Norway isn’t well known for it’s culinary exports and my conversations with various people during my holiday here so far agreed to a large extent that it doesn’t have a lot to offer.
We started in Oslo and were surprised to find that despite being a captal city, it had limited options for eating out. This was highlighted by the fact that the most prominent restaurants were either Hard Rock Café Oslo, Pizza-hut-esque pizza houses or places reminiscant of those god-awful steak houses you see lurking around London, just waiting to shock and dissapoint some poor unsuspecting tourist.
After three nights in Oslo, we still had no idea what Norwegian food was. I heard somewhere that Norway’s national dish is a frozen pizza from a supermarket. It wouldn’t have surprised me.
The lack of variety seems to be down to the fact that eating out had historically been the luxury of the well-off and the majority of Norwegians ate at home. This still seems to be largely the case. Another legacy of this historical trend is the cost of food.
Trying to find affordable food (by the London standard of £15-a-head can get you something decent and £25 something good) is nearly impossible; there’s certainly no competition in termsf variety. To put it into perspective, a McDonalds (yes, we resorted one night) will set you back 95.00 Krones, about £9.50. That’s about 50% more than in London. A steak at one of the better-looking restaurants will be between 250 and 400 (£25-£40) and a burger will start at about 160 (£16).
But there were a few good spots. Neither of them traditional Norwegian.
Two places that our lovely B&B hosts Melanie, Alex and Maya recommended were Curry & Ketchup and Mucho Mas.
Curry and Ketchup was a surprisingly good curry priced a reasonable £15-a-head and had a fascinating decor of trinkets and paraphanalia. Mucho Mas was a Mexican place, which would provide a hearty portion of burrito, quesadillas or nachos with lots of sour cream, cheese, salsa and guacamole. Too bad that on our second visit we were neglected for almost 10 minutes and didn’t get so much of sniff of a lager. That’s when we resorted to the aforementioned McDonalds out of pure frustration.
It wasn’t all bad though. Breakfast – and most of all coffee – was the culinary highlight. There were a great selection of bakeries to choose from, although we just found one recommeded by the Lonely Planet and stuck to it. Apents Bakery had great coffee and tasty croissants and other pastries. The bluberry brioches were particularly yum. The bakeries tend to have home-made jam on tap too, making breakfast a bit of a daily treat. Better to make breakfast your main meal of the day in Oslo, if you get my meaning.
And so to the coffee! The best bit. Norwegians drink more coffee per capita than anyone else in the world according to the Lonely Planet. We happened across Stockfleths (also recommended by L.P.) which served probably the best coffee I’ve had. Something which showed how routinely seriously they take their coffee was that each time they took their time to make it and each time they asked me to indicate how much water I’d like in my double americano. It really put even the coffee at better UK chains to utter shame and changed my expectations completely.
So, onto Finse by rail next, which is 1,222m above sea level and home to just a rail station, post office, shop and tourist lodge, where we are staying.