Once upon a time – Grand Café & Restaurant
In the spring of 1885, Actieselskabet Hotel Norge was formed with some of Bergen’s leading men at the helm. Hansastaden needed a new and large city center hotel, it was believed in Bergen’s trade stand.
This local history text was written by an external contributor.
Mason Johan Nielsen’s properties at Maartmannshaven excellently suited to the purpose, and the mason was willing to sell.
On July 10, 1885, the deed was signed, and the same evening, in glorious summer weather, the hotel was opened “with a extremely fine and elegantly served dinner for sixty people», Wrote Bergensposten.
“A European establishment”
However, the hotel was soon to face competition. On the opposite side of Maartmannshaven, in 1917 renamed Ole Bulls Plass, was August Mowinckel’s large estate, Olav Kyrres gate 21.
Johan Nielsen had spare capital after the sale to Hotel Norge, and together with lawyer Albert Gjermoe, they bought the property from Mowinckel’s estate in 1893.
It was quickly rebuilt, and on May 17, 1894, the Grand Café, «Towers and window sills» to use Carl O. Gram Gjesdal’s words, ready to receive guests.
Bergen had become a sight to behold. The restaurant in the characteristic building was a real one “European establishment”, the first of its kind in the city between the mountains.
Both the press and the audience were brilliantly satisfied. The latter could now get a sense of being in Paris, Leipzig or Berlin, and the “Revue” wrote in words of praise: «Grand Café is undisputedly one of the country’s first and very appealing Café establishments».
The restaurateur, the Swedish-born Hermann Jernstrøm, was an excellent professional.
The Grand was truly a first class establishment. The interior of the large cafe on the ground floor was of oak, with blue and gold as refining colors.
The walls were decorated with a western motif by the painter Julius Holck, and fan palms and porters gave the room a warm and cozy atmosphere.
For a period, telephone switches were installed under the tables so that controllers could stay in touch with the office and the store. Norwegian and foreign newspapers were also featured.
Outdoor dining took place in the large garden where about «Summer evenings are played by a good chapel».
On the second floor was the dining room. It was large, as many as 150 guests could be served at a time. Even the Lodge could not measure up to it.
The decor was also solid, and it quickly became Bergen’s foremost representative room in both public and private settings. Adjacent to the hall were various lounges. It could be ordered after the meal retire in small groups. On the third floor, a billiard room was furnished in addition to the manager’s and staff’s private rooms.
Grand was a success. The location was ideal, and eventually many did as infantry captain Johan Petersen:
«… but as good leftists, we turn left during the march at the Park and enter the Grand Café, where we are served Hansa beer in large trophies. We sit in the garden or better yet, armed with our monocles, on the balcony. The music plays and the audience passes the revue. “
Herman Jernstrøm left after a year of employment in 1895 and was replaced by Henrik Larsen. Four years later, in 1899, Torstein Jersin took over.
He had started his professional career as a clerk at Tyskebryggen before traveling to America. There he ran an import business for Norwegian herring in Wilmot, Minnesota.
In 1894 he moved back to his hometown and took over a bakery, later Bergen’s Tobacco Factory in Florida. He ran the Grand Café until 1908.
The last restaurateur at the Grand before the fire in 1916 was Albert Patterson. He also ran Hotel Norge.
Hansa Brewery violates
In November 1898, the Grand was sold to Hansa Brewery. Price NOK 320,000 – a good deal for Nielsen and Gjermoe who had taken over the property five years earlier for NOK 90,000.
The brewery needed a showcase for its eminent beers, said the brewery’s director, Waldemar Platou. There were several breweries in Bergen, the competition was fierce. Hansa needed to stand out in the market.
Platou also thought Grand could offer the passengers from «The floating hotels» who anchored on the Puddefjord fjord while staying ashore.
Until now, this had taken place in the city’s hotels, but both Hotel Norge and not least Holdts Hotel had capacity problems. If a travel company was in the dining room, other guests had to wait for hours for serving. This was not durable and caused irritation.
Like I said, so done. In the years up to 1914, the Grand also became a place where seafaring tourists could enjoy a good, Bergen meal.
Everything looked bright, but then came the World War in 1914 with costly time and misery. In the middle of the war came The Bergen fire in January 1916, and Grand, as the largest part of downtown, went up in smoke.
Only when Handelens og Sjøfartens Hus was completed on the same plot in 1934 could a new Grand open. But that’s another story.