SHARE
COPY LINK

TRAVEL

Europe’s first underwater restaurant opens in Norway

For the chef and diners alike, each meal beneath the waves at Europe's first underwater restaurant is a thing of wonder.

Europe's first underwater restaurant opens in Norway
Photo: Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP

“We have this small window next to the kitchen and every time some special kind of fish comes by, I always start thinking about how it would taste,” says chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard.

The aptly named new restaurant Under opened a few weeks ago in Lindesnes on Norway's southern tip.

It serves up Poseidon's delicacies in an architectural showpiece that stretches down five metres underwater, offering a unique closeup of ocean life.

From the outside, the giant concrete monolith juts out from the craggy shoreline, while its other end tips down into the North Sea.

Customers enter the restaurant onshore through a wood-panelled passage and descend down a long, oak staircase into a dimly lit dining room. Here, a gigantic plexiglass underwater window takes centre stage.

The 36-square-metre window — “like a sunken periscope” in the words of its designers — offers a panoramic view of the ever changing live aquatic show.


Photo: Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP

In Norwegian “'Under' means it's under, like submerged, underwater, and it also means a sense of wonder,” says Stig Ubostad, who co-owns the eatery with his brother, Gaute.

“It is without doubt the largest one in the world and the only one in Europe.”

There are no clown fish or sharks, like at other underwater restaurants in more tropical locations such as the Maldives or Dubai.

Rather, it is in this simple, but no less spectacular forest of kelp that cod, pollock and wrasse swim past depending on the season, with occasional visits from their predators, seals and the large seaducks, eider.

“It's an area on the southern tip where the brackish water from the east meets the salty water from the Atlantic, so the richness of the species is very high,” says Trond Rafoss, a marine biologist involved in the project.

In addition to its distinctive architecture and fine dining, Under wants to shine a spotlight on environmental issues.

The international waiting staff are trained to provide guests with information about the aquatic show they are watching.

“The guests are on an adventure. They are exploring the nature themselves, because this is not an aquarium.

“The fish might look at us as an aquarium because what's happening outside here is under natural control,” Rafoss says.

“You will never be disappointed, nature is never disappointing.”

The restaurant is a 34-metre monolith designed by Norwegian firm Snohetta, known for its celebrated buildings such as the Oslo Opera and the 9/11 Memorial Pavilion in New York.


Photo: Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP

It can serve up to 40 diners during its one sitting a day, five nights a week.

In the kitchen, Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard and his staff let their imaginations run wild when creating seasonal menus based primarily on what the sea has to offer, including a dessert composed of five different types of algae collected from a nearby shore.

“We try to use things that are in the area, and also use things that nobody else is really using,” Ellitsgaard says.

The restaurant however is probably not for everyone's budget.

The tasting menu, consisting of 16 to 18 dishes, costs 2,250 kroner (230 euros) per person — and double that when wine is included.

Under is nonetheless fully booked for the next six months.

“The wonder is when you come here from the surface and you get into this magnificent light,” says Dag Jacobsen, a 59-year-old professor, who dined there with his wife and another couple.

“You see this kind of underwater light… The greenish, bluish water and all the interior here is also quite tuned to the sea as well, so you get a feeling of just diving into the sea.”

For those who might worry about a catastrophe befalling the underwater structure, the owner says they can rest assured.

The 26-centimetre-thick plexiglass window is designed to withstand storms, and the entire structure, with its thick concrete walls, is built to resist pressure and shocks from the rugged sea conditions.

“We've been through so many consultants I think it's safer than anything else,” says Ubostad. 

READ ALSO: Recently opened: Misfornøyelsesbar, Oslo's worst bar – ever

TRAVEL

IN IMAGES: Spain’s ‘scrap cathedral’ lives on after creator’s death

For over 60 years, former monk Justo Gallego almost single-handedly built a cathedral out of scrap materials on the outskirts of Madrid. Here is a picture-based ode to his remarkable labour of love.

IN IMAGES: Spain's 'scrap cathedral' lives on after creator's death
File photo taken on August 3, 1999 shows Justo Gallego Martinez, then 73, posing in front of his cathedral. Photo: ERIC CABANIS / AFP

The 96-year-old died over the weekend, but left the unfinished complex in Mejorada del Campo to a charity run by a priest that has vowed to complete his labour of love.

Gallego began the project in 1961 when he was in his mid-30s on land inherited from his family after a bout of tuberculosis forced him to leave an order of Trappist monks.

Today, the “Cathedral of Justo” features a crypt, two cloisters and 12 towers spread over 4,700 square metres (50,600 square feet), although the central dome still does not have a cover.

He used bricks, wood and other material scavenged from old building sites, as well as through donations that began to arrive once the project became better known.

A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The building’s pillars are made from stacked oil drums while windows have been cobbled and glued together from shards of coloured glass.

“Recycling is fashionable now, but he used it 60 years ago when nobody talked about it,” said Juan Carlos Arroyo, an engineer and architect with engineering firm Calter.

Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid.
Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid. Photo: (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

The charity that is taking over the project, “Messengers of Peace”, hired the firm to assess the structural soundness of the building, which lacks a permit.

No blueprint

“The structure has withstood significant weather events throughout its construction,” Arroyo told AFP, predicting it will only need some “small surgical interventions”.

Renowned British architect Norman Foster visited the site in 2009 — when he came to Spain to collect a prize — telling Gallego that he should be the one getting the award, Arroyo added.

Religious murals on a walls of Justo's cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Religious murals on a walls of Justo’s cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The sturdiness of the project is surprising given that Gallego had no formal training as a builder, and he worked without a blueprint.

In interviews, he repeatedly said that the details for the cathedral were “in his head” and “it all comes from above”.

Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The complex stands in a street called Avenida Antoni Gaudi, named after the architect behind Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia basilica which has been under construction since 1883.

But unlike the Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral of Justo Gallego as it is known is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as a place of worship.

Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral's completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral’s completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

‘Worth visiting’

Father Angel Garcia Rodriguez, the maverick priest who heads Messengers of Peace, wants to turn Gallego’s building into an inclusive space for all faiths and one that is used to help the poor.

“There are already too many cathedrals and too many churches, that sometimes lack people,” he said.

“It will not be a typical cathedral, but a social centre where people can come to pray or if they are facing difficulties,” he added.

A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

Father Angel is famous in Spain for running a restaurant offering meals to the homeless and for running a church in central Madrid where pets are welcome and the faithful can confess via iPad.

Inside the Cathedral of Justo, volunteers continued working on the structure while a steady stream of visitors walked around the grounds admiring the building in the nondescript suburb.

“If the means are put in, especially materials and money, to finish it, then it will be a very beautiful place of worship,” said Ramon Calvo, 74, who was visiting the grounds with friends.

FIND OUT MORE: How to get to Justo’s Cathedral and more amazing images

SHOW COMMENTS