In 1842, the forebears of the current owners settled at Tinja. Originally migrant reindeer-herding Sami who spent the winter in the Northern Swedish mountains, they moved in summer to the Norwegian coast of Ofoten and South Troms. As it became increasingly difficult for reindeer-herding to support their growing numbers, the family settled in this remote elevated spot, cleared land and built a farm. The farmhouse was lived in until 1957. The name comes from «pujnn tijnn» in Sami (“high under the peak”) which was simplified to Tinja. The family spoke the Sami language up until the most recent generation.
Back to his roots
Tinja’s chef, Vegard Stormo, who has worked in restaurants in Narvik, Tromsø and Stavanger, was keen to start his own hospitality business based on his family roots in the mountains. Joining forces with his parents and one brother, he started up in 2007 in a brand new building. His philosophy is to concentrate on clear, simple flavours that complement and enhance the raw ingredients.
Sorrel, birch shoots, nettles and fern shoots are little used foods but can be foraged in great quantities in the area around the former farm. Reindeer moss is deep-fried to produce a light and deliciously crisp delicacy. Whole-year outdoor-reared lamb from Gratangen, Arctic char from Vesterålen, ptarmigan from the mountains round the farm, and char from the local lakes; Tinja’s chefs use only the very best local ingredients. The supply naturally varies with the seasons. There is a wide selection of game in the autumn, but also cloudberries and wild mushrooms. Summer is the season for the delicate flavour of freshly caught saithe, fresh wild boar meat arrives from Skjomen, and a light, refreshing dessert of rhubarb and strawberries rounds off the meal.
Take what you’re given!
There is no menu and no wine list at Tinja. Based on the fresh ingredients available, the chef creates a menu of three to ten tasting dishes, according to what guests want. But there are always more dishes than that, for the chefs can’t resist serving a slice of Salma salmon as sashimi or a granité of birch shoots. Maybe a tad unfamiliar for some, but guests soon learn to lean back, forget the agony of choice and allow themselves to be delightfully surprised.
A cool summer menu
When www.nordnorge.com walked in ravenous through the door of Tinja Mountain Lodge one cool, silver-grey June evening, we were welcomed by the warm light of tallow candles, while flowering wild blueberry on the table reminded us of summer. For a starter we had a perfectly cooked piece of Arctic char from Vesterålen in a creamed parsnip and cauliflower soup flavoured with wild garlic oil and dried reindeer heart. The main course was a wonderfully tender fillet of reindeer with potato and pear rösti, tomato confit, wild mushroom emulsion, sage and red wine glacé and red rhubarb salad. Dessert was strawberry and rhubarb sorbet, white chocolate mousse and Italian meringue. The entire meal was a symphony of harmonious flavours and fine raw ingredients, in complete harmony with the magnificent views of the mountains through the big glass windows.
Fun and games
With so many satisfied guests returning time and time again to Tinja, the chefs need to develop their talents constantly. One way of doing that is to introduce a playful note. Granité of herbs once turned out to be “gran i te” (a Norwegian play on words meaning “spruce in tea”)! Egg and bacon turned up as a dessert, and was both delicious and sweet. At Tinja they make their own spirits flavoured with yarrow, and the next project is the farm’s own homebrewed beer. A little playfulness can have excellent results when one is experienced.
Tinja is surrounded by a landscape of low mountain birch woods, lakes and mountain peaks. Odd Stormo, Vegard’s father and Tinja’s general manager, takes a look at the weather and the conditions underfoot; are the peaks visible or swathed in mist? Is it good and dry, or are the tracks full of water? He also has a look at the guests, especially the kind of footwear and outdoor clothing they have with them. Having taken everything into consideration, he draws a suitable route map in consultation with the guests, who can if they wish take a mountain guide along. In winter, during the polar night when it is dark for 24 hours a day, it is possible to go for a long walk, and build a fire and brew coffee beneath the stars. Maybe the Northern Lights will appear? Stories about the history and legends of the area are also popular.
Room in the attic
There are a few guestrooms in the attic. They look just like rooms in a country attic should: neat, white-painted wooden furniture, walls in blue, green or yellow, and a simple picture hanging on the wall. This is neither nostalgia, shabby chic nor minimalism. It’s quite simply inviting, simple and unpretentious, perfect for a bit of peace and relaxation.
Visit Tinja Mountain Lodge
You can come to Tinja for a meal, for a meal and a mountain hike, or for a relaxing 24 hours in one of the charming attic guestrooms. Call in advance and book a table, the number of dishes you’d like to eat, a mountain hike and perhaps a room for the night. Tinja is also a great venue for weddings, meetings, courses and the like. Just make sure you allow enough time for two things: the dinner and the mountain hike. That’s why you should visit Tinja Mountain Lodge. You’ll find all the details on the website at www.tinja.no, while at www.destinasjonnarvik.no you can find out about everything else in the Narvik area.