July 15-17, 2013
Balestrand Hotel – rated number 1 on TripAdvisor, this hotel is a classic example of the ability of charming hosts to minimize a hotel’s imperfections. The dated contemporary structure in need of paint has an ideal location on the waterfront road a short walk from the town center.
The lobby and guest rooms that face the front of the hotel have picture windows that take full advantage of the spectacular view. In gloomy weather, if nothing else, you can watch the squalls cross the fjord. Rooms are clean but otherwise plain and motelish.
Breakfast is middle of the road in terms of quality and includes the usual Scandinavian fare. The self-serve coffee is decent and plentiful. However it is the hosts that make the place a find, offering rides to the ferry, restaurant recommendations and tourist information, and anything else they can think of including the use of the drying room to dry your wet clothes, all without being asked. The most helpful and charming hosts we encountered in our three week trip.
The Cider House (Ciderhuset), set in an apple orchard in the middle of town, is an odd combination of concepts that actually works – a fruit based (primarily apples) distillery and restaurant that serves Turkish and Norwegian specialties.
The dining room, set in a glassed-in terrace with a great view of the Sognefjord, has a rustic yet artsy ambiance. Tables are generously spaced and service is friendly and efficient.
For starters we tasted the stuffed grape leaves and the eggplant dip, both authentically Mediterranean. The grape leaves were simply stuffed with rice seasoned with mint and cinnamon and some of the best I have ever tasted.
For mains, the local fish – a pan fried plaice, a type of flounder, served with a rather mild cider sauce,
and the veal marinated in cider and served with a tasty brown cider sauce. Both dishes included lightly cooked vegetables and roasted potatoes. For dessert the apple pie was served with a heavenly crème anglaise – great apple flavor although more of a chunky apple sauce than apple slices. I would imagine that all their desserts would be better when the fruit is in season.
The cider house makes and sells cider produced from the apples grown on site and it is a great accompaniment to the dishes they serve.