Something caught my eye as Thomas drove into Stonglandseidet on Friday. On the front of an unassuming building, a sign: Senja Roasters. It seemed an unusual name for somewhere so far out into the countryside. Cafe culture hasn’t reached rural Norway to the same extent it has reached the UK. I have driven round the northern end of Senja before and thought that a coffee shop would have turned a pleasant drive into a proper day out. And so I tucked away the information in my head to check out later. It was more a stir of curiosity than a white hot hope.
I checked it out when I got home and my interest grew. Senja Roasters, I discovered was indeed a café with, as I had hoped, a special interest in coffee. Not only that, it had a real foodie vibe. Local Arctic ingredients – tick! Complementary use of imported food – tick! Vegetarian? Vegan? Yes to both. There it was, a truly international eating experience, tucked away on an island in a remote part of Norway.
The menu sounded great. The brunches or Frunches (the Norwegian word for breakfast being frokost) included the delicious sounding Challah Toast – “French toast made out of challah bread or brioche, brunost and mascarpone whipped cream, honey, roasted pears, pumpkin seeds and almonds.” and Banger Fritters – “Beetroot and ginger, smoked carrots, and crispy tofu.“
The dinner menu sounded good too. Butternut soup with fried butternut and crispy cabbage, poached halibut with cherry tomatoes, sugar buttons and saffron sauce, homemade rhubarb crumble.
And so this morning, I asked John if he would like to come out on an exploratory mission with me. Good as the café sounded, there was a chance it wouldn’t live up to expectations. I also wondered about price. The website didn’t say and it seemed liked the kind of upmarket place that would charge upmarket prices in a city in the UK. How expensive would the same experience be out on Senja?
It was a fair drive from home, so by the time we arrived, it was definitely approaching lunchtime. First impressions were good. Though it was empty, the surroundings were very pleasant: a mixture of clean blue walls and rustic wood that fitted well with the menu.
We had intended to drink coffee, check out the prices, and come back another day. We ordered coffees – a cappuccino for John and a latte for me. The waitress (I think she was Daniela, though I forgot to ask) brought our coffees very promptly. I explained we probably wouldn’t be eating today, but would like to see the menu. She brought them – printed on ordinary A4 paper – another good sign. A pre-printed menu doesn’t always indicate poor food, but if the chef is using local ingredients, which can vary from day to day, it’s much more likely the menu will vary as well.
To my pleasure, the prices didn’t seem any higher than they would have been in London. For Norway, they were normal. The coffee was wonderful too: well rounded and smooth, with no trace of bitterness. Within a couple of seconds, all my careful plans were abandoned. I asked John whether he would like to share the cheese platter, and he agreed he would.
The website had listed the team behind Senja Roasters as being from Spain, Finland, Germany, Russia, Australia and France, so I was hoping for a truly international selection and I was not disappointed. There was Manchego Ezequiel, imported directly from Spain, Chevre goats cheese, Norwegian Brie from Dovre Ysteri and Gorgonzola pikante defendi.
It was accompanied by homemade blueberry and onion jam and quince marmalade. There were warm, crusty bread rolls, salt biscuits and Norwegian flatbreads. It was a wonderful combination.
I asked Daniela a little about how long Roasters had been open. To my amazement, she told me that it had only opened last week. Like us, the team had felt that Senja was rather short on coffee shops, and rather than regretting, as I had done, they had decided to do something about it. Amazing to think that if Thomas and I had passed by only a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have made such a wonderful discovery.
As it is, we will definitely be going back. Today’s menu sounded delicious, and Daniela said it would continue until the end of this week. After that, there will be summer menus. I hope that the tourists, who flock to Senja in the summer, will discover Roasters. It is definitely worth a visit.