Eccentric, but warm and welcoming – Oslo is housed within Hackney Central’s redeveloped railway station building. Built in 1870 by the North London Railway Company, the two-storey building serves as not only a restaurant, but a bar and event space, hosting regular gigs throughout the week.
The décor, which I am told draws on Nordic aesthetic, is somewhat moody with exposed bricks, dark wood table tops and interesting lamps . But it’s also cosy, with large windows and a lovely outside dining space, which is practically full when we arrive for brunch on a sunny Saturday.
We take our seats between the open kitchen and one of the large windows and order homemade lemonade and rose lemonade followed by two Americanos, which are freshly brewed and arrive in oversized mugs. The new brunch menu, served from 11am to 5pm on weekends, is simple in concept. The brunch staples of eggs Royal, Benedict and Florentine are accompanied by various waffle-based dishes. We opt for the Nordic Cure (£9.50) and Veggie Cure (£9), both of which are served on a giant waffle.
The service is very quick, so before we know it we’re making room on our small table for our large breakfasts. The Nordic Cure consists, in addition to the afore mentioned waffle, of two eggs (in our case poached), avocado, halloumi, chorizo, smoked bacon, grilled peppers and baked beans. The Veggie Cure is the same, with the omission of the meat elements, of course, and the addition of a Portobello mushroom and cherry tomatoes.
I’m delighted the Veggie is something that hopes to celebrate the ingredients it does contain, rather than trying to be something it isn’t with veggie sausages, for example, as is so often the case. Although the halloumi is initially left off our plates, it is quickly served separately once the staff are made aware. The cheese is delectably grilled and its saltiness is a great addition to the sweetness of the waffle and grilled peppers. I’m fond of the mixture of the sweetness of the waffle batter and the savoury remaining ingredients. It’s similar to the American pancake with bacon and maple syrup, of which I am also a huge fan, but the balance of flavours is more in favour of the savoury here.
The eggs have perfect runny yolks, the avocado is fresh and the bacon is crispy. Overall, each element is cooked very well, and together both dishes are a great start to a weekend. The dish isn’t complex, but it’s executed so well that its simplicity manages to superbly showcase each individual component. The main issue here is the temperature. While I agree with the avocado being chilled and enjoy being able to eat the beans without scolding my mouth, I’m not a fan of lukewarm poached eggs or cooked and cooled Portobello mushrooms. I suspect that having these ingredients particularly hot would make for a confusing mix with the necessarily cool ingredients. But I suspect there’s room for the waffles being freshly cooked and still warm, and the eggs more than a minute or so away from stone cold.
Nonetheless, although the temperature of the food presents a personal issue, both dishes are overall enjoyable. Our brunch experience at Oslo is quick, but the food is tasty and the staff strike the correct balance of attentive and friendliness. It’s exactly what’s needed on a Saturday morning after a long working week.
Oslo can be found at 1A Amhurst Road, London, E8 1LL.