Saturday, June 09, 2007

Spisekroken in Bergen - A Michelin star experience

There are places you go to eat and leave a large sum of money, but feel it has been worth every penny. This was certainly the case at Spisekroken, a small intimate restaurant at Nordnes in Bergen with a continental/french style cuisine. It lacked many of the features of a true michelin star restaurant, but the food was truly at the same level!

Location: BBBB+

Spisekroken is tucked away in Klostergaten, a quite street at Nordnes, a quaint old part of Bergen and in walking distance from the city centre. It may be a little difficult to find, as this area of Bergen has a large number of narrow streets crisscrossing along the steep hillsides.

It is an ultimate romantic place to eat your dinner. From the outside it looks like a small french bistro, and when you enter, you're not disappointed.

Atmosphere: BBBBB

The restaurant is small and intimate and you may get a table at ground level or you enjoy the meal in the basement.

This blurred picture is from the basement, where we had our dinner. Rustic - with large wooden tables and comfortable chairs in a room with white decorated stone walls and soft lighting created the perfect setting for a very good dinner ahead.

Price: BBBBB

We paid a little over €175 for two entrees, main courses, and desserts, one glass of chablis, a bottle of red wine and coffee. This is a decent sum of money, but you left completely convinced that it was worth every penny. This as the quality of what was served was superb!!

Service: BBBBB

Great service. We did not wait long to served during the dinner. The waiters gave good advice on the meal and on the wine list.

On the restaurants website you find a great English menu, so I am convinced foreigner visitors would get equally good service as we did from the professional staff.

The food: BBBBB

The menu has 3-4 entrees, half a dozen main courses, light meals and desserts. You may also order 5 or 6 course dinners, the latter with wine included from €68 to 118. As I have visited the restaurant website, it is obvious that the change their menus quite often, as our choice was not longer on the menu.

I ordered fried scallops with rucola, pesto and wasabi aïoli.

Perfectly prepared, tender, slightly undercooked, and the aïoli and wasabi combination - very untraditional.

Entrees

My nephew picked another intriguing entree, gravad venison with cognac, and apple compote.

Scandinavians usually make gravlax, thin slices of salmon cured in salt, sugar, and dill. Here they had substituted the salmon with fine delicate slices of raw venison fillet, and added cognac. I was so curious and was allowed to taste a slice and it was exquisite.

A main course to die for!!


We both decided on the same main course. Gourmet veal with fried foi gras, potato terrine and oxe tail sauce.

Rarely you are left speechless, when you tuck into a good meal. Here we were. The veal was succulent and exceptionally tender. The foi gras was left on the side of the plate to the end and was a great finale. The sauce - sweet, salty, and acidity perfectly balanced.

The potato terrine was perfectly seasoned and the vegetables - al dente with a crunch. Here it is hard to be a critic, as this meal was perfect!!

And the dessert!!

White chocolate mousse with fresh fruits and champagne jelly.

Yum!!

Served in a small cylindre of dark chocolate with slices of strawberries, pineapple, and melon. The chocolate mousse, with intense honey-like taste of white chocolate balanced by the fruity acidity of the champagne jelly and fresh fruits.

Wines

I had a glass of my favourite white wine to the scallops. The wines from Chablis in Burgundy are the few white wines I truly enjoy, and its dry, mineral character was great to the seafood.

The waiter guided us to a bottle of la Lepre Dolcetto Diano d'alba 2005 for our main course. This in spite of the fact that I avoid Italian wines to red meat as I find them too fruity, lacking the necessary richness as you find for example in Spanish, or South African wines.

This wine from Piemonte is made from 100% dolcetto grapes, and had the necessary richness to balance the veal. Much fruit and spices. Perfect!! This is certainly a wine to buy again, in spite of its price tag at the Norwegian vinmonpolet- a little over €20 a bottle.

And we ended the meal with coffee, before we left our table, very satisfied.

Rating the Spisekroken experience: BBBBB (4,9 points)

Truly exceptional and highly recommended at Nordnes!!

Adress:

Spisekroken
Klostergaten 8, 5005 Bergen
Phone +47 55 23 01 15
Fax +47 55 90 03 07
Mail: post@spisekroken.no

Visit the Restaurant website here

Looking for more restaurants?

See other restaurants visited in Oslo and around the world here on Enjoy Food & Travel!

See restaurants reviewed here on Enjoy Food & Travel

Monday, June 04, 2007

Quality Hotel Edvard Grieg - Sandsli, Bergen

I stayed in a giant renovation project for one night, with carpet fitters, carpenters, and plumbers. In short - this was not the hotel experience with a big E. Sadly, the Quality Hotel Edvard Grieg could have been a much better experience.

Location: BBB

The Quality Hotel Edvard Grieg is located on a hilltop at Sandsli, a five minute drive away from Bergen airport Flesland. For those of you arriving with no rental car, do grab a taxi. I was stupid enough to take the Airport Express shuttle to Bergen. When leaving at the bus-stop, I walked towards the sign saying "Sandsli", showing a comfortable bed. Be warned - DO NOT WALK THIS WAY!!! Nobody told me that one of the nearby roads led directly up to the hotel, and that walking in the direction of where the sign pointed meant a 30 minute walk in hot sunshine. A grave lack of consideration from the hotel management. When I arrived, I found the location of the hotel great, on a hill with a beautiful view in all directions.

Service: BBBBB

The staff that met the tired and sweat traveller did the best during the disastrous events that followed. Due to reparation they had disconnected the water, meaning no shower, and no cold water after the long walk. The receptionist ran to get some bottled water. I was late for lunch, but in spite of this, I was allowed to take some lunch from the buffet for free. And even through the other mini disaster that followed, the staff was extremely service minded.

Hygiene: BBBB-

There were serious renovation going on in the hotel. This means that old carpet, dust, and paint stains were everywhere in the corridors. It was not nice to to be a guest in such an environment. The rooms were clean, and the spacious bathrooms were shining after thorough cleaning. A mixed impression.

Rooms BBBBB-

The rooms were large - in fact they were all classified as suites.

First I was given a suite on the 1st floor, facing south, with a living room, bedroom and large bathroom. As the water was connected after the renovation, a plumber had forgotten to connect a pipe in the room above me, and suddenly a small stream of water started running over my window.

Alarmed by this, I contacted the reception and was immediately given a room on the 5th floor, same size as the suite I had been given.

I was lucky to be given a room facing north, as many of the rooms facing south had windows into the enclosed glassed atrium between the two wings of the hotel. As this was a hot day, this meant that the rooms extremely hot during the night and you could be distracted by the music and noise from the bars and restaurants in the atrium.

The suite had a living room with a desk, a sofa and chair. The sofa was, however, very short and very uncomfortable to sit in. The desk had been badly chipped, and there were visible scars and spots on the furniture, walls and carpets.

The bedroom was spacious with two twin beds. There was a TV cabinet that could be turned around allowing you to watch TV both in your living room and in your bed room.

The room had a board and an iron to straighten up for the next morning. There was a well stocked minibar as well, but beware the price. Close to €20 for a small bottle of red wine.

Breakfast: BBBBB

Breakfast was included in the price, and you had a great selection of cereals, fruits, yogurts, cheese and meats as well as egg, bacon, potatoes and much more. Even the juice was decent!!

Other services: BBBB+

A large WLAN network made it possible to work everywhere in the hotel. If you had no PC with you there were to PCs by the entrance. The glass atrium was light and open, but I hate palm trees, and ivy made in plastic. It looks very cheap. The real thing would have looked much better.

The breakfast room was large and the part facing south was very light and friendly. There were chairs and sofas throughout the enclosed area and even small ponds with water features.

There were one lift out of order due to renovation and it took ages to get one lift to bring you to you floor. The swimming pool was also closed. So what worked was nice, but the rest.......

Price: BBB

My room was paid for. For the sum of around €130 it would normally scored higher. But living through renovation, I find it seriously overpriced.

Overall score: BBBB+

Normally closer to five B's. I would have recommended that the hotels had been closed through the renovation.

See the hotel website here (Norwegian only)

See other hotel reviews here on Enjoy Food & Travel

Bryggen - where time stands still

Bryggen, or Tyskerbryggen (The German Wharf), is maybe the biggest attraction in todays Bergen, and listed on UNESCOs list for world heritage sites. It used to be the merchant offices of the traders of the Hanseatic league, that founded an office in Bergen in 1370. From here their influence grew, and this northern outpost of the Hansa empire enjoyed close tradelinks with other Hansa ports as Bruges, Lübeck, Danzig, and Hamburg.

They brought their building traditions with them as well, with rows of buildings with gabels facing the water and long back buildings where they stored dried fish, cereals or other commodities for trade.

When you enter the narrow passage between the long, narrow houses you enter a completely other world. The passages are wooden board walks. The warehouses still bear the small roofs where the lifts used to get the merchandise from the ground level up to the different warehouses.

Along the side of the houses you have open passages from which you can move along the floors of the long houses.

You are amazed by this strange world that is long gone and if you try, you can nearly imagine the busy life that once took place among these beautiful houses.

Bryggen is not a museum, it is a living part of Bergen. In the old houses you find galleries, shops selling handcrafts, offices and restaurants.

Enhjørningen - a very special restaurant

My favourite house is Enhjørningen (the Unicorn). Here you find one of the most famous restaurants in Bergen.

Enhjørningen is a very exclusive and pricy restaurant. It is the ultimate place for a romantic dinner, and here you may feast from the abundance of fresh fish, shellfish and crusteacae from the cool waters of the west coast.

You can choose from the menu. Here you can get starters from €15, and main courses, prepared anglerfish, wolffish, cod, or salmon. The price of a main course varies from €30-35. Or you can order a three course menu at €60 or a four course dinner at €65. And remember wine, beer, and drinks are not included.

It is a steep price, but I have never had any regrets from the time I had fried catfish with a sour cream sauce here some years ago. The food is great, the interior and charm of this place makes it a perfect venue for a romantic dinner.

Old and new at Bryggen

6 of the houses burnt down in 1955, but has been rebuilt and incorporated into this new part of Bryggen you find Radisson SAS Royal Hotel, a luxury/business class hotel. I have stayed there once, and it was a great experience.

Some buildings, as this stone cellar, predates even the large fire in 1702. This cellar was built in 1666 for the Merchant Arent Meyer. Today it house Bryggen Art school.

And at the end you may enjoy a pint of the local brew


A walk at Bryggen is the thing to do, when visiting Bergen. And when you are through you can sit down and enjoy a pint of beer at Bryggen Tracteursted, Anno Domini 1702.

We did, and that is truly one of the best experiences I had during that week. A dripping cold pint of the local brew, appropriately named Hansa in memory of the Germans that left this beautiful quarter for us to see.

Bergen - Norways medieval capital

Bergen is the only genuine medieval city in Norway. In spite of the fact that its wooden houses have been devoured by flames many times, the latest being by the large fire of 1702 the city has been rebuilt over and over again along the same old narrow streets and passages. Among the most beautiful areas is Bryggen, rebuilt after the last large fire, it still reflects centuries of building tradition.

I love Bergen!

Not only the houses, but the people and the nature.

Situated by a natural harbour, and enclosed by high hills and mountains. Lush, due to the large amount of rain that falls during the year.

The city quarters that climb up along the hillside providing the tourists with breathtaking views.

The numerous varieties of rhododendron in bloom in yellow, red, purple, and champagne colours.

The lively, spontaneous population proud of their city and its past makes you feel especially welcome. And the abundance of food offered from a large range of restaurants.

I have roamed the streets of Bergen last week, admiring its medieval past, eaten great food and had a great time. So I would like to present my memories to you the coming week.

Welcome to Bergen!