You can do pretty much anything you like in Europe. Ski, surf, sandboard, explore Roman ruins, climb volcanoes, admire fine art in the company of cats, sleep in a castle, and spot bears, wolves, whales and dolphins. Now you can also eat in an underwater restaurant.
The continent’s first submerged dining space, named Under, has just opened in the village of Båly, close to Lindesnes on Norway’s south coast.
Designed by Snøhetta, the architecture firm behind Oslo Opera House and the National September 11 Museum in New York, it has room for 40 guests and features a huge observation window offering briny views of the North Atlantic.
For the next week or so only friends and family of the owners will be able to visit; the first paying customers will be welcomed in April. Nabbing a table isn’t easy, however. Around 7,000 people have already booked and according to its website there is no availability until the evening of September 12.
Those who manage to get a slot will be rewarded with a marathon 18-course tasting menu devised by Nicolai Ellitsgaard, formerly of the restaurant Måltid in Kristiansand. Fish will feature heavily, of course, as will the local breed of wild sheep, and, apparently, seabirds. Expect foraged accompaniments like sea kale, wild mushrooms and berries – this is Scandinavian fine dining, after all. “Fresh ingredients and pure, naked flavours,” says Ellitsgaard. The cost? A shade over £200 a head – or £330 if you want the wine pairing.
The building is the big draw, however. From the outside it looks like a concrete container that’s been casually tossed into the shallows. The interior could not be more Scandi – minimalist and wooden – and features three levels: an entrance and cloakroom, a champagne bar, and the main restaurant.
When it’s not serving up gravlax and akevitt to awe-struck diners, Under will act as a marine research centre.
“Under has been designed with sensitive consideration for its geographic context and aquatic neighbours,” says Snøhetta. “In time, the structure will become a part of its marine environment, as the roughness of the concrete shell will work as an artificial reef, welcoming limpets and kelp to inhabit it. With the thick concrete walls lying against the craggy shoreline, the structure is built to withstand pressure and shock from the rugged sea conditions. Like a sunken periscope, the restaurant’s massive acrylic windows offer a view of the seabed as it changes throughout the seasons and varying weather conditions.”
After the opening of such an amibitious building it is often instructive to compare the photos of the finished project with the CGIs. Here is what Snøhetta hoped the restaurant would look like:
Getting to Båly can be tricky. Britons will need to fly to Kristiansand (not to be confused with Kristiansund), which involves a change in Oslo unless you opt for Widerøe’s non-stop service from Stansted. From there it’s a one-hour taxi.
If you can’t wait until September for an underwater dining experience, there are other options.
The Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, at Conrad Rangali Island in the Maldives, opened in 2004.
The archipelago is also home to 5.8 Undersea, a submerged restaurant at the Hurawalhi Island Resort.
Subsix at the Per Aquum Niyama Resort is yet another option.
Or else try Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara, in Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, which has a vast floor-to-ceiling aquarium. Which is almost the same.