Bergen, like other parts of Norway, focuses on fresh and natural ingredients at its restaurants. Just up our alley. First a caveat…Norway is not cheap by any means. In fact, it is very expensive. Lunches easily cost $70-$100 without wine. Dinners were $150 – $200. Bottles of wine started at $70. We were told that Norwegians are well paid due to the wealth of oil. Unfortunately, this makes the country very expensive even for us who live in an expensive city of San Francisco. But we still had to eat (and drink). So we did, going to:
- Bryggeloffet, an historic (from 1910), atmospheric family-owned restaurant that specializes of local seafood and game. We found satisfaction and satiation in one large shellfish plate that included a pot of mussels steamed in white wine, shrimp and two types of crab—sweet and delicious king crab legs and a very bland and disappointing brown crab. We enjoyed this bounty with a bottle of Chablis.
- Tn Kokker, a restaurant located on the second floor of one of the former trading houses, turned out to be quite a find. We shared three dishes (two appetizers and one entrée), each of which were wonderful. Elk carpaccio was flavorful and mild, especially topped with shredded goat cheese, pesto, black currant, pesto and a couple dabs of sour cream. Mussel steamed in white wine-cream with tomatoes and bacon were by far the best of the three mussel dishes we so far had on the trip. The standout, however, was a medium-rare red deer fillet in a robust game sauce with roasted potato, green pea puree and a fascinating preparation of carrots steamed in passion fruit juice. The meal was enhanced by the service and an eight year-old bottle of Chianti Classico Reserva.
- Barre Vestland, a Norwegian tapas bar that served small plates of typical local dishes. We tried several different dishes, all of which we enjoyed. We began with a salty, but interesting hake cured in seaweed (with burnt cabbage, roasted cauliflower and sour cream); followed by a mélange of lutefish (dried cod rehydrated in lye and water and mixed with buttered mashed potatoes, pickled leeks and local bacon; braised pork ribs with cole slaw, roasted onions and peas; a separate order of crispy local bacon; and ending with a local cheese plate with two disappointing moderately hard cheeses, a very good brie-style soft cheese and a very good blue—served with honey (which perfectly complemented the blue) and apple compote. All this with a bottle of 2012 Croze Hermitage.
- Vontangen, a seafood restaurant at which we shared two very good dishes for lunch—Greenland shrimp with mayonnaise and lemon, and pan-fried salmon with potatoes and chive, green beans and English peas. Joyce had a Chablis and Tom a bottle of local Brewdog IPA.
- Sjellskal, at the Fish Market, where we had six oysters (which we were surprised to learn were from Brittany, since French oysters are supposed to be so much better than Norwegian) and two giant king crab legs that we enjoyed better steamed (of which we had a taste), than in the restaurant-recommended manner in which these already cooked legs were grilled (over-grilled for our taste) with garlic butter. And while we were less than thrilled by the food, we were even less thrilled with the $150 lunch check, which also included a couple Hansa Pilseners.
- Fish Me, another fish market restaurant, where we had a lunch of Norwegian oysters (at which we verified our previous day’s server contention that French oysters are not only far superior to the muddier, less sweet and less succulent local species, but also almost half the price of the $10 per oyster local one), stone crab claws (less firm and less sweet than their Florida counterparts) and a whale burger that was so disappointing (dry and with far too much garlic) for the price ($27) that we returned it in favor a of an equally expensive salmon burger that was only marginally better.
We decided to dedicate our last meal to eating fresh Norwegian King Crab the way we like it—boiled and then chilled. We bought the crab for take-out (much less expensive than eating it there) at the fish market, bought a much nicer bottle of Chablis at a wine tore than is available at the market and ate it at home: a much more enjoyable meal at half the price.
But we also decided to make another stop. This time for after-dinner drinks. Dyrehe’s Wine Cellar is an intimate, two-level, four-room wine bar with a wonderful selection of wines and some nights, music. We had a sweet, apricot-like 2012 Austrian Lenz Moser Prestige Trokenbeeranauslese dessert wine with 150 grams of sugar per liter. A wonderful way to finish an evening. And amazingly, it was almost affordable.
Of course we wanted to stay right in the middle of the old town port and chose to stay at Det Hanseatiske. The hotel is situated in an historic building about 2 km from the bus terminal. As it was raining (what else was new!), we took an expensive cab to the hotel. The rooms are a little rustic with exposed old wood. It is actually beautiful if you like old things, which we do. The beds were comfortable. The linens, towels, kleenex and toilet paper were much softer than at Radisson Blue in Stavenger (so much for thinking that rough stuff was a Norwegian thing. And Joyce particularly loved the heated bathroom floor. We were a little nervous when we saw earplugs by our bed but we had no issue with the noise. Our room looked out on a rooftop, so we could easily open the window to get fresh air. Breakfast was plentiful and a good variety…something that we have discovered is normal in Norway. However the good fruit ran out fairly early. We didn’t realize there was such as assortment until we ate breakfast very early one morning and discovered better fruit. Location is perfect….right in the middle of the old section. While those who like slick and new would not appreciate this place, we did.