15 February 2012

Café Laundromat, Oslo – Restaurant Review

As far as ideas go, putting together a laundry, restaurant, library, café, and bar under one roof isn't an obvious one, but Oslo's Café Laundromat does just that. It's an ingenious concept that first started in Copenhagen in 2004 and came to Oslo in 2010. I must admit I had high hopes for Café Laundromat – all-day dining places are as rare as hens' teeth in Norway, and there was something about the quirky style of this place that just felt right.

Located in Oslo's Bislett neighbourhood, Café Laundromat is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the nearby university campus. And with free Wi-Fi to boot, it seemed the large café was full of students tapping away on laptops while slowly nursing a solitary coffee. At either end of the long room were cosy alcoves filled with over 4,000 books to peruse, presumably while you're waiting for the spin cycle to finish on your smalls in the adjoining laundry room. The place has a pleasing casual vibe about it, just the sort of place you'd want to hunker down in with a newspaper or good book.

The menu here offers a huge selection of no-nonsense dishes for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. You can also sit with a morning coffee, enjoy a lunchtime pint of local beer, or while away the evening with a cocktail or two. Whatever the time of day, it seems Café Laundromat tries to offer something appropriate to eat or drink.

I seem to be on a never-ending quest to find a decent burger in Oslo, so naturally I wanted to try one of Laundromat's versions. I ordered a cheeseburger (NKr 146 / €19), but the second it arrived I regretted it. You just know when a cheeseburger looks right and in my book a burger should be always be served in a soft floury bun. So the sight of a slice of toasted sourdough skewered to the burger like the sail of some meaty boat told me all I needed to know.
The burger itself had a nice char on the outside, but the meat itself was disappointing. It was cooked all the way through and was very dense, a bit like a traditional Norwegian karbonader; it was also much too salty. If it had been billed as a karbonader then I don't think I would have been as disappointed, but this was no burger. It came with a side of soggy potato wedges, which just added to my misery.  

Mrs. Nibbler chose a steak sandwich (NKr 132 / €17.50), which consisted of grilled entrecôte served on ciabatta bread with salad, grilled onions and mushrooms. It certainly look the part, but the meat had been cooked to a state of tough leathery greyness and wasn't pleasant at all.

Undeterred by my lunchtime experience I returned again another day to try Laundromat's breakfast offering. Things improved marginally, but not by much. Eggs Benedict (NKr 118 / €15.50) arrived on toasted bread and not on the traditional English muffin. It may seem like a small thing, but without the softness of the muffin this dish just becomes eggs on dry toast. The Hollandaise sauce was fine, if a bit muted, and the eggs were nicely poached with soft runny centres. This dish also came with a side of fries that probably works better for brunch or lunch than for breakfast.

Café Laundromat strives to cater to all occasions, from a quick coffee in the morning to a nightcap of whisky after dinner, but this I feel is to the restaurant's detriment. It's difficult to be all things to all people, and when the kitchen is open from 7am to 11pm and the menu lists some 50 separate dishes, the danger is that nothing is done well, and that's exactly what is happening here. In the end the food I had at Laundromat was woefully poor and felt like it hadn't been made with much care.

Ultimately, I feel Laundromat is a missed opportunity. The service is efficient and friendly, the atmosphere is casual and welcoming, but it's the food that falls short. It would be much better if they trimmed the menu down and focused on a few dishes that they could do really well. As it stands Café Laundromat is a great concept but with woefully flawed execution.

Food:          4 / 10
Service:      8 / 10
Ambiance:  7 / 10

Café Laundromat
Underhaugsveien 2
0354 Oslo
Tel: +47 21 38 36 29


  1. Aah, a shame the food falls short... surely their best way to make money from the many folks who will happily while away the hours in such a nice environment is to offer food that is appealing and just can't be resisted. Otherwise, their margins from laundry and the occasional coffee won't be enough?!

  2. My biggest problem with Café Laundromat is that they stolen everything in their concept from one of my favourite places in Copenhagen and Reykjavik.

    It’s a pure copy, down to the interior, name, menu, style and even the books. I know copying is normal in the bussines (Schilers in NY (http://schillersny.com/) vs Schillers Taps in Oslo (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Schillers-Tapas/117353841671000), but this is theft!

    You know when a restaurateur steals in this way that the rest of the experience is going to be the same pale copy…

    But, I recommend everyone how’s in Copenhagen or Reykjavik to stop by the original Café Laundromat. Good place whit good decent food!



  3. Have you tried St Lars which is only a block away? They make juicy burgers with delicious roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes. Even if quality is not always consistent, it's my favourite burger/grill restaurant in Oslo.

    But the best burger I had was, quite surprisingly, at Ni og Tyve, which has otherwise a rather boring Nordic menu. The meat was tasty a perfectly cooked, and the bread was absolutely perfect, airy and soft. They have a nice outdoor area, so I'll try again when the sun's back, I hope the high level of quality wasn't a coincidence!

  4. Hi Kavey! Yes, I would have thought the best way to attract and keep more customers would have been to offer decent food. Sadly there are all too many mediocre places that flourish in Oslo because of a lack of any other options and hence competition.

    Hi Kai. I had a look at the website of the original Laundromat cafe in Copenhagen and you're right – very similar look and feel. I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

    Hi nordavind. St. Lars has been on my wish list for a long time. I'm a big fan of Viestad and keep meaning to go. Never been to Ni og Tyve but sounds like I should give it a try, sun or no sun :-)

  5. What a shame the food was not better as the concept behind this cafe sounds great. Perhaps a new chef could change things?

  6. if you are going to St.Lars, you should realy have the goat! Its sooo goooood