The decor in Restaurant Kjøkkenet in Svolvær is the complete opposite of modern minimalism. A soapstone fireplace takes centre stage, with an old spinning wheel next to it. Guests sit on traditional blue-painted benches or bleached white wooden chairs; white plates with a blue straw pattern adorn the walls, and the evening sun lights up the copper saucepans. It exudes an old-fashioned, cosy comfort, and has fantastic views of the Lofoten mountains and Svolvær harbour.
Mouth-watering menu at Restaurant Kjøkkenet
The menus have names that ooze tradition. Captain Danielsen's Wife's starters, Whaler Syvertsen's fish dishes and Village Owner Salamonsen's meat dishes bring to mind the old kitchens of sea captains and 'kings of the headland'. Kitchens like these produced food using ingredients from the sea and the fields around the house; they might also have had a kitchen garden for extra herbs. However, these local dishes took their inspiration from the cuisines of the world, because the fishing trade provided contacts from far beyond the borders of Norway. The menu at Restaurant Kjøkkenet is both local and international, the way the food of Northern Norway should be.
www.nordnorge.com and a companion visited Restaurant Kjøkkenet one bright spring evening, with the aim of tasting as much as possible from the comprehensive menu. Between us, we chose langoustines with pesto, bruschetta and tomato salad, and scallops with creamed Jerusalem artichokes and crispy black salsify, and made sure we sampled each others' dishes. The scallops were perfectly cooked, with a delightful consistency, and the Jerusalem artichoke purée added taste without overwhelming the other flavours. The black salsify added a delicious, crispy edge to the dish. The langoustines had an air of the Mediterranean with the pesto, bruschetta and tomato salad, but were caught locally. However, neither the langoustines nor the scallops could be regarded as traditional local food, because Lofoten had so much fish that it did not consider shellfish a source of food. So both of these starters would have been unusual in a kitchen from yesteryear.
Hearty main courses
The main courses, on the other hand, are of the good, old-fashioned kind. www.nordnorge.com chose cod tongues, which came pan-fried and served with potatoes and a raw vegetable salad, with a dash of excellent mayonnaise sauce. The tongues were delightfully soft and melting in their crispy shells. Our companion chose stockfish gratin, an extra special version of the good old fish gratin that coastal folk still enjoy as an ordinary weekday dish. Sprinkled with salt and smoky bacon, it had a beautiful creamy consistency; an old favourite revisited with a little something extra.
The desserts were of the hearty variety; www.nordnorge.com chose cloudberry soup with Røros sour cream and cinnamon, while our companion went for the comfort food of apple pie with vanilla sauce. Both desserts could have been served with Sunday dinner in one of the more prosperous homes of Northern Norway a hundred years ago. Norway's famous 19th-century cookbook writer, Hanna Winsnes, would have been proud.
www.nordnorge.com came on a bright spring evening, with the low sun shining through the windowpanes. In winter, when the Vestfjord is full of spawning cod, one of the favourite dishes is fresh, oven-baked cod. Early summer is the time for fresh whale meat, served grilled as a main course or cured as a starter. You can also enjoy boknafisk, semi-dried cod, in summer. The atmosphere varies too, from the light, sunny evenings of summer with the cry of gulls audible through the open windows, to black winter nights with a roaring fire and the glow of candles. Every time you come here you will have a different experience, and it makes you want to come back for more. Oozing atmosphere, with a humorous and friendly service, Restaurant Kjøkkenet is open all year round.
Eating at Restaurant Kjøkkenet
Kjøkkenet is the restaurant at the Anker Brygge tourist attraction on Lamholmen, a tiny island in the middle of Svolvær's harbour basin. It also has rorbu fishermen's cabins (of the modern, comfortable variety). And right next door is Bryggebaren, a bar that is a great favourite with the locals.