Norway’s New Underwater Restaurant Is Truly Breathtaking
Under, which is about to become Europe’s first underwater restaurant, has officially opened online reservations for dates beginning April 2019. In order to fully enjoy the experience—and the seasonal dishes prepared under the watchful eye of chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard—diners at the exquisite new space are encouraged to allot 3.5-4 hours to their meal. Those eager to be some of the first to experience Under’s breathtaking sea views will have to move quickly, though, as several available dates have already developed waitlists. When it opens next spring, Under will be the largest underwater restaurant in the world.
Under was constructed on a barge off the coast of Båly, a sleepy town on Norway’s southernmost shore, over the first half of this year. In July, containers filled with water were placed inside the structure, which was then submerged beneath the North Sea to a depth of sixteen feet. Eighteen anchoring points have secured Under to the sea floor, where it has sat in place for the past several months. Not all of Under is underwater, though. Half of it sits above the surface like a bobbing ice cube.
Those who are uneasy about dining underwater should know that Under’s walls are three feet thick and have been specifically designed to withstand the pressure and shocks of a marine environment. In fact, Snøhetta, the architectural brains behind Under, is so confident in its design that it chose to deliberately place Under in waters it knows to be harsh. “The most exciting experience will be visiting the restaurant during rough weather,” explains Rune Grasdal, a senior architect at Snøhetta. “It will be fantastic to see the sea surface broken up by the big waves and the rain, making for a very dramatic view.” Grasdal also noted that Under’s slightly curved shape helps to minimize wave impact, and that the entire structure was designed with Norway’s treacherous wind and waves in mind.
Under was secured to the sea floor using eighteen anchoring points, and has sat in place for the past several months. Not all of it is underwater, though; half of Under sits above the surface like a bobbing ice cube.SNØHETTA
Under sprawls across three distinct levels. The top level is the entrance and wardrobe area, the middle level a champagne bar and the lowest level the dining room, which houses two long dining tables and several smaller tables with a capacity of eight to one hundred guests. All of the tables offer a pristine view of the main panoramic window, which measures a staggering thirty-six feet wide by thirteen feet high. Snøhetta has strategically installed lighting both inside the restaurant and on the seabed itself to showcase the exceptional aquatic life nearby. Not one for creating single-use spaces, Under will also function as a research center for marine biologists and other researchers to study that same underwater wildlife.
If the name Snøhetta sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. The Oslo-based firm designed the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet (better known as the Oslo Opera House), was responsible for the recent pedestrian-friendly revamp of New York’s Times Square and even designed Norway’s new banknotes, which went into circulation last year. “The visual identity [of Under] is based upon our overall concept, immerse,” Snøhetta Design’s managing director Martin Gran told me. “Visitors will be given a story about marine biodiversity and the Norwegian coast, weaving the narrative of the site into the overall restaurant experience.” Under, it would seem, is much more than a submerged eatery. It’s a full-body immersion.