I have been so busy the last couple of years with checking out new restaurants opening in Oslo, that I’ve almost forgotten about the good but classic restaurants that already exist here. Thus, I’ve set a goal to cover a few of the more “traditional” places as well, including institutions like the 18-years-in-a-row one Michelin star holder Statholdergaarden. Keep an eye out for that soon! My first trip went to Gamle Raadhus, located in one of the city’s oldest buildings in Nedre Slottsgate in Kvadraturen.
I was invited by Jørn Lie who also partly owns Vaaghals because he wanted to get my opinion on the menu they serve off Christmas season. During the months of October, November, and December this restaurant mostly serves traditional Norwegian dishes related to the Christmas celebration. However, the rest of the year they try to keep a classic, yet modern menu alive. Swedish head chef Ulf presented almost the entire menu for us this evening, made into a tasting menu of smaller servings, while our waiter Marco explained the wine pairings.
I recommend a pit stop in the Lauritz Ruus Bar on the left as you enter. I remembered having had lunch there in the winter season before and sitting next to the fireplace. We asked to have the aperitif and snack by the living flames before we moved to the dining hall for the main event. This place sets just the right mood for a dinner at Gamle Raadhus. The wind can blow, the rain can pour and the snow can fall as much as it wants outside. Inside it is warm and cozy.
As we progressed through the meal, we came closer to the conclusion that Gamle Raadhus really was a modernized classic. There are elements in many of the dishes, both the ingredients and style of presentation, which is closer to contemporary restaurants. Especially the starter of puffed crispy pork skin and vendace roe is something you might as well find in a place like Kontrast or Arakataka. Local produce like monkfish, scallops, venison, elk and Nordic cheese, berries and garnish dominate the menu.
At the same time, the style at Gamle Raadhus does not stray far from the traditional French cuisine either. Aperitif is followed by snacks, starters, a refreshing granita, main courses, cheeses, and dessert. The matching wines and drinks are quite classic as well; there are few if any natural wines on the list. The interior, presumably not changed for many a decade, makes it hard to imagine that you are somewhere highly modern. Yet again; what’s wrong with that? It is nice to experience a bit of contrast in your life.
If I could wish for some changes to Gamle Raadhus it would be to upgrade the various porcelain and ceramics they serve on, and do some changes to the outdated interior. By all means, keep it classic, but it would not harm to boost these elements somewhat. I know that Figgjo porcelain has more interesting plates in stock, and why not check if some exciting new Norwegian designers like Odd Standard could fit in as well? The same goes for the plating of the food. Half of it looks pretty decent, while the rest is a bit dull. Modern restaurants often plate the final touches to the dishes by the table. Preferably done by the chef, who then gets a chance to interact with the guests as well.
One thing is for sure: Gamle Raadhus is a restaurant in Oslo well worth a visit also outside the Christmas season. The menu is interesting and the chefs change it up and renew the dishes several times as the year progress. For some items, especially the carpaccio dish, they even try a bit too hard to combine modern and classic. Overall, we had a fabulous evening with great food and wine, and I would love to return to this place again. Although, judging from the calendar, it will probably be for “lutefisk” next time.
This was a press invitation by Gamle Raadhus. As always, the content reflects my sincere opinion and is my personal recommendation.