Chanoy Honeymoon: Oslo, December 2015

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.

In some ways, Oslo reminds me a lot of Sydney. They have an iconic Opera House as well, with a modern design of steel and glass that’s entirely tourist-friendly, allowing you to walk up to, and climb onto the roof of the structure. They have a touristy harbour area (Aker Brygge), which reminds me of Darling Harbour. They have a large open space in the centre of the city like Martin Place, where they hold festivals and fairs like the Christmas markets. And like Sydney, the main city is quite walkable – just as I never bother to catch transport from Wynyard to Central, we hardly bothered to catch buses, trams or trains in Oslo as everything is quite close together.

That’s where similarities end. Unlike Sydney, Oslo has an absolutely stunning winter. We walked through the park on our first day, where everything was still green. The next day, we walked through the park again and everything had been blanketed in a beautiful carpet of white snow that turned the whole city into a beautiful landscape. There’s nothing quite like walking through the Christmas markets and watching kids on the public ice-skating rink, drinking from a cup of reindeer mince soup, as snowflakes slowly fall from the skies and kiss you on your cheeks.

If there’s one thing that will stick in my mind about Oslo, it’s art and design. It starts with a commitment to beautiful architecture around the city – like the modern Opera House, the classic Parliament House, and the stunning murals inside the City Hall. It continues onto their pride in their nation’s art history, with celebrations of their favourite arty son Edvard Munch who painted The Scream in both the National Gallery and the dedicated Munch Gallery. There’s also celebrations of their classic folk art traditions, with a museum specifically dedicated to both traditional and contemporary Norwegian folk arts, crafts, and fashion design.

Oslo’s art and design also reminds me of the afternoon we spent with K’s Norwegian friend Stine, who studied Industrial Design with him back in university and now works as a jewellery designer. We went for a delicious creamy pot of hot chocolate at the Hotel Bristol, sitting in their beautiful lobby restaurant that’s designed like a cosy library – very hygge.

In addition to our afternoon hot chocolate treat, we had a few other meals out – an overpriced meal at Louise Restaurant and Bar in the Aker Brygge area, and a much more satisfying lunch at Mathallen Food Hall in the cool area of Grunerlokka. Other than that and a few other small snacks along the way (a Mexican-style chilli soup featuring reindeer mince, and some chimney cake), we generally made the effort to cook at home. Norway, along with the other Nordic countries, are amongst the most expensive countries to visit for travellers. Given the current exchange rate, cooking a pasta or a stew at home is much more affordable than eating out all the time.

Still, while Oslo may be expensive for tourists, I can see how it would be a great place to live. Many Norwegians seem to have a much healthier attitude towards outdoors activities even when it’s cold and snowing. It wasn’t unusual for us to see kindergarten teachers taking their group of toddlers rugged up in snowsuits out for walks through the city’s gardens. Groups of three and four year olds would sit on the roof of the Opera House eating their packed sandwiches, or trudge through the snow at the fortress on their daily walk. It’s a much healthier attitude than the way most kindergartens and playgroups in Australia keep their kids cooped up inside or restrict them to a square of concrete outside with some pitiful play equipment.

Overall, I quite enjoyed our time in Oslo. It felt like quite a small city, where you could just walk around and take everything in at a slower pace rather than being rushed from Point A to Point B in the interest of seeing everything. While it is an expensive city to visit, I wouldn’t let that deter you from visiting – it’s quite beautiful in winter. I’d make the effort to get out of Oslo into other parts of Norway like Alesund though – it’s well worth the trip!

Lunching at Mathallen Food Hall, Oslo Norway

After the disappointment of paying ridiculous Oslo prices at Louise Restaurant and Bar, I was determined to find a more reasonably-priced, delicious meal. This was accomplished when we stumbled by the Mathallen food hall in the very cool hipster district of Grunnerlokka, to the north-east of the city.


It’s hard to describe Mathallen, as I’m not sure if we have anything quite like it in either Sydney or Melbourne. Essentially it’s like being in a market hall like Prahran Market in Melbourne, but where all the stalls are food stalls rather than produce stalls. Think the Night Noodle Markets, but in a permanent location so you don’t have to fight the special-occasion crowds to buy your food. In fact, we found Mathallen to be quiet, even when we went for lunch. I suspect that the majority of Norwegians must dine at an earlier hour as it was suspiciously quiet around 1pm.


There’s over twenty different stalls in the hall, but K and I focused on three different eateries – Hello Good Pie, Ma Poule and Noodles. The first because I had a craving for a meat pie, Four and Twenty style, the second because of their excellent prices for a duck confit sandwich (100NOK with a drink), and the third because I was craving a taste of home, and nothing says home to me like pillowy-soft steamed Chinese buns.


Unfortunately the Pork Belly Bun didn’t quite live up to expectations. While the bun itself was as soft as I like it, the construction of the bun left a lot to be desired. The coriander was fresh and the pork belly was tender and flavourful. However, the amount of hoisin sauce used was overwhelming and it felt as though with every bite of the bun, you were coating your entire palate with a thick layer of sticky sweet sauce. In these situations, less is definitely more – we ended up opening up the bun to scrape out as much sauce as we could to make it more palatable.


The Duck Confit Sandwich was much more pleasing, served in half a crusty fresh baguette, French-style – unsurprising considering that ‘Ma Poule’ is obviously French-inspired. The confit was quite tender, but with some tougher bits that provided a nice contrast in texture. With a light sprinkling of coriander and a smear of mustard on the baguette, this was a hearty sandwich that could please anyone.


This was the dish that got me most excited though – a Beef and Gravy Pie. As crazy as it sounds, I’d been missing having a good ole Aussie meat pie, Four and Twenty style. I thought this might be the answer to my cravings, but it was actually just too good – there wasn’t enough of a mystery blend of beef and horse meat to mimic the classic Four and Twenty. Instead, I found large chunks of tender braised beef drenched in a rich red wine gravy and a superbly buttery and crispy pastry. An excellent gourmet pie.


We also ordered two side dishes from Hello Good Pie to increase our vegetable intake – a creamy Sweet Potato Mash and a Mixed Salad with a unique vanilla and passionfruit vinaigrette. The mash was lightly peppered for an extra zing that went really well with its creamy texture, and the salad’s vinaigrette was subtly floral and fruity – an excellent accompaniment for an otherwise standard garden salad.


No meal is complete without dessert, and the Chocolate and Peanut Pie from Hello Good Pie was a great treat. With a harder dense peanut brittle base, and a creamy chocolate mousse-like filling, it was rich without being too sweet. Just the perfect little treat to share between two people.

The equivalent of one entrée, two mains, two sides, one dessert and one drink at various stalls in Mathallen Food Hall ended up costing us around 420NOK, or $65AUD. Considering we had paid 461NOK at Louise Restaurant and Bar for two mains and two drinks, this was a much more reasonable – and filling – meal. We left Mathallen food hall absolutely stuffed to the gills given that we had over-ordered and could have done without the entrée and one side.

Check out Mathallen food hall if you’re ever in Oslo – you can get a great value meal at any one of the many food stalls, or mix and match your meals from different stalls the way we did. It’s not far out from the centre of Oslo (nothing much is, it’s a very walkable city), and well worth the trip.

Mathallen Food Hall is located at 5 Vulkan, Oslo.

Review: Louise Restaurant and Bar, Oslo Norway

I need to remember one thing – ‘cool’ harbour areas recommended by local tourist offices usually aren’t the best place to visit if you want to have good food at a good price. Darling Harbour in Sydney and Docklands in Melbourne aren’t any good for local food – and it’s certainly the same for Aker Brygge in Oslo.

The friendly lady at the Oslo tourist office drew a self-guided walking tour route on a city map for us, and recommended that we go for lunch at the harbourside precinct of Aker Brygge after visiting their Opera House. “There’s a good variety of restaurants there,” she said. “From high end to McDonalds, there’s everything.”

Well if there was fast or casual eateries in the area, we certainly couldn’t find them! We wandered around Aker Brygge for almost half an hour peering hopefully at the menus of numerous restaurants hoping they wouldn’t break our budget, only to find that the average cost of a main was around 250NOK. I wasn’t prepared to pay that much at an un-researched restaurant – if we’re spending $100AUD on a meal, I want to read some reviews first to make sure that it’s worth the expense!


Getting hungry, we decided on going to Louise Restaurant and Bar as it had slightly more reasonable prices than some of the other restaurants – around 180NOK for a main.


The restaurant was chock full of businesspeople when we arrived, but had nearly emptied by the time we left. I suspect that the lunch hour is much earlier in Norway – around 11.30am – 12.30pm because that’s when the restaurant started to empty. It certainly makes a change from the late dining hours we’d been getting used to while we were travelling through France and Spain – and I have to say, these earlier dining hours suit me much better!


I ordered the Smoked Salmon Fillet from Leroy, served with herb salad, rye bread crisps, pickled gherkin, egg, chive sour cream and grated horseradish, for 168NOK. This was a delightful little salad, with a very generous serving of some plump and rich smoked salmon pieces. The combination of smoky salmon, dressed salad, crisp rye crisps and sour gherkins worked really well – my only disappointment was that the egg wasn’t soft-boiled. A soft-boiled egg with a runny yolk mixed through the salad would have really lifted the whole dish.


K ordered the Exclusive Louise Burger, with a patty made with a blend of beef brisket, rib, and chuck steak, served with melted Jarlsberg, tomato and bacon (195NOK). The meat blend of the burger patty was quite delicious and unique, and it was really lifted by the melted Jarlsberg cheese as well. A softer brioche bun could have improved the burger overall, but it was quite a good meal with the crispy crunchy fries on the side.

We ordered two Cokes with our meal as well to help quench our thirst…then regretted it when we got the bill and realised we’d been charged 49NOK ($8AUD) for each 300ml drink – $16 in total just for soft drinks! Buyer beware – while the meals may be a little cheaper than elsewhere in Aker Brygge, they make it up by overcharging you for drinks!

While the food at Louise Restaurant and Bar was quite satisfying, we left the restaurant a bit disappointed. For one, we felt ripped off by the cost of the drinks, and for another, while the food was nice, it wasn’t remarkable – we felt that we could have had a better meal elsewhere for cheaper. Aker Brygge in Oslo is not a great place to visit for a meal if you’re on a budget – do your research in advance and look elsewhere!

Louise Restaurant and Bar is located at 3 Stranden in Oslo, Norway.