13 April 2011

Lunch at Grefsenkollen, Oslo – Restaurant Review


Perched high up in the hills overlooking Oslo is Grefsenkollen restaurant. At around 370m above sea level the views from here over the city and out to the Oslo Fjord are simply majestic. If you're visiting the city for the first time then a trip here is a must.

The restaurant is housed in an old tar-painted wooden house that dates back to 1926. The building was constructed by the Ringnes brewing dynasty, who allegedly built it just outside the city limits as a way of circumventing Oslo's draconian alcohol laws of the time. City dwellers used to make the long hike up to Grefsenkollen to indulge in dancing, drinking and general revelry. In winter time, they would then sledge all the way back into town, which must have been insanely fun.
During the Second World War the building was occupied by German forces, who used it as a radio station and it wasn't until the 1950's and 60's that the building began to be regularly used again. In 2008 the building was purchased by Norwegian shipping magnate Knut Kloster (whose company also owns the fantastic 'hotel-museum' Røisheim) who undertook some major renovations with the aim of turning Grefsenkollen into one of Oslo's best restaurants. Kloster installed Robert Lie (ex-Oscarsgate, Bagatelle and The Square) to run the show, and Steffen Hansen (ex-Marcus Wareing and Le Gavroche) as head chef.

Before I get on to the actual food I ate, I should add that the difference between lunch and dinner at Grefsenkollen is literally night and day. By day the restaurant acts as a beacon for passing walkers, cyclists and skiers, and offers a robust menu designed to providing soothing comfort to tired limbs. By night, however, the place transforms itself into something much more upscale and elegant; where a seven-course gourmet feast of French-inspired modern Scandinavian cuisine will cost NKr 895 (€114 / $165). Many have even whispered that Grefsenkollen's evening incarnation is a possible Michelin-star contender, but I can't think of a precedent for awarding a star to a restaurant with such different lunch and dinner offerings.

The lunch menu here is fairly simple with just half a dozen dishes on offer. Fish soup, salads, open-faced sandwiches and more cater to a daytime crowd of sightseers and outdoor enthusiasts.
My companion opted for the 'Grefsenburger' with smoked cheddar (NKr 185 / €23.50), and in their benevolence let me sneak a tiny bite. The burger itself was surprisingly tasty and juicy, but it came served in a whole wheat bap. This made me sad. A burger should always be served in soft white bread that soaks up the fatty meaty juices like a sponge. Like sugar-free ice cream, or low-fat bacon, a burger in brown bread is just plain wrong. And while we're at it, proper fries instead of sautéed potatoes wouldn't go amiss either. The homemade tomato ketchup was a really nice touch though. And although there's usually not much to say about coleslaw, this one was pleasantly vibrant and tangy.
My dish of homemade venison sausage (NKr 179 / €22.50) was better. The richness of the smokey sausage was cut nicely by the cabbage and pickled onions, while the side of mashed potatoes were infused with the heady whiff of truffles.
We finished with crème brûlée, which we shared over coffees. The apple cake we had originally wanted was sold out, but we needn't have worried as the crème brûlée was a faultless example – deliciously rich eggy cream was covered with an oh-so-perfect thin layer of crisp caramel. I would probably have preferred it without the unnecessary out-of-season berries strewn over the top, but these were easily moved to one side.
Even the coffee is smiling at Grefsenkollen
If you're out and about in the area, perhaps getting some fresh air, then Grefsenkollen is a perfectly picturesque spot to eat at. I probably wouldn't make a special trip just to have lunch here, but I'd definitely like to go back and try their multi-course evening menu. As I mentioned it looks like a very different beast to their lunchtime offering, and I've read several positively gushing reviews about dinner here. But for lunch with friendly service, decent enough food, and that view then Grefsenkollen certainly won't disappoint.

Food:            6 / 10
Service:        7 / 10
Ambiance:    8 / 10

Grefsenkollen
Grefsenkollveien 100
0490 Oslo
Norway
Tel: +47 22 79 70 60