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Copenhagen, Denmark, has long been the Scandinavian darling of food and travel media, but according to UNESCO, Bergen, Norway, is the next foodie hot spot to watch as “neo-Nordic” cuisine becomes Europe’s hottest (and coolest) culinary offering.
In 2015, Bergen became the 18th municipality to receive a UNESCO Gastronomy City designation, along with Macao in China; Burgos, Spain; and Tucson, Ariz. While restaurant culture differs from place to place, chefs and artisanal food producers in this elite group of cities share a commitment to preserving historical food traditions while pushing their cuisines forward. Bergen’s inclusion was based on a centuries-old cultural identity tied to fishing and its people’s embrace of organic food and environmental preservation.
Tour operator Norway Insight’s Eco Food Tour helps visitors become familiar with the city’s culinary roots, which goes back to the time of the Vikings. The excursion begins with the basics (brown goat cheese, dried stockfish and apples) and moves through history one bite at a time — from Bergen’s 800-year-old fisketorget (fish market) to a converted Victorian-era soup kitchen to a funky modern cafe serving melted brown cheese on waffles.
Once your clients have the basics covered, they can explore Bergen’s vibrant restaurant scene on their own. Here are some suggestions.
CasualYou’ll never go wrong with a run to the fish market’s outdoor tents, where vendors sell heaping plates of just-caught seafood in many different grilled, chilled, fried and salad iterations. Those who prefer land-based proteins will delight in enormous grilled burgers crafted from lamb, beef and game meats. Diners who want to take their meal up a notch can do so at Fish Me in the market’s indoor area. In addition to its fish cakes, which have a sassy, spicy bite to them, Fish Me is known for daily specials showcasing that morning’s catch from area fishermen paired with specially curated local craft beer, cider and pressed juice.
Bergen bakery chain Godt Brod taps into the city’s organic zeitgeist. Customers build up their meal from a choice of oven-fresh rolls and locally sourced meat, fish, cheese and vegetables. In the process, they learn about how their sandwich will benefit the location’s farmers and purveyors.
Restaurant No 13 is a local favorite for its inventive burgers, flatbreads, sides and clever dessert “burger” crafted with homemade ice cream, fresh fruit and a honey sauce.
Fine DiningAfter wowing the clientele of New York City’s Per Se, chef Christopher Haatuft took his success back to Bergen to open Lysverket restaurant and develop “neo-Fjordic” cuisine. Lysverket is located at KODE 4 (part of the city’s art museum complex), and the food here is deceptively minimalist in appearance but complex in flavor and aroma — much like the museum’s modern art.
The menu of shareable items changes daily, making for a mix-and-match tasting menu. The same holds true for the bold cocktails, which incorporate aquavit and other Norwegian spirits with things that shouldn’t work in a cocktail, but do (dill and green chartreuse liqueur, for example).
A meal at Cornelius Seafood Restaurant is an all-encompassing four-hour event that starts with a scenic cruise through fjords and mountain ranges to Holman, a private islet. The building’s maze of freestanding dining rooms, extraordinary views, lively fish tanks and inviting fireplaces set the stage for a custom, multicourse “meteorological” menu. Though lobster, langoustine, crab, oysters, sea urchin and even mink whale filets are staples, the kitchen uses these proteins to create wildly different courses based on that day’s weather conditions as well as the season. Between dishes, diners often chat with the chefs, visit the wine cellar built into a cave or meet non-edible sea creatures in the outdoor tanks. In addition to daily offerings, clients can book individual rooms for private family and business gatherings, or up the ante with helicopter transport to the restaurant.
Despite the buzz that surrounds Scandinavian cuisine in general, Bergen’s best restaurants often specialize in new takes on traditional dishes — giving visitors a chance to gain a genuine appreciation for Norwegian history and the region’s rich, homegrown bounty.
The DetailsCornelius Seafood Restaurant www.corneliusrestaurant.no
Restaurant No 13www.hotelno13.com
Though bartender/entrepreneur Simon Theodor Selvik notes that Bergen has been a “bar town” for more than 1,000 years (thank you, Vikings), he and partner Odd Fjeldsgaard Rasmussen have gone all in to bring modern craft cocktails and nightlife to the region. Under the company name Bargruppen, their endeavors include Vinyl (music-inspired cocktails accompanied by old-school vinyl records); tiki bar Dark & Stormy; chic and minimalist Magda; and No Stress, with its homey, local feel. No Stress was so successful that the partners opened a second Copenhagen location.
Opened this spring, Lukket Selskap (“Closed Company”) is the group’s latest venture in Bergen. It features a signature cocktail menu that’s a showcase for award-winning Norwegian bartenders. All nine concoctions are accompanied by homemade tapas designed to complement the distinct flavor notes of the spirits-heavy recipes. (www.bargruppen.no, www.lukketselskap.no)