Food & Drink
Oslo’s restaurant boom
Waiters scurry between the tables at Nodee Barcode in Oslo, carrying trays laden with king prawns, Wagyu beef, halibut and salmon tartare. It’s a Wednesday mid--afternoon, but lunch guests are lingering in this pan-Asian restaurant. It’s one of many in this town experiencing a surge in diners – both locals and visitors alike.
“Oslo has become a culinary destination,” says Bjørn Tore Furset, managing director of Fursetgruppen, a consortium of 22 restaurants in Norway’s capital city.
“Norwegians are going out to eat a lot more now than they used to,” adds Sean Cao, customer manager at Dinnergruppen, which oversees five Oslo restaurants, including Nodee. Lately, he adds, there’s also been an uptick in restaurant-going tourists visiting Norway and making Oslo their first stop.
Let’s take a look at Nodee Barcode, for starters. Formerly located in the Majorstuen section of inner Oslo, it was elegantly appointed and very popular – but not quite as spectacular as in its new home in the recently developed Barcode district, right near the Airport -Terminal and Opera House. (As if demonstrating Oslo’s emergence as a tech-savvy contemporary metropolis, this new neighborhood has been named, in English, for its skyline of tall, narrow buildings of varying heights that resemble the internationally recognized barcode.)
In its new digs, Nodee Barcode spreads itself across several floors. On the first floor, the concept remains the restaurant’s original one: good Chinese-based Asian dishes, including dim sum, Five Spice Lamb and the signature Peking Duck, baked in a specially built -robata grill. But if you take the cable car – yes, a stylish glass-windowed cable car – up to the 13th and 14th floors, you’ll find a new dining concept.
Here, and on the adjacent roof terrace, the fare is modern Japanese, accompanied by views stretching across the Oslo Fjord, over the recently expanded Bjørvika district, the Opera House and the yet to be completed new home of the Munch Museum.
The restaurant’s ultra-sophisticated furnishings were created by interior designer Anemone Wille Våge, who is also behind the décor of several landmark projects, including the Royal Palace apartments and the luxury hotel known as The Thief.
It’s not just that Oslo diners are hungrier. There are also more restaurants here than ever before. Their number includes 22 that are part of Fursetgruppen, a consortium which oversees the Michelin three-starred Maaemo and the tradition-rich Grand Café, to name two.
“Clearly Oslo residents are eating out more,” Bjørn Tore Furset maintains. “In the past, we Norwegians were probably more reluctant to visit a restaurant. That would be something reserved for celebrations and special occasions.” But this city’s dining culture has evolved. And as of 2018, Furset continues, “the trend has changed completely. We’re seeing a steady increase even on weekdays – both for lunch and for dinner.”
Why is this happening? For one thing, Norwegians are traveling a lot more than before and returning home with new dining expectations. As Furset puts it, “We’re bringing continental restaurant habits back home. With the number of Oslo restaurants rising as strongly as it has over the past few years, this has made an -important contribution to market growth.”
He adds that the entertainment industry has increased curiosity about the universe of food and beverages. “Cooking programs, reality shows and popular food blogs are all generating interest in food.”
While it’s true that Norwegians continue dining at home more than their Scandinavian neighbors, let alone countries such as Italy, France and Spain, Furset maintains that when his countrymen do go to restaurants, they are showing greater interest in the quality and origin of the dishes they’re served. The same goes for tourists.
“Norway enjoys a global reputation for its fish and the purity of its natural surroundings.” These, he believes, will continue to make this country an interesting destination for foodies.
Another group that has made its mark on the scene is Rodeløkka Invest, which owns such eateries as Arakataka, a modern yet folksy bistro, Trattoria Popolare, famous for its oxtail ravioli, and Olympen, located on Grønlandsleiret.
Rodeløkka Invest’s owner, the Turkish-born Nevzat Arikan, with a longstanding reputation as a nightlife entrepreneur, has made his mark in parts of town formerly considered dilapidated and dangerous, but which have been gentrified over the years. Many people in the Norwegian media have noted that Arikan’s restaurant ventures are a driving force in the city’s development.
He, however, is cautious, maintaining that this current growth won’t continue.
“There’s oversupply on the restaurant market in Oslo,” he says.
“The area around Youngstorget has an incredible number of new establishments, and I can see it becoming difficult for all these new places to succeed.”
Back at Nodee, the headwaiter is busy. Guests wait in the reception area and casual passers-by ask if tables are available. There’s a clinking of cutlery as diners share carefully made small dishes. But what does the future hold for Nodee, Dinnergruppen, et al?
“We have a lot of faith in the Barcode district,” Sean Cao says. “There aren’t many with facilities like ours. But we never know when something new will pop up. So we’re going to keep working to give our guests the very best experiences.”
Published: July 11, 2019