Munnsjenk is the al fresco restaurant situated in the backyard of one of Oslo’s greatest bars. Himkok cocktail bar just made it onto the list of the World’s 50 Best Bars 2016. Their exact ranking won’t be revealed until October 6th, but just to make it to the top 50 is a huge achievement! Also this year, their bartender Antonio Naranjo Nevares won the World Class Nordic Final as Norway’s best bartender. I featured Munnsjenk in my guide to restaurants in Oslo that are open all summer, but Himkok will actually keep Munnsjenk open as long as the weather allows. It could be late September or early October – only Zeus, Thor, Chaac and their kind know for sure.
Munnsjenk Utekjøkken – Al Fresco Dining at Himkok
The menu at Munnsjenk features a daily brunch platter, a sandwich and a selection of snacks and desserts. All dishes can be made vegetarian and all desserts are both gluten and sugar-free. Munnsjenk calls it Scandinavian soul food, which may or may not be a very precise description. Sure there are elements of both Scandinavian food and the South-American cuisine, but to me, it seemed like a mix of many cuisines. We got fried lotus root chips, guacamole, meatball sandwiches and chipotle sauce, but also slow-braised oxtails and crispy broccolis.
Munnsjenk means “cup-bearer” and was historically the royal servant who would pour drinks for the king, and even taste them in advance to protect from poison. We trusted the waiters at Munnsjenk when they brought our drinks. For the savory dishes, we tasted one of Himkok’s well-balanced ciders and one of their spontaneously fermented sour beer. We also got a bottle of kombucha from Kombucha-bryggeriet. That’s fermented, sweetened and lightly sparkling tea. Very refreshing!
Himkok & Munnsjenk cooperates with the green-fingered guys of Oslo Husgartnere, who has built a greenhouse in the entrance area between the patio and the cocktail bar. The gardeners have also decorated the backyard with a lot of plants, and the plan is to make Munnsjenk into an urban jungle. Similar to what they have done at Torggata Botaniske – another great cocktail bar in Oslo. Oslo Husgartnere specialized in so-called “hydroculture,” where plants grow without a soil. Plants can actually survive in water as long as all the necessary nutrients are present.
For desserts, we ate the raw lime cake and Snickers cake, in addition to the baked pear cake with whipped sour cream from Røros. The latter was very delicious and my absolute favorite. Raw cakes are not my thing. They are too heavy and dense, in my opinion. To go with the cakes, we had two sweet and sour cocktails, one with a white cherry liquor that paired well with the pear cake and one mix of port wine, aquavit, and lingonberries for the two raw cakes.
Himkok – Oslo’s Cocktail Theme Park
I knew Himkok was unique the very first time I got a sneak peek inside. There’s so much going on behind the blue-green brick walls of Storgata 27. As you enter the anonymous door you find yourself in a dark hallway with wired cages on the wall filled with jars of pickled vegetables and fruits. Take a right turn through the curtains and you’ll discover Himkok’s speakeasy cocktail bar, with bartenders in white laboratory coats making artisan cocktails. On the left side is a doorway to another patio with a dedicated cider bar. Up the stairs is a much larger lounge-like area, where you can order taptails – that’s pre-batched cocktails served on tap. Made in a collaboration between Himkok and Behind Bars. In the far end, you are able to walk straight into a barbershop. My barbershop, in fact. Stefan Janketic of PelsPels cuts my hair every month.
No wonder Himkok has made it to the list of the world’s 50 best bars. This is like a Disneyland for cocktail lovers. To my knowledge, it is the only Scandinavian bar with a micro-distillery in the house. They currently produce their own gin, vodka, and aquavit. In addition to a “secret” spirit every month. At the moment it’s HaPå-gin, based on the traditional Norwegian Hamar Pålegg made of sweetened, condensed milk.
The final feature of Himkok’s cocktail theme park is a private bar with an elevated balcony area. This chambre séparée, in lack of a better word, can only be accessed through a secret door. Either that or you can climb the ladder, but for some reason, the Norwegian authorities’ strict alcohol policies don’t allow that. The bar was supposed to be launched a year ago when Himkok opened, but it’s taken them longer than expected to get hold of the vintage bar they’ve just installed up there.
What’s your favorite cocktail bar in Oslo? Please share in a comment below.