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Review: Sommerro

This is the new place to stay in Norway’s capital.
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Why book?

To be in with the cool crowd who flooded in on day one. Since then, they’ve been trying Sommerro Negronis to the rhythms of a talented band, tasting the acclaimed Nordic-Japanese dishes of Chef Frida Ronge in Oslo’s first rooftop restaurant, and immersing themselves in the detail that designers GrecoDeco have sprinkled liberally around the 1930’s building. This is the new place to stay in Norway’s capital.

Set the scene

Located in the heart of Frogner, an established, upmarket, residential district in Oslo, it lies within easy reach of the capital’s main sights. The building houses 231 rooms, seven restaurants and bars, a small cinema, and a 100-seat gilded theatre. It offers the city’s first year-round rooftop pool and sauna as well as bringing back to life Oslo’s former public baths which will open in November 2022 to in-house guests and outside guests as part of an impressive Urban Wellness Retreat. The hotel also captures the glamour of the 1930s with a hint of the seduction that its sibling The Thief brims with.

The backstory

Another triumph from family-owned Nordic Choice hotels who are starting to make a habit of rescuing parts of the country’s heritage and returning them to the public to play in, gilded and gleaming, as they did with Amerikalinjen in 2014. As Petter Stordalen founder of the firm said to me, “I wanted to create a Great Gatsby, a homage to the fabled era of the 30s and that is why we didn’t compromise at all on décor.” But it goes deeper than that with him, this building was the former headquarters of Oslo Lysverker, the original electrical company and as the vast mural in the main hall of the building, now the Ekspedisjonshallen, by Norwegian artist, Per Krohg, shows, the introduction of electricity changed the lives of everyone. “It chimes with me that this in many ways pinpoints the start of Norway’s success.” Petter, a proud patriot, went on.

Having seen London’s The Ned, the powers that be were keen to include its designers GrecoDeco in the tender, a building that is similar in age and style to the Sommerro. Alice Lund and Adam Greco from London and New York-based GrecoDeco won the bid with their extraordinarily committed detail to attention. Hours of research in the Town Hall and the city’s museums have resulted in local references throughout the hotel from elements drawn from Gerhard Munthe’s folkloric paintings to the hand-knotted rugs, many of which are woven with Norway’s migratory birds. Much of the furniture is bespoke as is the wallpaper and there is extensive use of birch wood throughout the hotel. Ash and walnut also come into their own with endless chequerboard inlay. Some headboards are in intricate marquetry with seven different types of wood used.

The original history of the building has also been allowed to reverberate through the centuries to today. The diamond-patterned ceiling in what was once the Director’s room is echoed in the thick toweling dressing gowns that hang in the seriously sleek bathrooms which come in delicate pink Estremoz marble or bold green Karzai granite.

The rooms

They are warm and sumptuous across all five categories with a more modest option in the Loft Rooms. These have been fitted in under the roof and offer two generous single beds, closed off by curtains and a small window over Oslo. Ideal for children or co-workers who want to enjoy Sommerro’s facilities at a more affordable rate. Other rooms vary in size and some bathrooms are shower only, but they have all been clad in this rich tapestry of Norwegian heritage which sings of the days of Art Deco and functionalism, illuminated by chandeliers. The color palette is warm; think reds and greens and burnished wood with soft rugs underfoot and intelligent lighting. There are Bluetooth speakers and books, from a cookery book by Sommerro’s own chef Frida Ronge to Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep book placed carefully on the bedside table.

Food and drink

Offering an exceptional choice with seven restaurants and bars, there is genuinely something for everyone. Two of Oslo’s most popular restaurants have moved into the building, accessed from the street. Thai Restaurant Plah, headed up by Norway’s best Thai Chef Terje Ommundsen, offers an exclusive chef’s table experience, while Barramon is the local go-to for Spanish tapas and wine. Inside the hotel itself, there is a tea salon, To Søstre, where you can indulge in rich cakes accompanied by classical concerts from one of Norway’s only self-playing Steinway grand pianos. 

There is an all-day dining spot Ekspedisjonshallen where breakfast can start with everyone’s favorite avocado on sourdough toast. Lunch should be the steak tartare, beautifully presented by Sommerro’s British Executive Chef, Jonathan Howell (with a dollop of caviar on top on request, for the hedonists). But head upstairs for the acclaimed cuisine of Swedish chef Frida Ronge. Here, at Tak Oslo, the capital’s only rooftop restaurant, try her innovative blend of the Nordic and Japanese kitchen such as the panko seaweed deep-fried Norwegian Edulis oysters with kewpie mayonnaise or the Norwegian boknafish sashimi with brown butter and soy sauce alongside crispy duck to share and a memorable dish of egg noodles, cheese, chives, vendace roe, lemon, and nori. Stop first for a drink one floor down at Izakaya where a range of saki accompanies street food snacks of maki rolls with mushrooms, pumpkin, and truffle seaweed or katsu sando sandwiches with deep-fried pork.

The spa

Whilst there are currently eight treatment rooms open at the moment, there will be 18 when the spa is finished in November 2022 with a total size of 15,000 square feet. This includes a gym, infrared sauna, renovated Roman baths, and a cold plunge pool for traditional Nordic thermotherapy. The original large swimming pool dominated by a Per Krohg mosaic wall lies adjoining the public baths from 1932 which have been immaculately restored. There is an impressive range of products to choose from starting with Babor and including Noon Aesthetics, Dermapen, and Me Line. Aesthetic treatments will also be on offer alongside nutritionist workshops, Wim Hof-style cold water breathing technique sessions, masterclasses with a sleep expert, and more.

The area

This old-money neighborhood has been shaken up by the arrival of Sommerro offering a real destination for residents, in an area which previously lacked hotels of this caliber. It is a nice area to walk around with galleries and shops, cafés, and a friendly residential feel to it.

The service

As befits a hotel that aims to recreate the easy glamour of the 1930s, staff are profuse and proficient, although they were somewhat overwhelmed on day one by the crowds that kept on coming and coming.

For families

Children are welcome but this is the kind of hotel where they should be left behind so their parents can allow themselves to embrace the seductive vibe from the elegant cocktails to the vast tubs big enough for two that some of the suites have accompanied by delicious Byredo amenities.

Eco effort

This is Norway’s biggest preservation project to date and the hotel is firmly in line with the company’s commitment to eco-sustainability. Green materials have been specifically chosen for use throughout the hotel and the chefs prioritize sourcing sustainable food from the immediate vicinity. Sustainable footwear brand New Movements has been chosen as the supplier for the staff uniforms and Sommerro is powered on 100 percent renewable energy. Røros Tweed, a local company that produces high-quality lamb wool has made seating pads for use outside as guests are encouraged to enjoy the surrounding nature in Oslo from taking in the sunset across the harbor from a perch to hiking into the surrounding woods. For the collaboration with Sommerro, illustrator extraordinaire Bendik Kaltenborn (who has also created some of the curtain designs) created a special design. Bikes are provided for guests to rent.

Accessibility for those with mobility impairments

All areas are accessible except for the rooftop swimming pool.

Anything else to mention

Just inside the main door is Kafé Lucy, which offers takeaway coffees and teas along with morning croissants and cakes to fuel your walk to the office.

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