8 October 2013

Nydalen Bryggeri & Spiseri, Oslo – Restaurant Review

Over the last year or so Oslo has seen some great new restaurant openings. Although there's still a long way to go before Oslo catches up with its Scandinavian neighbours, it's finally starting to feel like Oslo is getting a restaurant scene befitting its status as Norway's capital. One very recent addition to the city's dining scene is Nydalen Bryggeri & Spiseri that opened in Oslo's Nydalen neighbourhood in August 2013.

Running Nydalen Bryggeri are the team behind Oslo's Amundsen Brewery who have turned the site of a former Bølgen & Moi restaurant into a vast temple to zythology (yeah, I had to look that one up too), serving a wide variety of beers as well as robust fare for lunch and dinner, with many of the dishes made with their own beer.

The cavernous restaurant seats 170 on two levels, with space for even more people outside. Seemingly hewn out of solid wood, it's a vast room of exposed brickwork, pendant lights, and brown leather banquettes. Dominating the room is a large bar with some 24 beers on tap (with over 100 different kinds of bottled beer also available). There's also a separate glass-fronted brewing room onsite with capacity to brew around 150,000 litres of beer each year.

Nydalen Bryggeri's interior is a barn-like space that you'll either love or hate. Mrs. Nibbler was of the former camp, while for me it conjured up memories of the myriad of anonymous drinking dens that seem to have infected the UK high street (I'm looking at you All Bar One, Pitcher & Piano, Slug & Lettuce et al.)

We turned up one Saturday for lunch but as I was driving, booze was off the menu for me this time. However, given the lacklustre quality of the food and service it's a choice that came with more than a little regret. We were shown to our table and, once seated, were promptly ignored by all the waitstaff, a seemingly invisible table of four. After about ten minutes I ended up going to find a menu myself and managed to eventually flag down a passing waiter to place our order. Mercifully, though, we didn't have to wait too long until the food arrived.

I'm a sucker for pulled pork sandwiches, and what arrived certainly looked the part. A floury bun packed with lots of meat was very decent indeed and worthy of its NKr. 168 (€21) price tag. Tender, juicy pork was well seasoned, although it could have done with more of the tangy BBQ sauce. I particularly liked the acidic bite of the pickled onions and the addition of a pungent blue cheese dressing. The small side of coleslaw was nothing to write home about and sat unloved and barely touched. The fries, however, were pretty good, with each chip being evenly cooked to a light and moreish crisp.

Mrs. Nibbler's bangers & mash (NKr. 168 / €21) looked great. A great big mound of fluffy mashed potatoes and two obscenely large homemade sausages sat beneath a small forest of thyme leaves. I managed to sneak a bite, and while I really liked the flavour of the garlicky mash – a tailor-made vehicle for mopping up the thick beer & onion gravy – it was the sausages I took exception to. While possessing a pleasing coarse texture and clearly made from good quality meat, their overwhelming taste was of pepper and salt. Lots of pepper and salt. I've found that over-seasoning is often a common thing in Norway, a country that seems to have wholeheartedly embraced all things saline. But the amount of black pepper in these sausages was enough to bring Mrs. Nibbler out in her finest bright red vindaloo sheen. I presume this was a simple kitchen error, and not the recipe's design, as otherwise this could have been a really good dish.

Not pictured here was the burger (NKr. 158 / €19) that the two little Nibbler girls shared. I'm a bit of a burger bore and could wax lyrical about the seemingly simple conjunction of beef and bread for ages. Nydalen's version wasn't great, though; the meat being too dry, too densely packed and lacking that umami-filled char that any good burger should have, while the bun just wasn't soft, sweet or buttery enough. My search for a good burger in a Norwegian restaurant continues.

Desserts at Nydalen are few and of the fairly generic kind – but you don't really come to a place like this for the desserts. Not tempted by the chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, panna cotta or apple cake (yawn), we decided to call it a day. Cue another interminable wait while we tried to flag someone down for the bill. Even putting my coat on and doing my best 'can-we-pay-and-leave-now-please' face didn't help matters.

If you haven't guessed it already, I was quite disappointed with the whole Nydalen Bryggeri experience. While the food here does have some potential, what we were served just had too many flaws to tempt me into coming back. But the real disappointment was with the slow and disinterested service. Whether there are still some teething troubles (almost two months after opening), or whether we were there on an off-day, I don't know. But first impressions count and on the day we went, I didn't leave with a good one.

I suspect where Nydalen Bryggeri will flourish, like the large UK bar chains it reminds me of, is in catering to people looking for a post-work pint. There's an excellent selection of beers from around the world on offer here, including some interesting beers from Norway and Denmark. So if you're coming here, my advice would be to skip the food and have a liquid lunch instead. Presuming you can get the waitstaff's attention that is.

Food:           5 / 10
Service:       4 / 10
Ambiance:   6 / 10

Nydalen Bryggeri & Spiseri
Nydalsveien 30A
0484 Oslo, Norway
Tel: +47 22 23 94 40

1 comment:

  1. Recommend you check out Illegal Burger at Møllergata 23. Bit tricky to figure out the entrance, but last time I was there (in may) I did enjoy a couple of tasty burgers unlike any others I've had in Oslo :-)