By Molly Harris, 10th August 2023 In the restaurant he runs, Arctic Circle restaurant, chef Halvar Ellingsen has made it his mission to challenge the perceptions of Norwegian cuisine, one guest at a time. A

In my dock, I was taking off my gloves and thermals,, which had kept me dry and warm on the journey by boat through fjords and waves to Kvitnes Gard, a remote farmstead located in northern Norway amid the fjords that make up the Artic Circle. The frigid wind cut off the day’s sense ofof wonder while I walked my luggage through pennies of goats, rabbits, and green fields of wistful leaves. However, as soon as I entered the storied ancestral residence for chef Halvar Ellingsen – now an elegant restaurant and guesthouse- I knew my experience would be memorable.

Formerly, he was a chef at Oslo’s Michelin-starred restaurant Bagatelle and Ylajali (both now closed) and is the youngest chef ever named. Norway’s top chef, Ellingsen, returned home in 2015 to set his new standards on cultivating and harvesting, as well as refining the lands harvested from the northern regions of Norway. With refined skills and the latest techniques, his fine-dining restaurant, which debuted in the year 2020, has become an opportunity to express memories of the family while telling the history of Norwegian food through a contemplative menu of 23 dishes that change by the seasons. The restaurant’s popularity has led guests to wait up to six months to reserve an appointment and try the latest local dishes that reflect how the rural people of northern Norway were able to eat and live. 


Despite Kvitnes Gard’s fame in Norway, the vibe was casual and relaxed as I entered the hotel. Many shoes filled the foyer while black and white family portraits dotted the living area’s walls. Ellingsen gave me an 18th-century key to my room, in which I relaxed for a couple of minutes before joining the rest of the guests back in the windy afternoon for an in-depth look around the gardens.

The garden at KvitnesGard is only a few steps from the farm’s entrance. (Credit Eivind Natvig)

Catherine Thoresen, part owner and manager of Kvtines Gard, hiked to a pen full of hungry goats. She then gave out bottles to get assistance in feeding the children. In the cell next to the giant, glossy rabbits ran at us while we walked around the gardens. Ellingsen explained every row of plants that ranged from pineapple weed to cloudberries. In the beds beyond, roosters and hens pecked in the greenhouse, as well as the barn of the pig. The chef told us that certain vegetables and herbs should be produced in the greenhouse to avoid imports due to the Arctic Circle’s frigid temperatures.

Near the back of the farm, the kitchen apprentice Erlend Kittang put wood in the stone oven to cook salmon for dinner. After returning home, he sipped hot tea made from indigenous herbs. Ellingsen stated that the food culture has been largely misunderstood. Many people, he claimed, believe that Norwegian food is only a matter of basic methods such as boiling and curing, which results in reasonably bland, hardy foods like jellied eel or dried fish. However, there are so many more Norwegian ingredients, and Ellingsen has set out to alter the perceptions about Norwegian food, one guest at a time.

Ellingsen’s enthusiasm for Norwegian tradition and the local ingredients is evident in each food item (Credit: Eivind Natvig)

For Ellingsen to enjoy Norwegian food is as much about observing the scenery and tastes. Looking out the window towards the fjord Hellfjorden, the chef thought, “I was just outside there, in my father’s boat, and the midnight sun’s light was shining. We were eating freshly caught cod and potatoes with flatbread and butter. That’s a really traditional food for the area because we had those ingredients.”

Ellingsen stated the fact that Norwegian food was – and remains delicious. However, the long, cold winters in the north of the Arctic Circle meant limited fresh products, and until the discovery of Norwegian oil in 1971, the country needed to improve. Like the simple meals, Ellingsen shared with his father, the northern cuisine was limited to readily available ingredients.

Halvar Ellingsen presents wood-smoked halibut at the table (Credit: Molly Harris)

“Here [in Norway], people are more aware of what they’re eating,” Ellingsen explained. “If people [at Kvitnes Gard] are thinking more about what they are eating when they get home… that’s when we’re getting somewhere,” Ellingsen said. “So, that’s what I’m doing by helping people get to know northern Norway.”