Food writer Ali Dunworth recently travelled to Oslo in Norway and spent a weekend eating and drinking her way around this notoriously expensive food haven. But, did it live up to the hype? Here, she reports on one day's experience and her recommendations.
Once you book Oslo, be prepared to hear ‘oh, it’s very expensive’ even from people who’ve never been. But I’ve got some good news for you, it doesn’t have to be – when it comes to eating anyhow.
In this pristine city full of impressive architecture and Scandinavian soul, food and drink go hand in hand with culture, which means you can find fun and affordable eating opportunities all over. You just need to know where to look.
There are, of course, exceptional options for the super foodie keen to have a blowout, many will make the pilgrimage to Michelin three-star Maaemo. But for this day of eating, I’m focused on pocket-friendly, casual eateries that are perfectly suited to exploring this fine city, which also happens to be very walkable. A bonus for food-focused explorers.
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Fuglen, Universitetsgata 2, 0164 Oslo, Norway
Good coffee is usually first on my hit list in any city and Fuglen does not disappoint. They are local roasters with a few outposts in the city and their Universitegata café is a handy spot to start a day of food exploring; an achingly stylish spot decked out with pristine mid-century vintage furniture.
They serve speciality coffee by day using their own roasted beans and in the evening the cafe transforms into a funky cocktail lounge open till the early hours, a great one for night owls to keep on their radar. Grab a cinnamon bun here also, to get you started.
There’s a buzzing street food scene in Oslo and Matthallen is the sort of grown-up version, with the food offering here at the higher end. It’s more smart shops than stalls, but still great, and plenty to choose from. Smart cheese shops, delis and restaurants fill the hall with wonderful smells.
A simple sign ‘Duck Sandwich Here’ drew me into Galopin for said duck sandwich (confit duck in a sourdough roll) it’s a perfect snack with a refreshing glass of Cremant.
Also consider nabbing a spot at the busy Vulkanfisk Seafood bar to tuck into some traditional, local seafood. And I defy you to walk past Paradiso Gelato on the way out!
Tim Wendelboe, Grünersgate 1
Oslo based Tim Wendelboe is well known in the world coffee circuit as a former competing barista world champion and now for his high-end coffee offering. This café and espresso bar feels more like a Michelin restaurant than a coffee shop especially if you order the tasting menu.
The freshly brewed coffee is brought to you in three courses on tasting boards with each cup meticulously explained to you by the charming team. A must for coffee fans and coffee curious.
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Syverkiosken, Maridalsveien 45
You’ll see hot dogs for sale all over the city, but Syverkiosken is a bit of an institution; the friendly vendor Erlend Dahlbo will tell you all about it. His gourmet weiners are specially made locally, he will proudly talk you through his homemade condiments selection and also the ‘lompe’ a traditional potato pancake used instead of buns. And it will cost around €4.
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Happy International Women's Day! Here I am happy as can be with my Oslo hotdog But really happy because that's @corleggycheeses beside me and @kai_galway taking photo. I got to hang out with them and an awesome gang at #parabereforum celebrating amazing women of the culinary world. Hope you're all surrounded by fantastic women today cause let's face it they are not hard to come by #internationalwomensday #iwd2019 #iwd
Illegal Burger, Møllergata 23
These days most cities have a ‘best burger’ to check out and this is touted as Oslo’s. First, though, you’ll have to locate the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it doorway. Inside, it’s compact with colour block seating. This is 'dirty in a good way' fast food.
Choose from a classic Cheese Royale or one of their more pimped up burger offerings. Everything is cooked on the Josper grill including the just toasted buns. Make sure to order a Norweigan Tøyen-Cola for the full experience. Illegal also cater for vegans and gluten-free.
My Ugly Baby, Youngs Gate 9
More coffee, but this time with doughnuts. My Ugly Baby is a compact shop with an incredibly enticing window display of freshly baked doughnuts with unique flavours on offer. I spotted liquorice, Daim, lemon poppy, strawberry sprinkle, lime coconut and there was plenty more. Wash it down with their home-roasted, excellently made coffee.
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Oslo Street Food, Torggata Bad, Torggata 16
I would have walked straight passed what turned out to be one of the slickest food markets I’ve been to, were it not for the imposing pillared front of this statuesque building catching my attention. Turns out it was once home to the largest public baths in Oslo. But now all you’ll find an excellent array of food and drinks, four bars, 17 food vendors and each one unique and beautifully designed.
There’s a lot to choose from. Highlights for me were, pulled duck buns from Duck It!, crispy vegan wontons from Silk Road and Bistro Budapest, Hungarian food with a Norweigan twist. It’s a great spot for groups, well organised and easy to eat around.
Røør, Rosenkrantzgate 4
This smart city-centre beer hall is a craft drink lovers dream - they have over 70 rotating beers and ciders on tap. The long list includes plenty of local options to try along with various tasting boards.
Upstairs you’ll find an entire floor of shuffleboard, a popular pastime for Norweigan’s, especially in bars. Food is limited to bar and vending machine snacks, but they have quite the selection, and then there’s the vinyl-only music backdrop. A place you could hang around in for quite some time.
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Mangelsgården, Storgata 36H
There’s a certain magic to dinner at Mangelsgården. The building itself dates back to the 16th century and it’s been protected structure since early last century, but has only just opened up again after chef Henrik J. Henriksen worked with the city to painstakingly restore and revive this stunning building. It’s now an elegant restaurant serving for relaxed and nostalgic Northern European dishes.
A plate of mashed potatoes smoked haddock and boiled eggs were a delight. As is the Spatzle, raclette and bread that fills the place with wonderful wafts of melted cheese. An extensive wine list focuses on classical wine regions and small, playful producers. Book ahead.
Author: Ali Dunworth
Ali is a food writer, events curator, host and consultant. She began her career working behind the scenes in food TV in the UK on shows like Saturday Kitchen, Great British Menu and Nigella Lawson's series as well as working in various London restaurants. Back in Ireland for the last few years, she has worked as Food Producer on RTÉ's What Are You Eating?, curates and promotes food events with Eatyard and Bodytonic and writes about everything and anything food-related.