Charles & De is a restaurant in my parent’s hometown Sandnes on the west coast of Norway. The name means Charles and them and alludes to a local expression, widely used to talk about someone and his or her family or friends. The restaurant is actually a combined brasserie, café and deli store and is located on the pedestrian street Langgata right in the middle of the city. They’ve even opened a small bakery and coffee shop next door, which also supplies the restaurant with fresh bread and baked goods. On Saturdays, the brasserie offers a tapas lunch, and that’s what we booked a table for this day.
Charles Tjessem opened Charles & De back in 2005, barely two years after he won the gold medal in the internationally acclaimed cooking competition Bocuse d’Or in 2003. The prestigious award is equivalent to the World Championship for chefs and a great honor to compete in, not to mention winning it. Charles owned 100% of the restaurant, and was the head chef and general manager for many years. He recently sold the major part of his stocks and left his right-hand-man, Roger Malmin, in charge of the kitchen. Now, Charles is focusing on other projects, among them his new restaurant – Mondo – which opened in early June. We have a lunch booking there this Saturday, and I am looking forward to checking it out.
During the years I’ve had some great experiences at Charles & De and also some mediocre, to be honest, but there’s no doubt the eatery has been the best restaurant in Sandnes ever since it opened. I can still remember vividly the first three-course dinner we enjoyed in the old restaurant when Charles was in the kitchen. There are currently not that many competitors to the throne in Sandnes. Sabi Sushi is a decent sushi restaurant and Mondo will hopefully turn out to be a contestant, but apart from those, I guess Sandnes is still a tiny town for restaurateurs.
The Saturday tapas lunch was a 7-course menu with big platters of food that came out from the kitchen one by one. We passed the plates around the table and shared the hearty portions among us. I am not sure whether or not this actually classifies as tapas, but then again the tapas term is kind of vague these days anyway. I guess the important part is that people understand that they will share the food and experience a lot of different flavors.
The brasserie section of the restaurant is now back, after a few years when the whole venue served as a café. This room is decorated slightly more formally than the rest of the place, with white tablecloths and nice decorations, but still not very fancy. It’s really a casual place with simple, tasty food. The waiters were friendly, but the service could have been even more informal for this kind of concept. At least for the tapas lunch, you could just put the wine bottle on the table and let people serve themselves. I’d like to go back here someday for the full 5-course tasting menu in the evening.
Have you been to Charles & De or the new restaurant Mondo? Which is your favorite? Please share in a comment below.
Please note: This restaurant has closed permanently. Check my rumors to see what’s opening instead.