The award-winning, Oslo-based architecture firm Snøhetta has officially unveiled Under, a semi-submerged restaurant that leans against Norway’s craggy coast.
While the ambitious project isn’t the world’s first undersea eatery (the Conrad Maldives Rangali resort’s underwater Ithaa restaurant with underwater hotel rooms took that title when it opened more than a decade ago), it is the world’s largest underwater restaurant—not to mention the first establishment of its kind in Europe.
Snøhetta designed the 111-foot structure to integrate into its marine environment on the coastal tip of Lindesnes, Norway’s southernmost region. Its thick concrete walls—the outside of which were left intentionally coarse to serve as an artificial reef for mussels—were built to endure southern Norway’s famously dramatic weather conditions.
The restaurant’s decor, no surprise, also pushes the open ocean theme in a big way. From the ground-level entrance, the building guides guests to a champagne bar, where coastal-colored furnishings call to mind sand and seashells, and a slender vertical window reveals the external environment’s gradual transition from tide pool to sea. As guests make their way downstairs, oak- and textile-clad ceiling panels reference the natural hues of a sunset above the ocean, which Snøhetta designers intended as a “metaphor for the journey of descending from land to sea.”
From there, the spacious underwater dining room (which can seat up to 40 guests per night) rests 16 feet below the North Sea’s surface. Decorated with dark blues and greens, the dining room features a ginormous window that spans the length of the restaurant. Like a giant dive mask, the 36-by-11-foot acrylic panel gives diners a panoramic view of the sandy seabed and its inhabitants, which include a variety of fish species and sometimes even seals.
Under also promises a seafood-centric menu worthy of the restaurant’s view. Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen, formerly of the acclaimed Restaurant Måltid, makes generous use of local produce—some of it foraged from nearby forests and some of it gathered from an undersea garden. A full meal from the Immersion Menu, which is “set” but will change seasonally, starts from 2,250 Norwegian krone (US$264), not including beverages.
Beyond its futuristic design and hyper-local offerings, Under (which means “below” as well as “wonder” in Norwegian) will serve as a marine research center in its off-hours. The monolithic structure will accommodate scientists studying marine biology and fish behavior, and after the restaurant officially opens its doors to paying guests at the start of April, the researchers will work closely with Under’s team of chefs to understand how and when to harvest from the sea sustainably. As stand-alone restaurant projects go, Under is undeniably impressive. Whether it can achieve its dual ambition, emerging as both a Norwegian ecological shrine and an international culinary hot spot, only time (and tide) will tell.
Under is now accepting reservations starting from early April.
This article originally appeared online in October 2017; it was updated on March 20, 2019, to include current information.
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