Eats: Hanne på Høyden, Bergen, Norway

Bergen, Norway


Was recently in Bergen Norway as part of the FQXi conference Setting Time Aright.  (I didn't know it had gone awry...).  Since Norway seems to be one of the world's most expensive travel destinations, I figured I would take full advantage of the hotel breakfast, skip lunch, and have dinner at a really good restaurant---most restaurants in town are nearly as expensive as a really good one anyway.

Hanne på Høyden, Bergen, Norway

Hanne på Høyden, Bergen, Norway

Hanne på Høyden turned out to be one of the best places I have ever eaten.  They tend toward Norwegian, and local, ingredients where possible.  Nice, casually elegant location in the former Brun bakery.  (Frederick Brun is gone, but his business now has branches in various parts of Bergen---just not the original building.  Prices deterred me from sampling.)  A large, high-ceilinged room with plenty of windows on the street holds most of the diners; a half-level higher, but open to the main room, is a small bar with counter looking toward the kitchen, and a couple of high tables, and also a cool, semiprivate room, with photos of Brun and the building in its old incarnation as bakery, on the walls.  I ate at one of the high tables in the bar area (probably lucky to get the chance without a reservation).

The complimentary amuse-bouche was a mousse of creme fraiche and crabmeat topped with a little herring roe.  Light and airy and flavorful, the herring roe a perfect intensely flavored salty complement to the crabmeat.  Perfection.  Rye bread with local butter was a perfect accompaniment to this and the rest of the meal.  The house-made wheat beer was slightly floral, not as sweet or alcoholic as some wheat beers can be--very refreshing and tasty.

Starter was a cold tomato and raspberry soup, described by the waitress as like a gazpacho.  Which indeed it was---a light, somewhat foamy gazpacho, very intensely flavored, with some herbs that looked like very tiny and tender parsley, shavings of parmesan, and ripe raspberries and half cherry tomatoes sprinkled on top.   Raspberry and perfectly ripe, sweet tomato turn out to be an inspired pairing.  The soup tasted like there was an intense olive oil swirled in, but also something minty that perfected the flavor combination---it turned out to be not olive oil, but birch oil.  This was as good a dish as I've eaten anywhere.

The main course was "Fjordfe med grønnkål og ramsløksaus", which I  understood to translate as "Fjord beef"---a relatively rare kind of cattle raised in pastures by the fjords of Norway's west coast---with green kale and wild fennel sauce.  I think it is "Fjordfe" in Norwegian.  It was superb---cooked medium rare, just as I asked, it did not have a red-meaty taste at all, but was rather mild and nutty, sliced into pieces in a delicious sauce of cream, wild fennel, and "Viking garlic", which I take to be some local wild tuber.  I'd ordered a glass of Tuscan Sangiovese to go with the beef, but it turned out the wheat beer was a perfect pairing---without the red-meaty taste, red wine was unnecessary (although it was a tasty enough glass).  The roasted small potatoes accompanying the dish were superb, though perhaps the salt encrusting them was a bit much.  Another great dish.

Dessert was "Sesongens bær på fløtepudding", a half-inch layer of a pudding (somewhat like a thick, smooth creme anglaise) generously studded with seasonal berries: blueberries, raspberries, fat, ripe gooseberries, red and black currants, possibly some melon if my memory isn't confusing me, all perfectly ripe and tasty.  Simple but perfect---a fabulous end to a fabulous meal.   Well, not quite the end---a glass of intense house-made raspberry liqueur was the finishing touch.

Not cheap but worth it---a truly memorable meal, one of the best restaurant meals I've ever had.  Michelin doesn't seem to have paid much attention to Norway (I think there are five restaurants it has starred, all in Oslo)---but Hanne på Høyden is obviously the kind of restaurant that deserves a star--or two.