The total guest experience
With a portfolio of 22 restaurants offering their own unique soul and character, Fursetgruppen Restaurant Group has built a business around providing customers with amazing edible experiences
For Bjørn Tore Furset, it was his dream since childhood to own his own restaurant. Having worked his way up to the position of head chef at Lofoten Fiskerestaurant in Oslo, it was in 1996 that his dream became reality when, together with his father, Bjørn Tore bought the restaurant. As fate would have it, however, rather than simply being the culmination of a life’s work this event marked the start of something bigger and ultimately led to the creation of the Fursetgruppen in March 2008.
Today, Fursetgruppen Restaurant Group is a prosperous, well-established, Oslo-based entity that consists of 22 individual restaurant concepts, each focusing on high quality and competence. “Our goal all along has been to cultivate unique restaurant experiences with soul and character,” Bjørn states. “We strive to develop the ‘total guest experience’ and our business is built around creating places with their own special personalities. What drives us is the joy of developing concepts, working them out and seeing them succeeding in what is a competitive market.”
The restaurants that make up Fursetgruppen are certainly a diverse mix of different eateries, the most well-known of which is arguably Ekebergrestaurant. Situated in the Ekebergåsen area of Oslo, the building was designed by the architect Lars Backer and is considered to be one of the finest examples of classic functionalism in Norway. The restaurant itself is built with flat ceilings, large recessed windows offering a panoramic view of the Oslo Fjord, a terrace and a curved entrance hall.
Other renowned establishments to fall under the Fursetgruppen banner include Argent Restaurant and Sanguine Brasserie, both of which can be found within the grounds of The Opera House in Oslo, Festningen Restaurant, a rustic brasserie on the fortifications of Akershus Fortress, Grilleriet, a restaurant and bar in Folketeatret, and Ingierstrand Bad Restaurant, which offers dining and outdoor seating in the recently renovated Ingierstrand bath municipality. Fursetgruppen is also co-owner of Restaurant Maaemo, which holds three stars in the Michelin Guide.
The two most recent additions to the group have been Grand Café, opened in the Autumn of 2016, and Ling Ling by Hakkasan Oslo, opened in Spring 2017. The former has a rich history, having first opened its doors in 1874, and was at one time the restaurant that Henrik Ibsen would eat his daily lunch and where the artist Edvard Munch once offered to swap the painting ‘Sick Girl’ in return for 100 steak dinners. The restaurant serves a menu of Nordic food taking inspiration from around the world, while the wine cellar below holds over 16,000 bottles of more than 1500 different types of wine.
Ling Ling Oslo, meanwhile, opened its doors on Monday 3rd April, 2017. The first restaurant from Hakkasan Group to open in Scandinavia, it is located at the heart of the newly renovated Aker Brygge Marina on the Oslo Fjord waterfront, and features indoor and outdoor dining, a stunning bar, rooftop terrace and a hidden lounge.
Drawing inspiration from the ‘izakaya’ concept made popular in the East, where food accompanies the drinks rather than the other way around, Ling Ling Oslo encourages guests to discover food differently with smaller plates of Cantonese cuisine. Incorporating Norwegian influence, local producers and ingredients, dishes served include the Supreme dim sum platter, featuring Lychee and lobster dumpling, Abalone shumai with caviar, Norwegian king crab dumpling and Plaice dumpling with black truffle alongside grilled silver cod in ginger soya. Meanwhile, Ling Ling Oslo also offers an evolving selection of drinks, including eight cocktails exclusive to the restaurant, including the Mara Dulsea using Norwegian spirit Aquavit, white rum, kumquats, apple, lime, Dulse seaweed and ginger.
The efforts of Fursetgruppen are not only confined to the kitchen. Since 2016, the group has partnered with the organisation known as Church Mission to deliver socially responsible initiatives. A key aspect of this partnership sees individuals given training places at some of the group’s restaurants. The group also assists by leveraging its expertise in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the operation of eateries to develop social entrepreneurship, given people the opportunity to get back into work.
“It is incredibly meaningful to be able to collaborate with the Church Mission. The collaboration started with the employees at one of our restaurants, Tjuvholmen Sjømagasin, who wanted to give their Christmas party to 150 people recovering from substance abuse,” says Gjøran Sæther, CEO of Fursetgroup. “Now what we want to do is carry this social approach forward throughout the year, not just for Christmas, contributing our skills towards something that can be sustainable for as many people as possible.”
As Bjørn concludes: “Our three main areas, meals, meal fellowship and entrepreneurship are key pillars for our entire organisation. We are grateful to contribute to social responsibility and hope that many of our employees will continue to contribute towards this in the future.”