Rumors have been circulating for over a year, but now it’s official: Esben Holmboe Bang will open a casual restaurant in Bispevika in Oslo, next door to where the new Maaemo 2.0 will be located. The all-day eatery is slated to open in May this year and will be the first sister restaurant to the three Michelin-starred Maaemo. Holmboe Bang has selected the Chilean chef Damian Quintana, who was last seen heading the kitchen of the one Michelin-starred restaurant Studio in Copenhagen, to be the head chef of the new place. Michelin stars are not the focus of this project, however. Instead, the goal is to create good food from top quality ingredients at a place you can drop in every day of the week. The name of the new venue will be “The Vandelay.” Seinfeld fans should get the reference. We sat down with Esben today to get all the details on the new restaurant – continue reading to see our full interview with him.
Update: Due to the Coronavirus crisis, the opening of The Vandelay has been delayed. The current estimated opening date is early August. Keep checking our restaurant rumors page for the most up-to-date information.
What is the Concept of The Vandelay?
– I don’t know where to go in Oslo for an all-day kind of restaurant, and that’s what inspired us, says Esben Holmboe Bang when we meet him at the now-closed Maaemo, among boxes of old stuff ready for the big move.
Influenced by his travels, Esben is looking to create a place where you can go whenever you’re in the mood for a good meal. A buzzing place that’s always there, where he is free to cook whatever he feels like as long as it’s delicious and soothing. No fuss, just flavorful produce-driven, straight to the point cooking. Dishes that Holmboe Bang himself would enjoy eating on a daily basis, and where guests can visit several times a week. The style of food is not going to be confined to Nordic cuisine; if anything, it’s more inspired by the food culture in the U.S., although it won’t be limited to that either.
– All these amazing places in the States that are open all day – that’s what is missing here. Daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner is our end game, but we’ll start by serving lunch and dinner, and brunch on the weekends, Esben smiles.
Holmboe Bang will continue to source his ingredients from the same organic farms that he is working with at Maaemo, but unlike the strict Norwegian-inspired food of his flagship, you just might find tacos on the menu at The Vandelay. The menu will be à la carte, and the food more rustic, with chefs working a lot over an open fire. As for beverages, the wine list will follow the same style as the current Maaemo, offering a mix of conventional and natural wines, and Holmboe Bang can also reveal that they are working on a cocktail program with pre-mixed drinks on tap.
– I will create the menu and Damian [Quintana] will run the kitchen, says Holmboe Bang.
Jessica Senning will be the restaurant manager – she has previously worked at Mangelsgården, Nedre Foss Gård, and Txotx. The Vandelay will be able to seat more than 60 people, and twice that in the summer when there’s outdoor seating available.
– It’s the kind of place I’ve been missing in Oslo and I’m really excited. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, Esben says.
He assures us that his main focus will still be on Maaemo 2.0. That’s where he will be personally present most of the time. When asked if we could expect more casual concepts from him in the coming years, Esben laughed:
– I think we have enough going on at the moment.
What Can We Expect at Maaemo 2.0?
In late 2018, Maaemo announced that they were moving from their original location on Schweigaards gate (where they have resided for nine years), and over the bridge to Bispevika (next to the new Munch Museum). Esben finally gave us the exact address, Dronning Eufemias gate 23, and the opening date will be February 24th, 2020. Set your alarms – bookings for Maaemo 2.0 will open on Monday, the 6th of January, at 12 PM CET.
At 1000 square meters, the new space is five times larger than the old one, but will actually seat fewer people in an intimate dining room with a completely open kitchen in the same room. This is a huge upgrade from Maaemo 1.0, where the chefs and waiters had to constantly run up and down the stairs to serve the guests one floor below the kitchen, as well as make frequent trips to the storage room a full four flights down. Tables in the new space will be limited to 1 to 4 pax; bigger parties than that can be welcomed in the private dining room (PDR) which can seat anywhere from 5 up to 16 people.
– The PDR will have its own kitchen with dedicated staff to create a seamless experience. Additionally, this will make sure it does not interrupt the flow of the main dining room. Bigger tables have a tendency to get rowdy, laughs Esben.
Maaemo 2.0 will have some major upgrades – Esben reveals that the new space will have a lounge where the guests can linger before and after the meal, as well as an improved restroom area, additional office space, and a test kitchen. The kitchen team will be pretty much the same as before, with a few new additions. Thomas Swanborough continues as head chef, Viviane Raposo (formerly of Noma) takes over the sous chef position, and Diana Elizondo (formerly of Quintonil) will be joining as the new head of pastry. As for the front of house, Michel Gielas has been the wine director for the last two years, and Niklas Johansson will continue as general manager. Fun fact: Niklas was the very first person that Esben hired in 2010, but then as the restaurant manager. Perhaps the most surprising news is the opening hours: Maaemo 2.0 will be open from Monday through Friday, and closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
– For the new space, we looked at what was successful at our original spot and what was lacking. We built on our experiences, both positive and negative, in order to elevate it all for Maaemo 2.0, Holmboe Bang tells us.
As we’re about to conclude the interview, Esben and Niklas excitedly tell us one more detail. At the new Maaemo 2.0, for the very first time, the team will be roasting their own coffee. Selected team members have been trained in the craft of coffee roasting for the last year. Maaemo will be sourcing their green, unroasted beans through the company Nordic Approach among others.
– Apart from wine and coffee, we make everything in-house. So we thought to ourselves, well we can’t make wine yet, but why don’t we roast our own coffee? It just makes sense, Esben laughs.
What Are the Latest Updates on Esben Holmboe Bang’s Project in Shenzhen, China?
Last February, we were the first to reveal that Esben Holmboe Bang is opening a restaurant in the city of Shenzhen in China. The place was originally scheduled to open last autumn, but as things often go with restaurant openings, there’s been some delays with construction. However, the project is still on, and the plan is to open in 2020, albeit not with Kevin Finch as head chef. For natural reasons, Kevin had to move on and accepted the position as executive sous chef of Ensue – Christopher Kostow’s (Restaurant at Meadowood) project in the same city. Looks like we’ll need to plan a trip to Shenzhen sometime later this year!
Are you as excited as us about this news from Maaemo? Feel free to leave a comment below.
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Anders Husa & Kaitlin Orr