Tuesday, 1 June 2010

A Couple of Places in Oslo

Oslo Opera House

When on business trips in Europe, I tend to spend three nights away. Colleagues usually entertain me on at least one night, which leaves a couple of dinners alone with a book. Dining solo, I like to go somewhere upmarket one night and somewhere more casual on the other.

Oslo was no exception and with the sun shining, I ventured down to Aker Brygge on the waterfront. There was a real buzz about town as this was the week leading up to Eurovision. Well OK, I made that last bit up but they were gearing up to the big night last Saturday.

There is almost too much choice on Aker Brygge with its vast array of bars and restaurants encompassing global chains like TGI Fridays as well as upmarket seafood joints. They all had one thing in common, prices to make your eyes pop out.

For my la-di-da choice, I was torn between going to Lofoten or the D/S Louise. The former seemed too buttoned-up for a solo diner so I plumped for the warmer D/S Louise. I kicked off with some seared scallops, which were fine but could've done with more caramelisation. The accompanying fennel and pomegranate salad was neither here nor there.

For my main, I chose steamed toothfish, vegetable lasagne and crab wonton. I was a taking a big risk as I usually hate dishes that are too 'busy' but hey what are expenses for, if you don't experiment ? Talk about karma, I was punished big time by a dish that would get you a massive bollocking on Masterchef.

The crappiest element of this dish was the wonton. Firstly, the seasoning was uneven and the sweet crabmeat was often overwhelmed by oversalting. Secondly, the wonton base had dried out with dry pastry stuck on the bamboo mini-steamer. Lastly and most catastrophically, there was coconut in the wonton mix. Coconut - WTF ?

The mini vegetable lasagne was almost as bad with dry roasted vegetables sandwiched between dry pasta. Thankfully, the 'melt in the mouth' steamed toothfish fillet – the only decent element – saved this dish from being a total car crash. Even then, they nearly ruined the delicate fish with an indelicate 'cognac' sauce that didn't actually taste of cognac.

At least dessert wasn't a disaster and I really enjoyed my warm chocolate brownie. Other positives include the decent service and the charming nautically themed dining room. When telling my Norwegian colleagues of my experience, they said I should've gone for classic seafood rather than the piss poor attempts at fusion. They also pointed out that whilst D/S Louise has the edge in atmosphere, the food is better (and more pricey) at Lofoten.

When I returned to Aker Brygge, a couple of days later, I was on the search for somewhere more relaxed to eat comfort food. I plumped for the trendy Jacob Aall Brasserie & Bar as their menu was just what I was looking for. 

I kicked off with some buffalo wings of which I can't remember much about except that I wolfed them down as I was starving. My inner-Homer Simpson was well and truly unleashed so the obvious order was the BBQ Burger topped with bacon, cheese, salad, and pickles that also came with potato wedges and aioli.

This burger had many things going for it as you can see from the trashy cheese and the filthy dollop of bbq sauce. In fairness it hit the spot but sadly the burger was overcooked. This was a shame – if the burger was cooked medium then the all round package would’ve been a winner.

You can overeat on business trips so I spurned dessert in favour of another exorbitantly priced lager (the equivalent of £7 for 400ml). Service was good and this is the kind of fun place that would be ideal for large groups that prefer a more sophisticated environment than the nearby TGI Fridays (yes – I am a snob).

As is often the case with business trips, my best meal was when my colleagues entertained me. Good manners dictate that I don't blog about this meal, suffice to say, I was touched by the warmth and generosity of my hosts in inviting me to their home.

I don't want to give you the wrong impression of Oslo as I've been here several times and eaten in restaurants that wouldn't be out of place in London or Paris. It's just that on this visit I was frustrated that my choices didn't hit those same heights.


  1. Shame about the two foodie experiences on this trip, but that's the way things so often go on short trips.

    On another note, am I the only one who doesn;t buy into the whole 'for a great burger you must have crap cheese on it' argument? I'd much rather have a good cheddar or gruyere on a cheese burger than kraft "cheese". It's a bit like saying yo can only make burgers with cheap unaged Brazillian beef isn't it?

    Whoops, sorry, tangent ;-)

  2. Gworm - great tangent ! RE: trashy cheese on burgers, I prefer 'trash' cheese because I can't handle 'real' cheese. In extreme examples, it makes me retch. My Chinese genes have trouble with some but not all dairy (it's complicated). That said that doesn't explain why other burger connoisseurs prefer cheap trashy cheese. On your analogy about using cheap beef, I'm not sure the logic entirely holds as the burger is the main event whereas the cheese is the support act. Strangely enough my next planned post is one about burgers !

  3. Interesting - I had never thought about Kraft being the gateway for people who don;t deal with cheese to being able to eat a cheeseburger... mind you, i certainly wouldn't label it as cheese ;-)

    Fair point re the beef-cheese analogy. A better one would be that it's like insisting your Hawksmoor/Goodmans/Byron burger is served with McCaine's oven chips and sandwhiched between two slices of Asda value white bread.