I’ll admit that my initial decision to try Norway was pretty much a close-my-eyes-and-point situation.
My finger landing on Northern Europe wasn’t something I had planned or expected, but I was game for the adventure.
[Image: At Maaemo, food is something of an artform]
Not having ever visited Scandinavia, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I banked on there being plenty of physical activity - they all look so out-doorsy in that part of the world, right?
But what I hadn’t forecast, was the exceptionally high standard of the food.
Oslo dining, it turns out, is outstanding!
[Image: Just an example of some of the incredible pastries at Mathallen]
Mathallen For The Sea Food
First things first, a marketplace.
Mathallen is a covered food market in the trendy Grünerløkka area and it serves as a residency for a number of incredible stalls and mini-restaurants.
After perusing the rafts of pungent cheeses, cold brewed coffees and impossibly large pastries, we settled on some seafood at Vulkanfisk. Mussels, to be precise.
The team of handsome young blonds helped us select a refreshing white wine accompaniment and we gorged ourselves on chips and garlic mayo until we decided we really needed quite a significant period of exploring in order to walk it off.
It is worth noting that this is a great area to hang out in general, on a sunny day. There is outdoor seating in the courtyard, bars and a lovely cafe with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Akerselva canal.
Burgers, Cocktails and Modern Art At The Thief
The Thief hotel has GOT to be on your Oslo to-do list.
Our second day started rather vigorously, with a jog around the shores of the city.
We even ran up the side of the Oslo Opera House. No, really - the contemporary design of this building is such that it has a giant sloping outer wall that tourists are free to ramble over, drinking in the views of both the city and the fjord.
[Image: Entering the Foodbar at The Thief]
Coupled with an afternoon of exploring the streets by both bicycle and foot, we were definitely ready for a drink and something hearty.
Thankfully, The Thief provided this and much, much more.
Quite apart from the usual minimalism of Norwegian design, The Thief hotel is a rich, plush, sumptuous affair. It’s chairs are the large velvety kind that you could sink into and never find your way back out of and the lighting design changes as you round every corner.
[Image: Some of the lighting installations at The Thief hotel]
We dined that evening at The Thief’s Foodbar, a glittering smart-casual affair, situated on the interior mezzanine.
Burgers and chicken salad for mains, a brilliant doughnut shaped mousse for dessert and whiskey cocktails on the side.
[Image: Even dessert at The Thief was a work of art!]
By far the most remarkable thing about this particular venue, though, is the art.
Adorning every wall is a different piece, some of them quite staggeringly recognisable. A real Warhol, for example.
We could have browsed for days.
Maaemo - The Piece De Resistance
Bringing our Oslo experience to a close, we decided we wanted to finish on something truly spectacular.
A foodie of the highest order had informed us of the existence of a Michelin starred restaurant called Maaemo - a place so celebrated that it gets booked up literally months and months in advance.
[Image: Maaemo prides itself on innovative, beautifully created dishes]
With a little help from our friends and a lot of incessant badgering and pleading, we managed to get ourselves a table for lunch.
Before going into detail, I should explain that Maaemo is not simply a restaurant, serving meals.
It is more fittingly described as an immersive dining experience.
[Image: One of the dessert sorbets at Maaemo]
Your 20 courses are designed especially for you, presented in the most exquisite way imaginable, they have curated a different alcohol for each dish and the chefs themselves are all part of the theatrics.
I couldn’t possibly document every minutiae of the whole undertaking, but here are a few of the highlights:
All of the dishes and their ingredients have a provenance in or are inspired by some part of the Norwegian culture.
They are created with a scientific precision and an artist’s attention to detail.
One of the courses involved three succulent langoustines, which were served to us on a bed of ferns from the Norwegian countryside, sitting in a bowl of dry ice, which flowed over the rim, across the table and down into our laps as we ate. It sounds odd, but it was entirely pleasant.
Another of the dishes involved shredded reindeer heart, steeped in butter.
We got to chow down on a 150 year old scallop, which was brought to us fresh and opened in front of us at the table, before it was whisked off to be cooked and dressed.
Sometimes we weren’t 100% sure what we were eating, but that was all part of the fun adventure.
The restaurant itself is the first word in Scandinavian minimalism and the atmosphere is dominated by an almost eerie hush, not incomparable to that of a church or cathedral.
[Image: Maaemo provides a wine (and one beer) pairing with every course]
In fact, it wouldn’t be too far fetched to relate the whole thing to a religious experience.
Basically, it is a once in a lifetime treat and you have to go if at all possible.
As with most things Scandinavia, everything in Oslo is clearly marked, logically ordered and pleasing in design.
But if you do have any questions or queries, the lovely people over at Visit Olso will be more than happy to assist you.
For anything further afield, try Visit Norway.
[Image credit: Natasha Bird for Yahoo Style / Yahoo Travel.]