Head Chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard’s vision for a sustainable restaurant came alive with the vibrant ecosystem beyond the iconic panoramic window.
The salty air of the North Sea mixes with thick gray clouds settling into the background, a common scene for the cold coastal landscape. At the southernmost tip of Norway, Europe’s first, and the world’s largest, underwater restaurant welcomed guests on March 20, 2019. Under is the nexus of environmental design, marine research, and delicately artful food presentations.
Reminiscent of a half-submerged whale, the nearly 111-foot monolithic structure is situated about 16 feet below the surface. The main attraction, a 36-foot-wide floor-to-ceiling window, invites guests to a rare viewing of marine life of the North Atlantic Ocean. Under was designed by Snøhetta, a Norwegian architecture firm, notable for the redesign of Times Square.
“Dinner is served in one of the most spectacular edifices that [has] ever been created for a restaurant,” customer Andreas from Denmark wrote. “It [is] a bit like a concrete bunker that has been dropped in the ocean and tilted so that one end sticks out.”
The environment was heavily considered in Under‘s design. The restaurant’s exterior will eventually integrate into the ecosystem as an “artificial reef, welcoming limpets and kelp to inhabit it,” per the restaurant’s website. Location was a major factor as well. Guests can watch clashing currents on the ocean floor, as Lindesnes, Norway is famous for its moody weather and intercepts the Gulf Stream.
The icy waters crash onto the dark rocks and then retreat as guests file indoors. The first floor is composed entirely of oak with a foyer and cloakroom. A walk down to the second floor, housing a champagne bar, will put guests in a water-and-land limbo. Guests then continue to the final floor where the iconic panoramic view is seen by no more then 40 guests.
Head Chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard says, “Fresh ingredients and pure, naked flavors are of utmost importance to us. At the same time, we want to provide a unique dining experience that ushers our guests beyond their comfort zone.” True to its structure, Under left conventional dinner expectations at the water’s surface. A total of 17 courses are served, small enough to give guests a taste but frequent enough to keep them full. It’s similar to its predecessor, the underwater restaurant in the Maldives, one of the 10 weirdest restaurants around the world.
“This is a restaurant that does not so much serve food as it makes culinary works of art. Every single serving in the [17-]course tasting menu is a carefully crafted work of art in two ways: it is both a tiny sculpture made from sand, stone, shells, seaweed, and occasionally water as well as a culinary work of art,” Andreas wrote. Include Under on your bucket list, along with these 18 one-of-a-kind adventures.
A core part of the restaurant’s vision is sustainability. Almost all of the dishes are from unused, or otherwise wasted, parts of local marine life, for instance, the throat meat of a lingcod fish or locally foraged beach greens, wrote customer Elizabeth from Seattle. The menu rotates with the seasons, as its dishes are tied to the available flora and fauna that can be seen from the window. Ellitsgaard says that “the local area is known for its bountiful varieties of wild mushrooms and succulent berries” as well.
The day it opened, the restaurant had over 7,000 reservations, and it’s known for months of waiting time. You can book here. Although the wait is long, those months give you time to save for the steep price—a meal with drinks is about 430 dollars. If that, not to mention the trip to Norway, is a little pricey for you, dine in style stateside with 2018’s best-rated restaurants for everyday dining in America.