Oslo is the lucky home of three Michelin-starred restaurant Maaemo, but so far the city hasn’t quite seen the Noma effect that Copenhagen has been blessed with. In the Danish capital, we’ve seen multiple international chefs choose to remain in the city and open a place of their own after being trained by René Redzepi. Luke Henderson and Jefferson Goldring, both Maaemo alumni, are the first to do the same here in Oslo. Their wine bar, Imperial, is already open, and their fine dining restaurant, The Tea Room, is scheduled to open in late February. After Maaemo, Henderson had a short stint as the head chef of Bass in Oslo, while Goldring was wine director at the spectacular underwater restaurant (the world’s largest) Under in Lindesnes which opened last year. Now, they are ready to do their own thing.
Imperial – Wine & Snack Bar
Located in the old venue of Nemesis (which closed in 2019), Henderson and Goldring’s concepts will be part of the restaurant and bar collective Made in Oslo. The former restaurant has now been split into two separate rooms. Imperial, their wine and snack bar, has opened on the corner close to the coffee and donut shop, My Ugly Baby. We went to check it out the other night and were very impressed by the bar snacks as well as the drink selection. Luke and Jefferson’s British heritage is showing in both the food and the interior design, which is a hybrid of Colonial Era style and Scandinavian vintage.
Imperial is a relatively small space with coffee tables and low couches in the corner, and a large island in the center with bar stools. Similar to the setup of the wine and cocktail bar Andre til Høyre (located just above Imperial), wine bottles that are available by the glass are stored on ice in the middle of this table. There’s also a selection of house-made cocktails using a blend of distilled ingredients. We tasted the White with chai, whiskey, and smoked apple, and the Rosé flavored with earl grey, gin and rose. Both had a smooth, silky texture that is meant to replicate that of wine, so they pair well with food. We found them to be very interesting, complex, and well-balanced. We also found some of our favorite producers on the wine list, including Lucy Margaux and Jauma.
We sampled the entire snacks menu, starting with oysters so pure and clean in flavor that Luke chose to serve them straight up, with only a lemon wedge on the side. A potato waffle came topped with raw beef and jalapeño cheese – a combination Henderson concocted during his time at Bass. The same goes for the cod brandades stuffed inside olives, which we tasted at Bass back in October. The highlights on the menu, however, were the Scotch eggs and the hash browns. Scotch eggs are a classic from British gastropubs, but Luke’s modern version uses small quail eggs, thus allowing more room for meat. His eggs come wrapped in venison meat, breaded with panko and deep-fried – the result is juicier than any version we’ve tasted previously.
The “hash browns,” long, meticulously layered sticks of potato, came topped with a sprinkle of salt and vinegar – a potato mille-feuille, if you will. They were crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside, with a sinful layer of fat. We’ve seen variations of this layered potato dish in a lot of restaurants lately (Skaal Matbar, Den Vandrette, and Hyde, to name a few). While Henderson’s version is probably the most technically perfect, we wished there was some kind of creamy dipping sauce to accompany them. That said, you’ll struggle to find better bar snacks than this anywhere.
The Tea Room – Fine Dining Restaurant
When The Tea Room opens (hopefully in late February), it will be a fine dining restaurant where Chef Luke Henderson can showcase his skills. The menu will consist of 12-14 courses for a limited amount of guests – up to 20 seats each night. There will only be three chefs in the kitchen including Henderson. The front of house team will be led by sommelier Jefferson Goldring, who will pair wines to Luke’s creations. You can expect Henderson’s British background to show in the food, but the skills learned at Maaemo will probably be evident too. We’ve heard rumors that the tables have drawers for you to put away your cell phone and be present in the dining experience (but we hope to take some pictures anyway!).
The Long-Awaited Maaemo Effect
In Copenhagen, there has been a massive revolution of the food scene in the last two decades, which is largely an aftermath of the world-class restaurants Noma and Geranium bringing so much talent to town. Chefs and waiters have left these innovative and groundbreaking institutions, fueled with passion and knowledge, and started their own projects. Most notably, perhaps, are Matt Orlando of Amass (and Broaden & Build) and Christian Puglisi of Relæ (and Manfreds/Bæst/Mirabelle/Rudo), who have become rock star chefs with their own restaurant groups. Kristian Baumann of 108 and Rosio Sanchez of her eponymous Nordic-Mexican restaurant have also carved out a name for themselves after their time at Noma.
There has also been a dramatic upgrade of Oslo’s food scene in the new millennium, but it’s been a much slower evolution. Maaemo has produced some fantastic talent; however, most of them have either chosen to return to their home countries or moved on to more casual establishments after leaving. You might have heard of Jordan Bailey, Maaemo’s former head chef who returned home to Ireland and opened Aimsir in 2019. His restaurant immediately entered the Michelin Guide with two stars in its first year. Meanwhile in Oslo, Peder Støylen went on to become head chef at Hrimnir ramen, Petter Svanæs joined Katla, Erlend Lehland moved to Hot Shop, and Magnus Nørsett co-founded the Made in Oslo collective where Luke Henderson and Jefferson Goldring are now opening up. While we’re glad to still have these other alumni in town, we’re especially excited to see what Luke and Jefferson will do with The Tea Room. Check back here for a full review once it’s open.
Have you checked out Imperial yet? Leave a comment below and tell us about your experience.