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.