Bagatelle Reunited at Restaurant Oro Return to the Past with Hellstrøm & Ness

Some opportunities in life you know immediately that you need to seize. I was too young, and to poor back then, to ever get a chance to visit the infamous restaurant Bagatelle during the Hellstrøm era. Thus, when I read that Terje Ness was doing an event at the reopening of his restaurant Oro, bringing in Eyvind Hellstrøm and parts of the old Bagatelle team, I was never in doubt. I called my most hungry friend, André Blomberg-Nygård, and we booked a table for this one-week-only happening! André is also the most knowledgeable person that I know on the topic of Norwegian restaurants’ history – a great company on an evening like this.

The less formal restaurant "Bar & Grill by Oro" with an entrance at the corner.
The less formal restaurant “Bar & Grill by Oro” with an entrance at the corner.
The less formal restaurant "Bar & Grill by Oro" with an entrance at the corner.
The entrance to Oro Restaurant by Terje Ness

Eyvind Hellstrøm is probably Norway’s most famous and profiled chef, both nationally and internationally. If Ingrid Espelid-Hovig is the chef “mom” of Norway, then Eyvind is the chef “dad”. I once ate a small bite from a dish he made at the Taste of Oslo food festival. Apart from that I have only copied the food from his cook books, and tried to imagine how it was to dine at Bagatelle back in the golden years. Today, it is extremely rare to have Hellstrøm cook for you, and he has proclaimed that he will never open a restaurant again.

Eyvind Hellstrøm had invited a lot of his old Bagatelle chefs to cook this week
Eyvind Hellstrøm had invited a lot of his old Bagatelle chefs to cook this week

In addition, Eyvind had invited many of his old chefs and sommeliers from the Bagatelle years this week. Terje Ness was head chef at Bagatelle himself in the time they got their second Michelin star. In the kitchen I could also spot Lise Finckenhagen, Hellstrøm’s right-hand man Gregory Paul looked like a conductor from where he stood, and sommelier and owner of Moestue Grape Selections, Christopher Moestue, was serving us wine all evening.

In case anyone was in doubt, Eyvind Hellstrøm was actually cooking in the kitchen!
In case anyone was in doubt, Eyvind Hellstrøm was actually cooking in the kitchen!

My expectations to the food were sky high, of course, although a quick read-through of Andreas Viestad’s article the day before had probably adjusted them somehow. The food did not look very appealing on the plates in his pictures, and he was not too pleased with the whole experience. Regardless, I was very excited about the event. Without further ado, here we go!

Salted cod tempura croquettes and piquillos. The soft brandade inside was just the right temperature, and the layer upon layer of crunchy, crispy tempura could not be more perfect. I just wish the piquillos sauce was more spicy.
Salted cod tempura croquettes and piquillos. The soft brandade inside was just the right temperature, and the layer upon layer of crunchy, crispy tempura could not be more perfect. I just wish the piquillos sauce was more spicy.
Shore crab soup. I've had soups on lobster and crab before, but never as balanced in flavor as this one. It was quite a big portion, but impossible not to finish.
Shore crab soup. I’ve had soups on lobster and crab before, but never as balanced in flavor as this one. It was quite a big portion, but impossible not to finish.
My absolute favorite of the evening. I could live of this. Scallops, seaweed and aromatic butter with soy sauce. The butter and soy combination was great, the spiciness just right and the scallops soft as butter. Butter! The butter was so good.
My absolute favorite of the evening. I could live of this. Scallops, seaweed and aromatic butter with soy sauce. The butter and soy combination was great, the spiciness just right and the scallops soft as butter. Butter! The butter was so good.
Sourdough bread from Handwerk
Sourdough bread from Handwerk
Langoustines with mussels, carrots, "krondill" and a ramson sauce. A generous amount of langoustines, but unfortunately my least favorite dish of the night in terms of flavor.
Langoustines with mussels, carrots, “krondill” and a ramson sauce. A generous amount of langoustines, but unfortunately my least favorite dish of the night in terms of flavor.
Smoked halibut from Hjelmeland with a caviar sauce and wood sorrel
Smoked halibut from Hjelmeland with a caviar sauce and wood sorrel
The presentation and use of wood sorrel makes this dish most similar to the new Nordic style we see in restaurants today.
The presentation and use of wood sorrel makes this dish most similar to the new Nordic style we see in restaurants today.
Terje Ness and Eyvind Hellstrøm together in the kitchen once again
Terje Ness and Eyvind Hellstrøm together in the kitchen once again
Wild duck breast, foie gras, "cardinal puree", small potatoes, a tarte with duck liver mousse and red wine sauce. No one will ever accuse this dish of being photogenic, but my God the flavors!
Wild duck breast, foie gras, “cardinal puree”, small potatoes, a tarte with duck liver mousse and red wine sauce. No one will ever accuse this dish of being photogenic, but my God the flavors!

At this point, André and I reflected a bit about the meal. It had been a long evening. 7-courses would end up taking almost 5 hours (!), which is a long wait in-between dishes. Not that we had really noticed, as we always have a lot of things to talk about. The service was obviously quite good in an event like this, but fades in comparison to the personal level of service I have written about in my post on Maaemo. The style of food was very French and classic, quite far from the new Nordic cuisine, even though many of the ingredients were probably local. Proteins ruled over vegetables, flavors ruled over the presentations and we left neither hungry nor sober.

André told me that during his time in Oro the rotisserie always burned, but was never in use. That myth was confirmed this night as well. Just for show.
André told me that during his time in Oro the rotisserie always burned, but was never in use. That myth was confirmed this night as well. Just for show.
The cheese selection, served with a malt bread
The cheese selection, served with a malt bread
The Dream Team! From left to right; Kristin Jacobsen, Terje Ness, Lise Finckenhagen & Eyvind Hellstrøm
The Dream Team! From left to right; Kristin Jacobsen, Terje Ness, Lise Finckenhagen & Eyvind Hellstrøm
Preparing the Baked Alaska
Preparing the Baked Alaska
The Baked Alaska getting flambéd
The Baked Alaska getting flambéd
The inside of the Omelette à la Norvégienne. A sorbet, within an icre cream, on top of a sponge cake, beneath a layer of meringue. So much flavor and interesting texture combinations!
The inside of the Omelette à la Norvégienne. A sorbet, within an ice cream, on top of a sponge cake, beneath a layer of meringue. So much flavor and interesting texture combinations!
Petit fours from Sverre Sætre
Petit fours from Sverre Sætre

The price for this meal? 2000 NOK for the food and 2000 NOK for the wine menu. My conclusion to whether it was worth it? Yes, to get this experience and eat the food I never had in Bagatelle, prepared by Hellstrøm & Co, for me it was worth it. Would I do it again? No, not with this price level for a 7-course meal and corresponding wine menu. Not because the dishes or wines didn’t taste good. My goodness, did they taste good. Still, it was overpriced compared to an experience you get at restaurants like Maaemo, Noma, Geranium, Kadeau and many more these days. We paid a lot for the show, but it was a fun show.

Did you attend the dinner? Please leave a comment below with your inputs.

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