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Oslo Court

Charlbert Street, off Prince Albert Road, London, England, NW8 7EN, United Kingdom

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Oslo Court is an institution rather than merely a restaurant. To a casual passer-by this is just another north London residential mansion block, with an authentic art deco style lobby. The staff I spoke to seemed a little hazy about the exact opening date of the restaurant, but its longest serving staff member (working here for 42 years!) reckoned 1968, though some sources think it was 1970. At one time in the distant past it was a drinking club (belly dancers were said to feature) and in World War II was popular with Norwegian military types.

The family current ownership has been in place since 1982, and little has changed ever since. The dining rooms seats 80 odd guests at one time and the décor is pink: very pink. The room is carpeted so noise levels are manageable, the lighting levels enable you to read the menu without a torch and the chairs are very comfortable: if only I could say the same of most London dining rooms. Waiters wear dinner jackets and sweep the tables clear of crumbs between courses; it is that sort of a place. The menu is a museum piece – where else in London can you see melba toast, “steak Diane” and “veal Holstein”? The list of daily specials recited by the waiter is longer than the entire menu at many restaurants. 

Three courses cost £44.50 at dinner, £33.50 at lunch. Female diners are spared the disconcerting sight of menu prices even if, as tonight, the booking is in their name and they happen to be paying. The wine list had pleasingly old-fashioned mark-up levels. The Crossings Pinot Noir 2013 was £24.50 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £13, Chateau Batailley 2009 at £65 for a label with a retail price of £41, and Girardin Chassagne Montrachet 2012 at £82for a wine that will set you back £44 in a shop. As can be seen, mark-up levels are as much from another era as the décor.

The rather cosy (small, if you are not an estate agent) tables are set with pink tablecloths, upon which are vegetable crudies, aioli and melba toast. Before your starters arrive some garlic bread appears, reinforcing the notion that you have been transported to a 1970s dinner party.

Crab and avocado with a slightly gloopy cocktail sauce had perfectly good crab and nearly ripe avocado (12/20). Lobster cocktail was generous in volume and the shellfish entirely avoided chewiness (13/20). 

A special of the day of grilled and apparently wild sea bass was correctly cooked and had good flavour (13/20). Beef Wellington had somewhat soggy pastry and lacklustre duxelle, though the flllet steak was decent (11/20). On the side there were pleasant potato latkes and rather overcooked carrots and green beans. 

The dessert trolley is presented with remarkable enthusiasm by a veteran waiter who has become a fixture here across the decades. The reality of what appears does not match his charm, sadly. An apple dessert was soggy, a sherry trifle lacking much in the way of sponge or fruit, or indeed sherry (10/20).

Service was delightful. We were delayed en route, and when I called to apologise I was told: “come whenever you like, sir” rather than being scolded. In the dining room the dinner-jacketed waiters fall over themselves to grant your every wish. Some have been working here for decades, the guardian of the dessert trolley here for 42 years and counting. The frinedlness of the service is surely the key to the undeniable succss of the place.

The bill came to £93 with a good bottle of champagne. If you order a modest bottle of wine to share then a typical bill at dinner would be around £70 all in. Objectively this is way too much for the standard of food that arrives. In practice no one cares. On this mid-week evening every single table was taken, as it doubtless is every night. The charm of the staff and the history of the place somehow cause economic gravity to be defied. Oslo Court is a place that, whatever the objective quality of the food, is a wild success story, with an army of happy returning customers, all tickled pink to be here.

Further reviews: 16th Apr 2010

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  • maureen smith

    Prwan and crab salad, few frozen prawns, packet crab an extra £18.00 on the bill. Not a good as it used to be. The bill with service charge for two people was £182.00

  • Mick clancy

    The food in this establishment is average for the over the top price you pay for average food and over the top wine, the last course is far better than all the rest and so is the waiter

  • Teresa

    Wow. I took my close friend to lunch on Saturday. He hasn't been i this restaurant before. Wow again we would like to go every week. Very impressive. Lunch was divine. Service wonderful. Atmosphere welcoming. Food i need ambulance after the generous portions and delicious food. Will you have us again please. Thank you for a lovely time we had. Teresa and Joe

  • Allen Hyman

    A Los Angeles, Jewish Yankee’s first visit to the Oslo Court, July, 2016. In 1901, twin brothers depart Russia; one’s destination is London, and the other’s is eventually Los Angeles. Though their respective, descendants have both visited and previously dined together, it is one hundred and fifteen (115) years later, that this Los Angeles 2nd generation cousin (with his wife, had plans to be in London) are invited to attend my mother’s first generation London cousin’s 87th birthday party on a July weekday afternoon at her “favorite restaurant,” the Olso Court. I come to learn that the Olso Court has apparently been her restaurant for every important family celebration with her husband and children (my third cousins) for the past 40 years. In anticipation, this Yankee reads commentaries and reviews. I come to realize that the Oslo Court not only provides outstanding food and service, in its own unique manner (to be discussed more fully below) it as well provides (in this case for my cousin and her family) 40 years of special memories (and I suspect there are special memories preserved for many of the other patrons as well, many of Jewish decent). There are three birthdays celebrated on the same afternoon, some patrons greet others, and a celebrity billionaire is dining as well.. And I find (for my London family) that the experience is a mixture of decades, a life time) of memories with the anticipation of being greeted by a most kind host (also known for decades) and the anticipation of being served with a respectful staff (many who are also long acquaintances), along with the food itself. Restaurant reviews and comments inform this visitor that the Oslo Court is remarkably unchanged from the 1970s ( providing “ a visit to by gone era”), with its pink table clothes, its waiters in black tie, with guest (women’s) menus without prices, with carpet that dulls the noise and (despite an extensive menu) a rapidly announced very extensive list of “specials,” (I estimate 13-18) which one is barely able to comprehend and consider). Along with my “starter” a pate, (good) and my main course, Dover sole, (excellent), I then lose count of the number of upwards of as many if not less than six waiters which rapidly circle the table serving family style from large platters of side dishes (three types of potatoes mashed, roasted (including potato lakes, the Jewish version of hash browns, I take two, with home made apple sauce) green beans, peas, asparagus, and possibly other side dishes of which I am unable to recall. (I suggest this outpouring of extras is also a tradition stemming from the decades ago emergence into the upper middle class). The desert waiter (again of many decades) is known for (and displays) his exuberance, (offers many deserts) and my crepe Suzette passed the test). The owner’s reported alleged semi-mysterious previous restaurant business background adds lore to the visit. I mention these matters, in that Los Angeles, has changed so often so rapidly, that ethnic communities often do not last a generation, and the city unfortunately offers so little tradition. We have two or three delicatessens which have lasted 50-70 years, but our equivalent of the Olso Court has unfortunately now vanished with its memories. Space being more expensive, restaurants in London are generally smaller ( more cozy) then in Los Angeles, (the Olso Court seats (I believe) 70). And I observe, (at about 3:30 P.M. as the lunch hour ends), the restaurant taking delivery of boxes of wine through a window right off of the dinning room. I must suggest that given that the Olso Court remains unchanged, in doing so it preserves my special cousin and her husband’s most valuable memories, and brings them joy and pleasure with each visit. The food and service are excellent, but the memories which accompany each visit (afforded by the absence of change) are priceless. I confess that during the same week my wife and I had dinner at a Gordon Ramsey Michelin starred restaurant, (impeccable service, wonderful food and a invitation to visit the kitchen and the chief, where they could not have been more hospitable). Yet there was an absence of history. For me, my cousins’ memories and history is in part parallel to mine. So for me, I came home to the Olso Court. Perhaps next time, I will order beef wellington.

  • Edesia

    I was surprised, no flabbergasted even, when i realised Oslo Court now has a website. It went live this year. I hope and pray jamr jar cocktails, foams and nitrogen never make an appearence, the glory of Oslo Court is entire due to the timewarp and nostalgia.