ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!
ʼʼ

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Whale of a time

I wasn't expecting much.

Supercheap Ryanair flights, a swift one-night break somewhere in Norway, and another boring country ticked off the list. Job done.

But life can surprise you. What I actually experienced this week was a peaceful, pleasant stay in delightful little town and one of the very best seafood restaurants I have ever visited. I've been banging on about it for the last few days since we came back.

If you like your fish you have to go there. You just have to.


Welcome to Sandefjord

It all happened by accident, mainly due to airports having shit-stupid names.

If you thought 'London Luton' was an aeronautic anachronism, 'Oslo' Torp Airport is almost 70 miles from Oslo, which is, frankly, ridiculous!

Given only one night, we thought 'fuck Oslo then' and looked for somewhere to stay just a few miles from the airport, and this, by happy happenstance, is how we came to discover lovely Sandefjord, and its excellent Kokeriet restaurant.

Sandefjord itself is a quiet, prosperous town, birthplace of former Man Utd defender Ronny Johnsen and sometime home of eccentric guitarist Seasick Steve. If it's not twinned with somewhere like Lymington it bloody well should be.

It has a rich history of whaling and is one of the most politically Conservative towns in Norway, which is a combination controversial enough to keep my enemies at bay.

We ate the whale, of course, served gloriously purple-rare, with a peppercorn sauce strong enough to stand up to the spicy flesh and the traditional accompaniment of lingonberries.

I'd already been won over by the first course. Tiger prawns, sizzling hot, in chilli and garlic oil. Simple but awesome, and, like the whale steak, cooked to perfection.

The delicate trout starter was also very good, barely cooked and almost sashimi-style, with a zingy vinaigrette, white beetroot and pea puree. It looked pretty on the plate too.

I'm not normally a plaice fan, largely based on bad experiences involving inappropriate batter, but the pan-fried plaice here was gorgeous, with a crispy skin that peeled easily off the bone to reveal light, soft flesh.

Cooked simply with lemon and butter, it came with an impressive array of sides: Moscatel beurre blanc - rich and gorgeous, simple fried potato balls, nicely al dente cauliflower, and a surprisingly wonderful spinach and bacon.

God only knows who their bacon supplier is, but this had such a depth of unctuous, salty flavour, yet allowed the wilted spinach to stand as tall as wilted spinach can stand.

Again, it was awesome.

Desserts here are excellent too. Think gooey chocolate fondant. Delightful splodges of fruitiness. An orange semifreddo exploding with citrusy flavours...

It's rare that I eat a restaurant meal without criticism, but this might just be one of those places where this is the case. Even the things I don't really like - pea puree for instance - were executed to perfection.

The evening menu is admirably concise and admittedly there isn't a lot on it for you if you don't like fish (or whale). Service is attentive but unobtrusive, which is exactly how it should be.

At £50-75 a head, it's not particularly cheap, but this is one of the most affluent towns in the most expensive country on the planet. You pay 10 quid for industrial beer in this part of the world, so, given the quality of the food I considered it surprisingly good value. You'd probably pay similar prices in a shit restaurant here; maybe that's just the way it is in Norway.

So, basically, go to Sandefjord and eat at Kokeriet. Do it. Do it. Do it.

Go for more than one night though. I wish I had.

1 comment:

  1. HELLO DEAR

    I AM PRINCE OBOBO AND GOD SMILES UPON YOU.

    MY FATHER IS AN EMINENT FINANCIAL EXPERT AND HE IS TRAPPED IN MOGADISHU WHICH SUFFERS THE GRAVEST OF WARS. WE SEEK A KIND MAN TO LEAVE MONEY FOR US TO RETURN TO OUR NATIVE LANDS. I ASK FOR YOUR KINDEST OF REGARDS. HOPE YOU CAN HELP, DEAR.

    ReplyDelete

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