Fredrik Værslev – as Vingen imagines him

  • Fredrik Værslev – As I Imagine Him. Photo: Vegard Kleven/Astrup Fearnley-museet

    Vingen Bar is the haute café at the far end of the Astrup Fearnley Museum with an exclusive view of the Oslo Fjord and the sculpture park just outside. Inside, the interior is Scandi-Contemporary. Round shapes, big windows, soothing wood, dignified stone. Not least, Vingen serves a new menu to match every new museum show. It is the place to eat if you want to be in touch with art. These days, paintings by the Norwegian artist Fredrik Værslev, who is often said to contemplate the dullness of middle-class life, are now at display. Vingen’s menu is just as exciting and lets you choose between gnocchi, bruschetta, or ossobuco, only to name a few. Vi ser på kunst took to Vingen to decide on the food: would it live up to the art?

    Well plated cantina food

    I felt like someone was watching me throughout the entire meal, and when I turned around, Louis Bourgeois’ sculpture, Eyes (1997), outside in the sculpture garden, saw right through me. Everyone think they are boobs, but I tend to agree with the title. Anyway, the menu corresponding to Fredrik Værslev’s Fredrik Værslev – As I Imagine Him, has no real identity. But everything seemed hearty, warming, maybe even comforting? Nothing too spicy, I know that much!

    Louis Bourgeois, Eyes (1997). Photo: Jennifer Edwards

    I had the Ossobuco and a glass of Italian red wine. It is hard for me to criticize a beef stew, because I’m a stew girl. You can’t go wrong – it’s so nutritious! I loved the crisp and coolness of alfalfa sprouts on top. It played a game of texture, temperature and freshness with my food. Better still, sprouts help clean your blood. By the very nature of stew, the dish was not without virtue. The tomatoes, however, were… prominent. If you can’t handle acidic food, don’t go for this one. Wine matched well, but I thought of dumping my glass into the bowl to create a more dimensional dish. The food lacked a sense of love, authenticity, a caring attention to flavor. Lately, I have been watching a lot of cooking shows at my mom’s house, so I am tempted to talk like the judges. That is to say: I wanted the stew to elevate itself, to elevate me. How are Fredrik Værslev’s dirty, stripey paintings not just that…? Show me with stew!

    Ramsons overload

    I settled for gnocchi with ramsons and chevre. Plus a glass of riesling. Because of the ramsons, everything was green. I too had alfalfas on top, and pumpkin seeds sprinkled about. The oiliness of my riesling went well with the olive oiled plate. I was very excited to taste the chevre with the gnocchi, and I was equally surprised to find that the two share almost the exact same texture: soft and creamy. Fredrik Værslev’s paintings, of canopies and floor tiles, are performing this trick of same but different as well. Is it art or is it a sunblind? Was I eating cheese, or were I having pasta? The first bite was good, the second one too. My pumpkin seeds added a crispy quality and a nice earthy aroma. I love goat cheese. The third bite was OK. But the pasta lacked salt. And too much ramsons made it too sour, too bitter. I was longing for balance, something sweet, thoughtful or different. The fourth bite was difficult. After the fifth, I stared down into the green abyss: 22 mouthfuls to go.