REVIEW: A'L'aise, Oslo
Judy Cogan heads to the Norwegian capital for a dose of French cuisine borne of Nordic ingredients
With its pristine white table cloths and Michelin-starred status as standard, fancy French fine dining hasn’t exactly been a huge hit in Oslo over the years. Eating out is expensive enough in the city before anyone orders caviar, Champagne and sky-high soufflés to the table.
Ignoring the local zeitgeist, French restaurant À L’aise arrived on the scene, located in Oslo’s affluent Majorstuen neighbourhood just between Vigeland Sculpture Park and the Colosseum Kino cinema. If any one can make a stuffy concept hot in Norway’s capital city it’s Danish Michelin-starred chef and co-owner Ulrik Jepsen.
Having led the kitchen at dreamy riverside spot Waterside Inn in the UK, plus won stars for Kokkeriet and Søllerød Kro restaurants in Denmark, Ulrik moved his family to Norway.
It’s here he set about transforming A'L'aise into a restaurant that only uses fresh Norwegian produce as ingredients in his kitchen to create delicate French-inspired dishes with innovative tweaks. He steered clear of the usual gastronomic cliches (no heavy onion soup here) and invented an impressive 10 course tasting menu that strikes a perfect balance.
Highlights include the Beef tartar served with lumpfish roe from Skagen and quail egg-winter radish; scallops from Frøya in west Norway; Valdres Pork and caviar with Rossini Gold caviar-pork jus and the butter-soft beef en croute with green asparagus from Provence with foraged Morrel sauce. And so many surprises in between. The 100-year-old sea urchin stole the show.
It’s always a good sign when a meal starts with a Champagne trolley stacked with eight bottles of French fizz including a Selosse-Pajon Liberty rose, a Pol-Roger and our favourite Besserat de Bellefon. Meanwhile the carefully considered wine pairings are mainly of French origin (the 2001 Chateau Citran was particularly memorable) with a couple from further afield such as a delicious Greywacke wild sauvignon from New Zealand. Alongside the tasting menu, the French classic canard à la presse can also be ordered, but in advance.
Here the white table cloths are in place as is the Michelin-star but what makes this restaurant work is its unfussy, friendly staff who hold an encyclopaedic knowledge of both French cuisine and Norwegian produce and will happily share that with you as the top up your wine glass.
Keeping one foot in France and one in Norway Ulrik has hit culinary gold.