12 July 2010

Solsiden, Oslo - Restaurant Review

Its been wonderfully sunny here in Oslo these last few days and few know how to appreciate good weather more than the Norwegians. The summer here is of the fleeting, blink-and-you-miss-it type, and is all the more sweeter for it. Memories of the bitterly cold winters are never too far from the mind, so when the sun comes out the whole of Oslo goes out to play. I love this time of year; many Oslo natives are away spending the summer in their cabins so the city feels extra quiet, and when the clouds part we get to enjoy balmy 20-hour sunshine filled days.

Naturally, in weather like this, one tends to want to eat something fresh and light. So it is that we find ourselves at the Oslo Harbour in the shadow of the medieval Akershus Castle on our way to Solsiden restaurant for some of their famed Norwegian seafood.

Solsiden (Norwegian for "The Sunny Side") is open for just 4 months of the year from May to September. The restaurant has a large and airy indoor dining room with huge windows that are left open to the breeze to reveal magnificent views over Oslo Fjord. There is also an outdoor terrace which serves a reduced menu. If you stay late enough Solsiden is one of the best places to see the sunsets over Oslo harbour.

View of Oslo Fjord from the restaurant
Appropriately, given the restaurant's location on the shores of the Oslo Fjord, it serves only seafood. And what seafood it is! I truly believe that Norway possesses some of the best seafood in the world. But sadly it is all too often overlooked for the processed junk that unfortunately constitutes more and more of the typical Norwegian diet. Fortunately, Solsiden "gets it" - fantastically fresh seafood, cooked and served simply - always a winning formula in my book. Their menu is a seafood lovers dream - an à la carte menu comprising of things like scallops, lobster, turbot and trout, and they also have changing daily three- and seven-course menus.

Solsiden's specialty though is their shellfish platter. A huge plate of towering shellfish that includes oysters, scallops, crayfish, brown crab, mussels, prawns, langoustines, king crab, and lobster. Served over ice with plenty of lemon wedges - a veritable feast of crustacea for two. Crazily we didn't order this (I couldn't get Mrs Nibbler to partake, but next time) but you can see pictures of it here and here, truly amazing.

Instead, I opted for turbot, which came pan-fired with potato and horseradish purée, sauteed carrots and green beans, and creamed lobster sauce. Turbot is one of my favourite fish - it's the Rolls-Royce of the seafood world. Here, it was perfectly cooked; firm white flesh that tasted clean and fresh with a velvety and rich lobster sauce. The mashed potatoes accompanying it were good too; smooth and buttery with a nice pepperiness added by the horseradish. This was all washed down with some fine cold Paul Prieur & Fils Sancerre (interestingly the restaurant also has it own Chablis: Cuvée Solsiden).

Mrs Nibbler opted for a main course from the daily specials board - spotted wolffish (a terrifyingly primitive looking fish that can grow to over 6ft, which lives in these cold northern waters) that came with pommes purée, a lobster reduction, and a radish and baby spinach salad. She kindly let me have a bite and I found the lean pearly white fish to be firm with a mild, sweet flavour, almost like lobster. It was really delicious.

My only complaint was one of portioning - the balance of the dishes seemed to lie to heavily toward the (cheaper) non-fish accompaniments. Comically, Mrs Nibbler's wolffish seemed to be hidden under the salad. Now, Mrs Nibbler is quite fond of her veg and liked the portioning as it was in contrast to many restaurants we've been to where something like the pommes purée would often be a tiny smear at one end of the plate. However, either a larger portion of fish or less veg is definitely needed, especially as these mains were around £30 each.

Our dining companions had lobster served with house-made mayonnaise and a simple green salad, and a dish of steamed mussels with parsley, white wine, and garlic. I didn't try these but they looked and smelt amazing.
Fried turbot with potato and horseradish purée, creamed lobster sauce
Steamed mussels with parsley, white wine, and garlic
Lobster with mayo and salad
Spot the Spotted Wolffish
Service was pretty good too although it could be more attentive, especially when it gets busy. But on the whole the waitstaff were friendly and enthusiastic, going over the day's specials and helpfully answering any questions we had. We had the two young Nibbler girls in tow and they are at an age where taking them to restaurants can be a bit, er, challenging shall we say. We were the only people there with small kids but there was no problem at all accommodating them. My youngest got a high chair and some bread to nibble on, and my eldest was served her meal of trout with Orzo pasta and vegetables first, before the adults got their food - a real sign that the restaurant understands the challenges of eating out with small kids.
View from our table
I didn't see the total bill as this was a birthday treat, but pricewise it's at the mid-range of Oslo restaurants (which I guess puts it at the expensive range of restaurants outside Scandinavia). Starters seemed to be around the NKr 150 (£15) mark and mains around NKr 250-300 (£25-30). Their famous shellfish platter is NKr 635 (£65) for two. Wine was around NKr. 100 (£10) a glass. It's well worth it though. When the weather is nice, Solsiden is a wonderful place to while away an afternoon. You can eat some wonderful seafood, drink good wine, and generally watch the world go by - and of course there's that view.

Food:           7 / 10
Service:       7 / 10
Ambiance:   8 / 10

Solsiden
Søndre Akershus Kai 34
0150 Oslo, Norway
Tel: +47 22 33 36 30