11 June 2014

Oslo, Hackney

I was all set to make Half Baked Harvest's Grilled Caprese Toasts with Burrata Cheese and Grilled Avocados last night. I'd swanned around Marks & Spencer in Chancery Lane on the way home trying to find a decent ripe avocado, throwing in some proscuitto for good measure, tossing mozzarella into the basket (as if you'd be able to get hold of the god cheese, burrata!) and picking up an olive ciabatta just because. Then I got home and the offer of free dinner came through. And who was I to refuse? Grilled toasts can wait until tomorrow (I'm out again tonight, naturally).


Quite possibly everybody, apart from me, has been to Oslo. One of Hackney's newer openings, its opening club night saw people queueing from 7pm, which is practically unheard of, and it hosts some pretty good live acts as well. But they're more than just a venue - they have an all day food menu and bar on the ground floor for that little bit of something else. They were testing out their new menu last night so we were invited along for the free food. Never one to turn down such an offer, we hotfooted over and got stuck in.

As the name suggests, there's a Nordic influence to this place with a huge wooden bar and vaulted ceilings that keep things airy and clean-lined. Concrete and industrial fittings keep this place firmly in the here-and-now of London openings but I liked how the softer touches such as fresh meadow flowers on each table kept things a little less sterile.


We ordered a bottle of red, despite the hot weather, but was pleased to see an English white and Nyetimber sparkling on the short list too. With a huge range of spirits behind the bar, they can knock up whatever you want and even a few hardshakes while they're at it too. The menus themselves are short, folded leaflet type things divided into sandwiches, salads, burgers, large plates and then small plates and sharers. With it being the test-run of the new menu, there were a few things we weren't allowed to pick such as either of the sharing 'smorgasbords', the pan fried bream or the spatchcock chicken, and the smoker hadn't arrived meaning smoked fries and the bone marrow was out of bounds too. But what there was to choose from was still good.

The boys went for burgers, predictably, which come served on a wooden board with mini chip fryers filled to the brim. The new Oslo is a big patty, cheese, bacon and onions in a brioche bun - no surprises there, and no prizes for creativity either but it was wolfed down pretty sharpish nonetheless. The Marrakech mixes things up with a lamb patty with pomegranate, onions and harissa yoghurt - asked how it was, Saaqs declared 'oniony'. And the Martinique? A buttermilk chicken breast, with mango slaw and Monterey Jack cheese. Ash was a little surprised that the chicken wasn't breaded or fried but I guess you gotta roll with the punches. And for me? I went for the fish of the day (hake) with the triple cooked fries (which I ate all of, for once) and the crab mayo (the best bit) with lots of fresh lemon to bring it to life. 

The food was good but not mindblowing. Admittedly, it was a test run and we'd not exactly chosen the most exciting things on the menu (their current/old one looks quite adventurous actually, damnit!) but there wasn't really anything we weren't expecting. The staff were super friendly and chatty, however, and we did only pay £9 each for two bottles of wine so I guess I can't complain.

Will I be back? If the teething problems are ironed out, maybe. The menu's a little basic but Oslo's not trying to be a tip-top restaurant, it's an all singing all dancing Hackney hideout.
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