We spent several days in a remote cabin outside of Hønefoss, right beside lake Øyangen. Here, we went back to basics: spending time without electricity and running water. The smell of bonfires lingered throughout the cabin. It was quiet, it was peaceful and it was a boys trip. Cross country running, canoeing and unsuccessful attempts at fishing. Idyllic.
Before long it was time to head back to real life and we found ourselves in the grand city of Oslo for 48 hours. It was beautifully clean and elegant; much like I imagined it to be.
Highlights of Oslo
Best For: Premium Coffee
How can I describe this café? Well, Tim Wendelboe is the café of all cafés for full-time coffee geeks. Packed into a small space in Grünersgate, its primary function is a roastery with coffee carefully sourced to ensure premium quality and innovation. It’s no surprise then, that this café is run by Mr Tim Wendelboe himself, highly regarded in the coffee scene and the winner of several World Barista Championships over the years.
We tried beautiful pour-overs from Columbia and Kenya, all distinct in flavours but what really stood out for me was the quality of the two espressos. Both totally unique in flavour (they couldn’t have tasted more different). I’ve never had espressos like either of them. One beautifully bold and creamy; the other fragrant and fruity. If you thought an espresso was sharp and bitter, think again!
There are only a handful of seats and not a pastry in sight but this café is about more than just coffee. It’s about a man’s passion for the intricate details of the entire process from coffee farming to roasting and everything in between. This is a space where the absolute best is extracted from each bean and that in itself, is worth a visit. There is nothing greater than seeing what is built on sheer passion and commitment.
I asked Tim if he would consider opening another café. His reply: “No.” I think it’s remarkable that his emphasis on sheer quality and his love for extracting new flavours is enough to prevent him opening café after café. He explained that more cafés would lead to too much worrying about how the stores are being managed and he isn’t sure there would be enough time to work on the coffee itself. One thing is certain: this space made me really, really excited about the future of coffee!
The Thief and the Astrup Fearnley Museum
Best for: Luxury stay with Spa facilities
The Thief opened in 2013 and instantly became Norway’s first and only design hotel. As you can imagine, I was pretty excited about our stay in Oslo and needless to say, this hotel exceeded all my expectations. Located by the waterfront known as Tjuvholmen (Thief Islet), the whole area has been built up as part of a huge renovation and urban renewal of the harbour. This area optimises everything I perceived Scandinavia to be. It is spacious, clean and modern. Both throughout the week and particularly at weekends, the harbour is busy with people flocking to the new restaurants and bars with harbour views which creates a really great atmosphere and buzz. I don’t think there could be a more perfect location to stay, just a 10-15 minute walk to the city centre where you can catch a train to the airport without any hassle.
There are 116 different rooms and suites at The Thief, all with their own unique features but it was the Andy Warhol picture found in the restaurant that caught my eye. It’s no wonder then that across the bridge you’ll find the Astrup Fearnley Museum (with free entry for guests) currently featuring an incredible collection entitled, ‘The World Is Made of Stories’ . Perhaps it’s this emphasis on creativity that draws the likes of Adele, Justin Bieber and Rhianna to stay at The Thief. I didn’t bump into them but I did keep an eye out… just in case!
Our room was beautiful, with a balcony overlooking the harbour. We even found a couple of hours to check out The Thief’s famous spa (you can’t go to Scandinavia without experiencing a Finnish Sauna, right?) after eating lunch at their rooftop foodbar. The food was beautifully cooked, all local and organic at a very respectable price which was really nice to see (particularly in Oslo). The menu was pretty european and being in Norway we of course had fresh fish.
W S Samson Bakery
Best for: Skolebrod Norwegian Cardamom
W S Samson was a total accident but a very, very happy one. We were looking for something to eat and stumbled across this café because I spotted a La Marzocco in the window (surprisingly common in Oslo – they even have them in most of the airport’s cafés). W S Samson is a Scandinavian bakery ‘chain’ that’s actually still run by the 5th generation of ‘Samsons’ which I think is pretty impressive. This place had the most amazing pastries, including the traditional Skolebrod Norwegian Cardamom which are essentially a dreamy bun with custard and coconut. Added to which the service was super friendly and accommodating, I found the entire bakery-style café experience to be a very positive one. If you are off exploring Oslo and in need of a break, you should be able to duck into a nearby W S Samson and if you do, you won’t be disappointed.