Dominic Gorham: – Sommerro is the Perfect Storm

Dominic Gorham is a well-known figure on the international nightlife scene. In this exclusive interview, the king of great service reveals some of his secrets, tells us about his encounters with Adele and Obama, and explains why life at Sommerro is like the perfect storm.

  • Dominic is nine years old. He's wearing flared trousers, a striped tank top, and is sporting an afro. His older brothers and sisters have thrown a party in their living room in London.

  • They're dancing to Roxy Music, Bowie, and pop tunes - good pop tunes, since it's the 1970s. His father has a crate of beer, and Dominic wants to open a bottle and serve him. He wants to be the one behind the bar.

  • We asked him if he remembers the first feeling of a great party, and it was probably right there and then that Dominic's life and career path were laid out.

  • "Now you're making me smile," says Dominic Gorham (59). He adjusts his suit jacket and laughs, his brown eyes gentle and his gaze steady.

  • "I've never thought about that moment in such a way before."

  • Was that when his passion for great service began?

  • Was that when he was first attracted to creating magical encounters between people that bring energy and joy, because the music, entertainment, and atmosphere are one hundred percent spot on?

Over 50 years later, we meet Guest Relations Manager Dominic Gorham at the historic Sommerro Hotel in Frogner, Oslo. The newly restored hotel is the 26th hotel, club, or restaurant he has been involved in opening. From our very first encounter in the reception area, we get a sense of his unique energy. A firm handshake, a quick message on his walkie-talkie, and then "follow me".

"It's hectic today," he points out.

We follow Dominic and his long, stylish dreadlocks. As he opens the door to Ekspedisjonshallen, he looks at us expectantly. The photographer lets out a loud "wow!". The atmosphere is buzzing at all the tables in the brasserie. People are laughing, chatting, and toasting, and jazz is playing.

"That's the word we've heard the most since opening Sommerro: 'wow'. And it's absolutely right," says our host.

Dominic greets guests left and right as he escorts us through the venue. He effortlessly switches between English and French before opening a new door. We take our seats in the "Two Sisters" room. His phone is flashing constantly, but Dominic puts it down face-down and turns down the volume on his walkie-talkie. We're served tea and he asks us what we'd like to have for lunch.

"So, what should we talk about?"

Dominic Gorham, Guest Relations Manager, at hotel Sommerro in Oslo.
  • On Sommerro's Wow-Factor

    Dominic Gorham was born and raised in London. He received his education from Wimbledon and Kingsway Princeton School of Music. He has launched the bars Le Paradis du Fruit, La Mousson, La Casbah, Le China Club, and Le What's Up in Paris.

  • He brought this success to Oslo where he started Aqua, Buddha Bar, and Cosmo. The first venues in the Norwegian capital had a doorman who decided who was allowed in or not.

  • He introduced the concept of 'yes or no' to Oslo's nightlife, as well as dress codes and standards of behaviour.

  • Since then, he has completed a series of consulting assignments before joining Strawberry, first at its flagship hotel The Thief, and now at its latest venture, Sommerro.

So, where do we start?

This is the man who can share stories of meetings with presidents and international celebrities in every other sentence. He knows 'everyone' and has an engaging story and reference to 'everything' in the hotel and nightlife industry.

Dominic is the man who fell in love in Oslo and decided to stay, living here now with his three children. He brought with him a genuine passion for service. And this has become a lifestyle. He has now lived at Sommerro for four months, becoming a part of the hotel.

"I specialise in openings, and I've been doing this my whole life. But as I said, I've never experienced hearing 'wow' so many times before. Guests are completely stunned by what we've created. This is so unique, and I haven't heard a single negative word."

Located in the former premises of Oslo Lysverker, dating back to 1931, the hotel has traditions and energy embedded in its walls, Dominic points out.

"This building was here before I was born, so this can't be bought or created, but needs to come to life over time. All credit goes to Petter (Stordalen, owner of Strawberry, ed. note) for this. He has delved into the essence of the building and truly breathed life into it again, bringing out its beauty and respect."

And when the building is so venerable and has a wow factor at the top of the scale, the staff must also become part of the whole experience. This is where Dominic's passion comes into play: service. All employees must go through the Sommerro school, which consists of being trained and educated in the service the hotel's culture demands.

This is the point at which 59-year-old's genuine storytelling ability weaves the whole story together, without us having to ask a single follow-up question: Service, simplicity, Madonna, a fishing story, and Oslo's door policy.

Two people speaking at Kafé Lucy in Oslo at Sommerro hotel.
  • This is the Recipe for Great Service

    "Good service is about being observant. The best people in the industry are those who adapt their service based on who they're working with or who they're serving."

  • "Of course, you have the basics, such as proper table etiquette and so on. But good service is about those who think outside the box and know when to step back inside it."

  • Dominic becomes animated. He plays the trumpet with his fingers, comparing it all to a jazz band.

  • "When the trumpeter goes off and does a solo, the rest of the band continues to play. He can do an amazing solo, as long as he knows when to come back in."

  • "You also have to ride the waves. I mean, you never know what's going to happen. Again, be observant and go along, don't stop or manoeuvre, but ride the waves."

Why Didn't He Understand the Harvey Specter Guys?

Dominic uses all of his senses when organising an event. He reads the room.

"I have a classic example. We had a big gig here, a bank event. A bunch of well-dressed Harvey Specter men walked into the room (referring to the TV series Suits, ed. note). You could tell these guys knew the world; they had travelled, drank dry martinis, and champagne. And the DJ played... well..."

Dominic imitates a choppy beat and hums "eh eh eh."

"I mean, how could he not read the room? How could he fail here? Play 'Fly Me to the Moon' or anything that would transform the room into a gala, something retro; it would have created a completely different atmosphere. Some people get this right away, while others need to learn how to read the room."

The 59-year-old's final service trick is simplicity. Most of his life is straightforward, he points out.

"Don't complicate things. I love simplified food, simplified conversations, being straightforward and direct. My French grandmother is a good example. She used to make salad du tomat. The etiquette in France is entrée, plat, dessert, and with my grandmother, that's how it worked. She sliced tomatoes with her own vinaigrette and served it with a baguette. And this salad du tomat is the best you'll find. Simplicity."

"I think the reason for my success is that I keep things simple. I am honest and fully present."

People shaking hands at Kafé Lucy in Oslo.

A fishing Trip with Adele and Her Son

And it was also that simplicity that got him the best concert seats when pop star Adele visited Norway. Dominic was responsible for the artist and asked her what she wanted during her stay. The most important thing for Adele was that her son had a good time.

"I asked her if he had ever been fishing before, and he hadn't. My great passion is fishing. That's when I truly relax. So, we took them on a fishing trip, and the boy caught a big fish. Later, we prepared it and ate it together."

"You should have seen the boy's face when his mom went to work on stage that night; it was an amazing day. This story was the first thing she told when she took to the stage that evening. And the next day she was in Sweden and happened to meet Petter Stordalen, and she told him about the fishing trip in Norway and that she had stayed at The Thief," says Dominic, laughing.

Ride the waves, read the room, and simplicity.

Dominic Gorham speaking with his hands at Sommerro Hotel in Oslo.

When Madonna Had to Wait

But even though Dominic has taken care of international stars, he treats all guests equally. To understand more, we need to go back in time, to Paris.

"There were two Parisians, siblings Nicolas and Charlotte Testu, who ran the club La Mousson. They had all the greats come through. And one time, Madonna came in, and she had to wait. But it was Madonna herself, right? It didn't matter. She got something to drink and had to wait.

"They had a policy that it didn't matter who you were, whether you had booked or not, whether there was a free table or not. You were treated with respect but equally," says Dominic, smiling:

"I mean, I know how to take care of people because I've met Barack Obama, and of course there are some differences - there are certain protocols of respect. But whether a person wants beer or champagne, they are just as important. Everyone should be greeted with the same charm, joy, and comfort. That is an important lesson that remains with me."

Another thing Dominic brought with him from Paris was his door policy. One of his many successes in Paris was the popular La Casbah, which didn't even have a sign outside. He brought this mystique to Oslo's west side and the Buddha Bar.

  • Everything is decided at the door

    "Buddha had the first door policy in Oslo. People warned me and said it wasn't possible."

  • "Just wait, was my response. Because, you have that guy standing with a hotdog and a pint in his hand in the queue, who throws it away and enters the club."

  • "I had spent years and millions creating this place, this fantastic place, and I wasn't going to have such a queue and such clientele."

  • "So, I asked the guy with the hotdog and the pint to go home. But the message was always delivered politely and respectfully."

  • Dominic påpeker at det alltid handler om døra. Hvordan du kontrollerer inngangen, styrer hva som vil skje på innsiden.

  • "You can add so much by creating an atmosphere at the door. You greet and talk to people and make sure they look good when they enter - maybe straighten their shirt and tie a bit."

  • "On the way in, I create the 'vibe' that makes you feel it was special, and then things are special inside as well."

  • "It's about being smart at the door. Don't stand with a hotdog and pint in your hand," he says, laughing:

  • "And Buddha became a gigantic success. It was a big club, with a full house seven days a week."


While the stories and memories were being shared, we were given a complete tour of Sommerro. We visited the cinema room, where you can eat lunch and enjoy old classics with popcorn in hand. We were also on the roof and saw the outdoor pool and the view from Frida Ronge's restaurant Izakaya. And we've admired the art deco interior of Vestkantbadet.

We're now back at the entrance, where we first started. Dominic never ended up behind a bar. He's more like a director with a walkie-talkie in hand, a doorman in control of all the guests, or a captain steering his ship through a storm. Because that's how he describes Sommerro. The hotel with guests and staff from all over, from Sweden and Frogner to Argentina and Germany. It's a mix of venerability, impulses, flirting, class, and a rhythm flowing from well-executed service.

"This is what the perfect storm is. The trick is to follow the waves," says the captain.

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