cornelius exotic and exciting, but also makes it an expensive proposition. The best value for money is the five-course menu. The three-course menu won’t fill the time until the boat heads back at 10.30 pm. At Cornelius you should go for the full works, or stay on shore.
Restaurant Credo is now temporary closed awaiting its relocation at Lilleby in Trondheim.
After 18 years on a narrow backstreet Restaurant Credo, the best restaurant in the region, and one of the longest-running restaurants in White Guide Nordic’s Norwegian top ten, is finally growing up and moving on. In a way that’s unprecedented, Credo has managed to reinvent itself several times during its lifespan, outshining the rest of its competitors year after year. During the summer of 2017 they are closing down and moving to new and better-suited facilities outside the city centre, a much-needed upgrade for the restaurant and the city of Trondheim. One could assume that the restaurant might go on autopilot in advance of a relocation like this, but that’s not the case with owner Chef Heidi Bjerkan. She’s working harder than ever, steadily improving the quality of each aspect of her operation. Credo has close and exciting relationships with two local farms, Skjølberg Søndre and Fannremsgården, which provide the restaurant with an amazing array of produce, dairy and meat. With these resources, Bjerkan is recreating food traditions from the whole region, preserving these memories for the future, and reprocessing them into modern cuisine. Her blend of tradition and modernity makes us remember long-forgotten flavours from our youth: this is grandmother’s cooking for our grandchildren to try. Some of those memorable flavours are showcased in one amuse-bouche – a small blood pudding made from pork blood and port wine topped with an intense, fermented lingonberry gelée. It is velvety, full of umami and so flavourful that you wonder why this traditional peasant food isn’t served on every street corner in Scandinavia. A thinly sliced lacto-fermented rutabaga taco is filled with lamb sweetbreads and black garlic – as “Trøndersk” as you can get, yet as modern as can be. Her homage to local ingredients is perfectly presented in the serving of “potetlompe”, a potato cake – the best we’ve ever had – served with homemade charcuterie and the most amazing butter and sour cream imaginable from Fannremsgården. It is bold to serve something as elementary as this – yet perfect. It’s spring, but we get a bit of fall with our raw shrimps, which are lightly brushed with chillies and served underneath last year’s kohlrabi (that’s been stored in beetroot wine) and this year’s first dandelion leaves and rose petals. The local langoustine is simply cooked in butter and served next to an emulsion made out of the fascinating sea wrack called siphon weed, topped with green oxalis. Our main course is pork cured for three months to an incredible tenderness with pickled and puffed barley, kale and pickled chanterelles and black trumpet mushrooms. It’s so uncomplicated, but at the same time so refined. The dessert is one of the sweet highlights of the year: ice cream made from raw milk in bay leaf oil topped with a caramel made from dulse seaweed comes on a bed of crumbled coffee cake and fermented barley gelée. Chef Bjerkan’s work restoring the region’s food culture can be compared with Magnus Nilsson’s work at Fäviken, right over the Swedish border, and right now her hard work is the greatest culinary asset the region of Trøndelag possesses. We look forward to the next chapter.
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.