16 September 2014
I had a wonderful day exploring the brilliant Norwegian gem that is Bergen and was looking forward to a fantastic tasting menu at one of Norway’s best-regarded restaurants, Colonialen. I had really fallen for this town already, and memories of last night’s feast at 1877 still lingers in my mind.
I arrived at Colonialen on the early side as I had a very early flight in the morning, so I was the first diner to grace the eatery. I was very much looking forward to a huge production, a full 12-course tasting menu with full pairing. Why not, it’s a pre-celebration for my birthday, and to really enjoy as much of Bergen as I could during my short stay here in this lovely city.
As I was doing a full pairing, they happily poured me the wine from the first course, a wonderful, crispy white from Tournelle. I relaxed and smiled, especially as the first amuse bouche arrived.
Fabulous innit? On the left is an oyster under a very flavourful foam. On the right, on the spoon, is a “mussle sphere” — which, alongside the algae gracing its side, made for a flavour explosion. Wow… I’ve rarely had an amuse so flavourful… Needed a big gulp of wine after this, wow….awesome!
Soon came the second of the amuse, this one an excellent pressed oxtail with onions. Excellent taste, a nice segue into the tasting menu. I’m happy already! They topped up my wine as we began the 12-course adventure. First up, scallops.
These raw scallops, sourced from nearby waters, were excellent and mildly sweet. It sits in a base made from fermented celery juice, which really added something interesting to the scallops. Excellent dish showing a modern approach to local traditions! The topped up the Tournelle as it was to run into the next course: chicken heart.
This was cute and tasty, as it was accompanied by apricot. The heart was cooked well, retaining texture without it being difficult to eat. Good prep here. I was really enjoying this so far. As they poured an Austrian sauvignon blanc I awaited dish number three — monkfish cheek.
Excellent piece of fish, strong flavour and texture. It was accented fabulously with fermented cabbage and broth of mussels, as well as some orange mist that was sprayed by the server as the plate arrived. What a fabulous combination! The flavours tonight have so far worked perfectly, and I am extremely impressed. Very rarely do I enjoy a long tasting menu so much as I am tonight.
The fourth dish is based on local langostine, a local favourite. Very nice flavour, heavily accented by the apples that are so beloved in this region. A succulent dish! Been loving the seafood so far, as well as the accents from the best of local produce and traditional cooking techniques — including the shaved dry langostine roe. This is what a tasting menu should be like in a place like Bergen!
The fifth dish I did a double take at first, but it is based on barley. Oh, also some very flavourful snails (escargots). The latter were done very well, not overcooked, retaining a lot of character. A tasty little treat, once again showing off local ingredients. Enjoyed a tipple from Chassagne-Montrachet alongside the last two dishes also.
A switch of pace for the sixth course, a small but rich soup that featured turkey fricasee. Oddly it used chicken soup as the base. Was on the salty side to be honest, the first semi-miss of the evening. So far this has been pretty spectacular of a tasting menu!
That led into course number seven, which returned to seafood as it focused on the halibut. This was an utterly fantastic and rich dish. The halibut itself was very tasty, laying on a bed of bokchoi. The fish was topped with “false” herring roe (made with its essence). But most fabulous was the small piece of halibut belly…oh my goodness was it good. I know some people avoid it due to difficulty in making sure it is clean and so forth, but when you can get it like this…wow… Just gorgeous…
We now move into the meats and they presented something from my dear Scotland for the next course, a wonderful grouse. Despite my love for game, I generally am not a big fan of gamebirds. However, this grouse was very tasty, cooked very well. A small bit of pureed tenderloin topped the meat, which was just dreamy. Mmm…
I really needed a bit of a break at this point, and coincidentally it was a break in the menu as well. They brought out a small rum-and-apple concoction as the palate cleanser…mmm… I’m saying mmm a lot tonight… Did the Homer Simpson “gargle-drool” a few times too…
Back on the saddle, the ninth course was the last savoury of the evening, a wonderful dish of local lamb. Again using local favourites, this was accentuated very well by pumpkin. The flavour of the lamb was just excellent, a real lamb (sorry the photo angle didn’t get the lamb clearly). As good as yesterday’s if not better. Lovely stuff. What a great way to end the savouries!
After another wee break the cheese course came out. I was a little surprised with the French cheese selection, and I was to be honest spent by now with the wonderful local items all night. This was a large selection, and I didn’t do that well…too much of a good thing tonight!
They then brought out a nice little side treat, a small traditional berry bake swimming in hazlenut milk. What a nice treat! This came just before the eleventh course, a dessert based on cloudberries.
I love how they use local produce once again, making the sorbet and the berries, with a nice bit of cream. Mmm… Not too sweet, not too tangy, but a perfect balance for someone who likes things less sweet. Nice stuff.
And finally we reach the end, the twelfth course, once again focusing on local produce. this time the plum — a prized fruit in this region. A nice plum tart, with a nice traditional milk ice cream laced with just enough cardomom on the side. A fine, fine closing number!
I was extremely happy at this point, relaxing with some coffee and staring at the petit-four — but too full to eat anything else. I had a wonderful evening, one of the top long tasting meals I’ve had in a long time. I really love the devotion not just to local ingredients, but also to traditional cooking and prep techniques such as fermentation and salting. There is some real talent here.
I headed out in the nice warm Bergen evening, having spent nearly 4 hours enjoying that amazing tasting menu. I actually stopped at 1877 en route back to my hotel for a nitecap, which made this excellent evening even better.
Despite having to get up very early in the morning, this was a fabulous day and a fabulous 30 hours in Bergen. I know I will return again, this town is just too lovely to keep me away! I am addicted!
Now off into the North Atlantic in the AM!
Kong Oscars gate 44