Thursday, January 12, 2012

Don’t go to Norway for New Year’s Eve dinner.

Last day in Oslo

Did I mention our New Year’s Eve. I should before I have managed to expunge the memory entirely from my consciousness. It was a truly gruesome experience and we all agreed that it may not have been the worst meal we have ever had in out lives – but it was certainly in the top five.

It was not for want of trying. We had been anticipating this for weeks and had tried to book any one of the best restaurants in Bergen by email but of course  there were no responses because – as we now know – Norway is nailed shut from before Christmas until the end of the first week of January.

But we had asked our hotel to find something for us and the young man at the counter told us on the morning we arrived – which was in fact New Year’s Eve - that we were in luck. We had been on the waiting list for the ‘best restaurant in Bergen’ but they now had a vacancy and we were in.

This was our lucky night. We would be celebrating the coming of 2012 with the glitterati of Bergen.

And where – we enquired - was this fine establishment to which we had so fortuitously gained entry?

Well – he said proudly – it is our finest dining establishment – the Radisson Blu.

A collective shudder ran down our spines but - we thought – perhaps indeed there may be fine dining to be had – this young man should know – he is – after all – the Concierge of one of the finest hotels in Bergen.

We were a bit worried about what to wear as we were short of fine dining gear but we dressed up as best we could and hoped that no one would notice us – and would forgive a few tourists amongst the gay crowd of dinner jacketed and cocktail gowned citizens quaffing champagne and snuffling canapés in the deep north.

We could have gone as miners straight from the coal face and not have been out of place – even with our lamps still burning.

The restaurant is called Ole Bull – named after a famous Norwegian violinist and composer. 

It actually resembles a works cafeteria and we – assuming that we were in the wrong place – asked the man at reception where the real restaurant was.

He replied tersely that this was the only restaurant open and that it was a buffet and he indicated clearly that he did not want to work on New Year’s Eve and that we were welcome to fuck off.

We wish now that we had taken this indication as a warning of what was to come but with a look between us of ‘how bad could it be?’ we were taken to a table that had a nice view of four Russian labourers who were using eating utensils for the first time and a child who was trying to push beans into its ears – with some degree of success.

It was apparent that this was going to be a night to remember – and not for the right reasons.

I did a quick reconnaissance of the buffet and brought back the bad news. There was a desultory salad – three lacklustre vegetables – potatoes and one large lump of unidentifiable meat (when asked the server later described it as ‘old bull’). There were no cold meats or fish or anything else vaguely edible.

Resorting to wine we selected a bottle which turned out to be corked. The man was unconvinced until he took a mouthful and had to leave the room. The second bottle was also corked. The third bottle of a different type of wine was not corked but was barely drinkable.

It seems that many people knew what they were in for and had dressed accordingly in jeans and sweatshirts. These may have been the hotel guests. Some like us obviously though it was in fact a restaurant and that they were going to have a big night out.

It was funny to watch people who were dressed up arrive and see what awaited them. They all reached for the wine list first.

The highlight for us was watching a mature and very elegant couple in evening attire arrive for what they thought was going to be a great night out. The (only) waiter tried to sit them in the middle of the restaurant next to the child rubbing his dinner into his hair and another other one red-faced and grunting as it filled its nappy.

The look on their faces was wonderful to behold.

The lady looked like she has seen Newt Gingrich in his long johns  – with the flap open.

After much pleading they were given a table  next to the window where they sat in a catatonic state gulping wine.

The food was disgusting muck and cost €100 per head. Coffee came from an urn.

We were gone by 9:00

Don’t go to Norway for your New Year’s Eve dinner.


  1. I am hoping with enough training and practice that I, too, may someday be a Scandinavian glitterato, sham-pag-nay quaffer and snuffler of gastronomical rarities, if only in my dreams. I certainly received a heavy enough coat for Christmas to stand the cold (maybe). Its a Carhartt J140. It's large enough to fit over my tuxedo equivalent.

    Word Veri: sayrax - when you hear someone say the word ax, then they are a sayrax.

  2. What a great way to start Friday 13th ! I know that it wasn't meant to be funny but I nearly wet my pants laughing - I guess it just hit the right spot for me today !!!

    Maybe because we have had a similar experience it just brought the memory back - not sure but thank you for a great laugh to start my day !

    Have a great day wherever you are now.


  3. That's one gruesome experience! But still, it's a very interesting story from you.

  4. Kind of strange that New Year's Eve would be so blah. Although we had a strangly similar (not as bad though) Christmas in Montreal. When I discovered our hotel was full of visitors from New Jersey it explained a lot.

    I hate having to spend a lot of money and be underwhelmed. At least you got to people watch. I would have been begging hubs to take pictures as I am too chicken.

  5. I am not sure that I would go to Norway for any meal. I am not keen on smoked kippers. They also have fish that sorts of decomposes in cans until the can becomes deformed. It is a feast I read and comes from fish that the viking folks would lay under weeds on the shore until the weeds sort of got deformed. I am really surprised that the Norwegians are not yet extinct.

  6. Surely McDonalds was open.
    Rollmop Mcmuffins.

  7. Thank you for posting something that doesn't make me envy you. I did 'larf' out loud though.

  8. esb: As far as we can see you will not need a tux or equivalent - and it was certainly not cold.

    Me: We are back in Vienna. I am glad I gave you a laugh

    Paul: Thanks - we specialize in interesting and strange stories when we travel

    fmcgmccllc: We should have gone on the boat a day early - it's our own fault for not having something planned.

    Garry Ladouceur: We had something called 'stock fish' on the boat. It was 10 years old and tasted it. It is a Norwegian specialty and was disgusting - to us. Norwegians love it - but then they would hate Vegemite.

    freefalling: And so was TGI Fridays - but we THOUGHT we were up for a BIG night out.

    Sandy: I hope I am always good for a larf

  9. You have shared great information on this New Year’s eve dinner. Last month, booked one of excellent Venues in NYC for arranging a dinner party. Made all the arrangements and had wonderful time there with my family and friends.