It was the 5th of October and my birthday. For birthdays you make a wish list and restaurant Statholdergaarden had been on mine for years already. The owner and Scandinavia’s first Bocuse d’Or winner, Bent Stiansen, has defended his one Michelin star for 18 consecutive years! However, like many things in life, you sometimes don’t prioritize the places that are in your vicinity. Also, Statholdergaarden is not a restaurant I am reminded of on social media very often. Possibly because it attracts a different clientele. Perhaps due to more traditional food. This visit also marked another celebration. It concluded my visit to all current Michelin starred restaurants in Norway. Luckily, there are many good ones, without a star, yet to test.
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We recently drank some wine at our favorite wine bar in Oslo, Territoriet, when the entire team from Statholdergaarden walked in. They were celebrating their Christmas feast and had decided to start with an aperitif at the most awesome wine hangout in Oslo. Bent Stiansen walked over and yelled at me for having my feet on a stool. I took them down. Afterward, Bent sat down next to us and we discussed topics like the best restaurants of Fyn in Denmark (where Bent has a house), the madness which Michelin stars can cause to chefs, and the issues, in his opinion, with new Nordic cooking. Bent explained that he has a craving for warmer dishes since heat is a crucial element to add flavor and aroma to many ingredients. The new Nordic cooking style, on the other hand, is so focused on delicate components, tweezers precision, and artful plating, that fewer courses are served hot, he argued.
Bent is a wise man and with more cooking experience than most chefs in this country. His Bocuse d’Or gold medal in 1993 started a long tradition of good results for Norway in the world’s culinary world championship. Furthermore, his merit lists consist of cookbooks, TV appearances, and running the highest revenue Michelin star restaurant in Norway. If Eyvind Hellstrøm is the grandfather of Norwegian chefs, then Bent Stiansen is certainly the father. It’s hard to argue with him about the flaws of new Nordic cooking, and although I am an avid supporter, I had to agree – it does sometimes lack a bit of flavor.
The food genre at Statholdergaarden can best be described as a mix between Norwegian and French. The style is leaning more towards traditional than modern, but there have definitely been some adjustments to satisfy the preferences of a younger audience as well. Not to the extent that you would call it new Nordic, of course, but it’s not outdated. First and foremost, Statholdergaarden is about local, seasonal, high-quality ingredients. In that regard, it’s a success!
To some extent, Statholdergaarden lands in that mid-section where it’s neither about extraordinary plating or molecular gastronomy nor about super heavy, rich flavors. The flavors are balanced, the level of cooking is flawless, and the food looks decent, but I find myself missing that extra edge to the whole show. It could be a more spectacular presentation or an increased interaction between the guests and the chefs. I love when each chef comes out to present his or her dish, and maybe even prepares the final element at your table. Then again, Statholdergaarden probably serves more guests compared to the number of cooks in the kitchen. To be correct, they add a few sauces at the table, but unless my memory fails me it was the waiters’ job and it was certainly not coordinated as beautiful as Geranium does.
Staholdergaarden could do smaller adjustments, like refreshing the plates. Get Anette Krogstad or another skilled ceramist to make some hand made, uniquely designed bowls and platters. Or check out if Odd Standard can think outside the box and come up with some cool ideas. Before I suggest too many changes I have to add that we were taken exceptionally good care of this evening. The front of house service staff was more than welcoming, attentive, and knowledgeable. I also enjoyed the wine pairings a lot! The wine list is maybe more up to date than anything else at Statholdergaarden. Besides, there’s something rather unique about dining in a building from 1640 which is still decorated with many original items.
Even though the venue is old, Statholdergaarden is a place for renewal. In these premises, a new generation of chefs is being trained to master culinary skills. When I visited Geranium recently, there were at least four Norwegians working there and I believe two of them were schooled by Bent Stiansen & Co. These guys are certainly not fooling around, and you can’t help but be impressed by an institution like this. Thus, if you have a special occasion to celebrate, and your wallet can afford to get rid of 3000 NOK per person, Statholdergaarden is a safe bet! If your pocketbook is slightly slimmer, or on a monetary diet, I can recommend the more casual joint in the basement: Statholderens Mat & Vinkjeller.
What’s your next excuse for visiting Statholdergaarden? Please leave a comment below.