Scandi Fare in the Capital – It’s OSLO, Hackney

05 Aug 2017

Up Hackney way, guarded by the twin oracles of TK Maxx and Paddy Power, stands Oslo. It’s a forbidding place, in the Victorian shell that once housed Hackney Central station. Neon letters loom overhead as the Friday night bouncer draws back the rope. So far, so Scandi noir.

Drawing on a Nordic aesthetic, as its pitch goes, Oslo is Hackney’s newish music venue. Upstairs, the black sweat-box where to catch the latest reverb-soaked electronica or open-hearted soul diva. Downstairs, a thrumming bar and kitchen. The aesthetic is warehouse, all concrete, exposed air ducts and Ercol-ish seating. There’s a trace of the building’s locomotive heritage in a railway carriage seat, old school style, with illuminated luggage rack above. As for the Nordic aesthetic, there’s a single Swedish lager behind the bar and a lone starter of Norwegian sausage on the menu. Oh, and Kopparberg. The rest of the Scandi cool must be on a summer jaunt to Trondheim as I can find neither elk hide nor hair of it.

Oslo’s is an eclectic bar menu at heart. Small £7 plates of Baby Calamari with Sweet Chilli Sauce, Lemon and Watercress, and Tempura-Battered Mixed Seasonal Vegetables with Wasabi Yoghurt were much as any Essex high street gone pan-continental would offer. We chewed every milligram of Nordic essence from our Flame-grilled Polse (that Norwegian sausage) with Horseradish-flavoured Beetroot and Sourdough, it being the only porky injection of Norway we’d be getting all night.

Roasted Spatchcock Chicken with Tenderstem Broccoli, Herb Potatoes and Garlic Butter at £14 was so achingly retro cool it came with brown gravy. Or at least I hope it was retro cool, otherwise it was kinda Harvester. The Oslo burger – tantalisingly Scandi given its namesake – was classic Americana for £12; tasty beef patty, streaky bacon and plasticky American cheese. Messy, dirty, tasty. I scoffed the Sweet Potato Fries until my belly wailed. More fool me, but worth it.

Drinks were your classic British craft beers, a skimmingly global short wine list, and your usual cocktails. A pint of Oslo Lager, crisp as a supermodel’s cheekbones, wet a Friday night gullet nicely. Almost as nicely as a Paulaner Hellesbier from Munich. Not so Nordic, but since it seemed that ship had long since sailed to Bergen I’d sort of stopped minding.

So: Oslo. Capital of all things Norway. Brooding fjords, bearded hotties and glaciers. Smørbrød of røkt laks and steaming dishes of reindeer stew, all washed down with Akevitt. Right? Right.

Oslo up Hackney way? Truth be told, I did spot a bearded chap who seemed to have wandered in from Norway’s 90s black metal scene, and I hear that once there were smørbrød on the menu. Otherwise, it’s a bunker-chic music venue with a good bar, a good welcome, and a good bar menu. Just not so Scandi noir.


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