Hackney has its fair share of late-night basement dive bars and rowdy, open-all-hours pubs, but a bespoke music venue and club on large scale is welcomed with open arms to the area.
Oslo is brought to Hackney by the folk behind Bristol’s club on a boat, Thekla, and Nottingham’s Rock City, and so they’ve put some good knowledge into practice when kitting out this venue. Right by Hackney Central station and on the track of several major bus routes, you won’t have trouble arriving at the venue. Enter the downstairs bar and you’re met with dazzling light fittings draped with ethereal fabrics that soften the lighting to a flattering level. Long tables populate the middle of the room, while a tall table with stools sits to the side of the long bar and a bench runs along the opposite wall for leaning against or resting a pint. It’s all rustic wood panelling and white-painted walls and there’s a thrilling absence of the overdone exposed brick aesthetic.
Two industrial-looking stairwells at the front and rear of the venue lead up to the club and a neighbouring snug bar. There’s twisted artwork in these recesses featuring black and white, mutilated forest creatures and otherworldly animals. The snug is painted in a rich, turquoise colour and holds church pew seating round the perimeter, but the club is the piece de resistance, setting Oslo apart from other hipster hangouts in the vicinity. A stage is set up with a backdrop for visuals, and the lighting in the large room lets off a sexy purple hue. The acoustics are excellent, so all looks geared up for some serious gigs and club nights.
Granted, Oslo is going to attract its fair share of hipsters, but the attitude is left at the door, much aided by down to earth and smiley staff rushing around behind the bar and between floors. Young professionals from the area are already flocking here to see what this new kid on the block has to offer, but the diverse line-up of live acts and DJs as well as regular club nights is sure to draw in a crowd of discerning musos from further afield. The dress code is laid-back, with an abundance of denim and beanie hats on show. Much is done to maximise the space in the bar for those who wish to dine, but it never feels crammed – just enjoyably cosy and buzzy. The best bit about Oslo is that it can cater for whatever kind of night you like – have a few drinks and a bite to eat at the bar, and then carry on the evening in the club upstairs.
In the bar you can expect retro disco anthems clashing with remixes of indie and chillwave tunes. The club takes the music in several directions, though, with Friday club night Vahalla supplying the very best in pop music with a faint hip hop twist, promising a rota of hits from Fleetwood Mac to Fugees. Saturdays see a more dedicated club vibe take over Oslo, with underground electronic music and record label showcases - club night Dollop seems to have found a new home here already, with several dates on the agenda for the opening months. Finally, weeknights see gigs taking over the upstairs space, shining a light on indie acts with a growing following.
The food is as serious as the music at Oslo, with bar snacks to die for. These consist of some pretty sexy sliders – fillings include braised oxtail with smoked bone marrow mayo – and buckets, an innovative route to take your snacking – corn puppies in a BBQ batter come with a honey and mustard dressing. Even the chips are dangerous here, with a dedicated list of options. Death by bacon includes double cooked chips that are tossed in bacon fat and a bacon ketchup on the side… lethal.
On-trend small plates find a spot on the menu and include cod cheeks with tarar sauce and crab cauliflower cheese on toast. And there are large plates as creative as salt baked celeriac, spinach puree, beetroot and warm pickled quails egg, to suit the veggies. The Oslo burger is bound to be a big hit on this list, thanks to its 42 day aged Devon Longhorn patty and horseradish cheddar – it even comes with an oxtail shot on the side.
Finally, it looks like Sundays will be a big attraction, with a ‘Sunday Service’ menu showcasing slow cooked brisket, whole boned and stuffed chicken or a nut roast. This all costs £20 per person and comes with a bottomless Bloody Mary in a variety of strengths – the ‘hangover special’ is bound to blow away the cobwebs.
The best thing about the bar is that it does a great job of highlighting the burgeoning local beer scene, be that by sporting its own Oslo lager (£3.50) – a very drinkable and hoppy option brewed by Five Points – or by supplying other options from Five Points, Crate and Redemption, all breweries from around the block (£4.40-£4.90 a pint). These are joined by the typical trendy American craft beers you’d expect on draught too, such as Sierra Nevada pale ale and Brooklyn Lager.
Kent’s Chapel Down is also stocked in the wine stash, although the mark-up is significant at £30 for a bottle of Flint Dry. You may be better off exploring the very good house wines instead, such as a Picpoul de Pinet or a Claro Pinot Noir from Chile (£18 a bottle, £6 a glass).
The Last Word
The concept of a gig and club venue - and everything in between - to suit the mob of Hackney hipsters is one that’s been a long time coming. With a diverse music line-up, original decor and food and drink to die for, Oslo is sure to be the place to be seen in 2014.