13 September 2011

Lunch at Strand Restaurant, Bærum – Restaurant Review

It's official! This year, Norway enjoyed its wettest summer since records began in 1900. Roads and railways have been washed away, houses have been flooded. The rain has been biblical, I tell you! So far, the deluge has continued into autumn and there appears to be no sign of it abating. So it seemed like no small miracle that for one sweet, glorious day last weekend the clouds retreated and out came the sun, shining warm and bright.

I always think days like these call for some sort of seafood, preferably to be eaten within a stone's throw of a large body of water and ideally accompanied by some decent wine. So it was that we headed to Strand restaurant in Bærum, a suburb of Oslo, located in a secluded spot with sweeping views over the Oslo Fjord.

The restaurant first opened in 1924, but the building itself dates back to the 18th Century. In 2010, three of Norway's leading chefs, Tom Victor Gausdal, Erling Sundal, and Stian Floer, took over the running of the restaurant and it underwent a much needed renovation. The three chefs all have considerable and varied experience gained from some top restaurants and cooking competitions such as the prestigious Bocuse d'Or (Norwegian chefs really seem to love cooking competitions for some reason). Their cooking style focuses on the use of natural and mostly Norwegian produce. A rectangular slate next to your plate is inscribed with the "ten commandments" of Strand's food manifesto, proclaiming things like their prohibition of white sugar, force-fed animals and artificial additives.
The large restaurant is split over two floors, with the upper level dedicated to private dining and functions. On the ground floor the space is divided between a café and bakery, a fine dining restaurant that opens only for dinner, and a more casual matbar serving up simpler fare for lunch and dinner. The matbar menu is a short affair of two starters and three main courses – all available in smaller or larger portions blurring the starter/main distinction. And, although short, everything on the menu sounded tempting, which actually made ordering pretty tricky.
We began with some excellent sourdough bread that we smothered with lashings of the ludicrously tasty salted butter from Røros. This organic butter is really quite remarkable – thick and luxurious with a nice rich sour cream tang and speckles of salt grains running through it. I always make sure I have some in the fridge at home.
We skipped starters and went straight for the main courses. My grilled mountain trout fillet (NKr 245 / €32) was sparklingly fresh and beautifully cooked. It was served with a very rich, but good, potato aïoli, which tasted more like potato flavoured cream, and probably had enough butter in it to put Joël Robuchon's version to shame. A much needed watercress, rocket, and radish salad cut through that richness nicely, while a soy and shallot dressing added some oomph. It was all really rather delicious.
My dining companion opted for the Swedish dish of beef Lindström (NKr 245 / €31.50), which was made from ground chuck steak that had been mixed with onions, capers and beetroot. It was served as a smørbrød on toasted bread with pan-roasted potatoes from Lefsaker Farm (some 90km south of Oslo), onion marmalade, salad, and horseradish mayonnaise. I snuck a bite of the beef and can report that it had a good flavour and a satisfyingly coarse texture.
I should also mention the kids' dishes of free-range chicken with mash, carrots, broccoli, roast 'Chioggia' beetroot (NKr 95 / €12), and homemade tomato ketchup. It was surprisingly really rather decent; a refreshing change from the usual junk that masquerades as food on children's menus. Simple, yes, but the chicken was tender and moist and every component tasted exactly like it should. It was a large portion and fortunately the kids couldn't finish it all. Waste not, want not, right?!

To finish our meal, a cup of coffee and a slice of suksessterte (NKr 65 / €8.40). This cake is very popular in Norway and is made from ground almonds, sugar and egg white. The characteristic yellow topping is made from vanilla custard and butter. It's definitely one of my favourite Norwegian cakes and luckily (for me) is a speciality of my mother-in-law.

Lunch at Strand was all good. It's a place you'd want to come back to, and is exactly the sort of place you'd happily while away a warm sunny day. Service throughout was a real joy too. And, given that we had the two young Nibbler girls in tow, our server really went above and beyond the call of duty to keep them happy.

I guess the days of long weekend lunches in the sun are gone for this year, but I had a glimpse of Strand's multi-course evening menu and it looks fantastic. I'm definitely coming back to try it and look forward to seeing what the chefs can really do.

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

Strand Restaurant
Strandalleen 48
1368 Stabekk
Tel: +47 67 53 05 75

1 comment:

  1. I think the weather in London this summer was similar! Always a good excuse to head inside to a decent restaurant. Beautiful photos as always.