10 November 2011

Le Benjamin, Oslo – Restaurant Review

Le Benjamin is one of the newer additions to the burgeoning restaurant scene in Oslo's trendy Grünerløkka neighbourhood. Opened in February 2011 by the people behind the popular Brasserie Blanche in the city's Homansbyen area, Le Benjamin comes with high expectations and strong local competition. Fortunately, it manages to deliver, and if you're looking for a casual meal of decent-enough French classics then look no further.

Located just opposite the meandering Akerselva river that bisects the city, Le Benjamin sits, somewhat ominously, on the same site that has seen two restaurants close down in the last two years. But you get the sense that Le Benjamin has the right mix of food, price, ambiance and service to give it the staying power its predecessors lacked.

Gone is the gaudy nautical theme of the previous occupants (a short-lived seafood restaurant) and in its place is a restrained interior that manages to feel quite French. They could easily have gone down the route of playing sultry Édith Piaf songs and writing everything in Metropolitaines font, but they've fortunately avoided that pitfall and have created a warm, inviting and tasteful dining room. 

The menu is packed with perennial French crowd pleasers such as onion soup, tarte flambée, bouillabaisse, entrecôte steak, and a selection of cheeses imported weekly from France. There's also a daily changing 3-course menu available for Nkr 395 (€51) – Nkr 295 (€38) at lunch – which during dinner time can be expanded to 5-courses for Nkr 525 (€68).

I went for the daily 3-course menu, and the first dish to arrive was chicken liver parfait served with cornichons, sourdough bread and a few salad leaves. This was a decent started, the parfait having good flavour with a smooth creamy texture, though it would have been even nicer had the accompanying bread been toasted.

A main course of Boeuf Bourguignon was as comforting as a great big hug. This classic dish of beef braised in red wine was really lifted by the addition of roast bone marrow, which thoughtfully came with a crab fork to extract every morsel of rich, slippery goodness. It was accompanied by mashed potatoes, button onions, and crisp rashers of bacon.

Mrs Nibbler's main course was the Alsatian dish of tarte flambée (Nkr 120 / €15.50) made with Bayonne ham and onions. I managed to sneak a bite and can report it tasted great; the bread base was delightfully thin, although the topping was a little heavy on the cheese.

Finally, a dessert of gâteaux au potiron (pumpkin cake) arrived topped with salted caramel ice cream, pistachios, and crème Anglaise. There seemed to be none of the advertised apple compôte on the plate but this was probably for the best as it tasted fine without it. The à la carte menu also features that popular 1970's dessert, Crêpe Suzette, which is prepared tableside. I love a bit of Crêpe Suzette and I'm glad to see it's making something of a comeback. One for next time, I think.

I really enjoyed Le Benjamin. It's exactly the sort of place you'd want to have around your neighbourhood; nothing fancy or too pricey, just simple, well-cooked French classics served in a relaxed atmosphere by friendly waitstaff. I'll definitely be back. My only regret is that I don't live closer.

Food:          7 / 10
Service:      9 / 10
Ambiance:  8 / 10

Le Benjamin Bar & Bistro
Søndre gate 6
0550 Oslo
Tel: +47 22 35 79 44


  1. I've nominated Nordic Nibbler for the Liebster Blogger Award. For more details on this award, stop by my blog http://www.ferdakost.com/2011/11/liebster-blog-award.html

  2. Sounds nice! Should make my way there!