Our visit to this quirky characterful restaurant and bar was mostly unintentional. We found that a neighbouring restaurant we had intended to visit had closed down and despite one of our number insisting we go for Japanese we went instead to Lorry.
Lorry I was told is Oslo’s oldest pub frequented by politicians, socialites, drunks and Norwegian tv ‘stars’. It was bustling when we stepped in out of the cold and (a different) one of our group informed us (rather belatedly to my mind) ‘the service here is terrible, they’re so rude…’
We were shown to one of the few spare tables by a sturdy blonde waitress who would not have been out of place on the set of Vikings. A lady who turned out to be one of the most attentive and friendly waitresses any of us has had the pleasure to have met. She described some of the Christmas customs related to the dishes on their special Christmas menu and helped us with some points of debate over some local folklore.
The interior of Lorry is a tour de force of pub memorabilia including the frame of a canoe, animal heads mounted on the walls, a mixture of old and new art, masks, a statue of a harlequin and a large model aeroplane.
The English among us were given an English language menu which immediately prompted a discovery of weird translations by those multi-linguists present. Some dishes sounded quite odd in both languages to be honest.
The prices were reasonable for Norway and the faultless waitress was again helpful with a recommendation of Riesling white wine with the Lutefisk traditional cod prepared in potato lye (alkali).
The local Rignes beer is a nice light lager which is extremely quaffable. Before our starters arrived we were presented with a basket of three traditional breads and the legendary Norwegian brown cheese.
Potato flour lomper wraps needed some butter and were then wrapped around the brown cheese which tasted like sweet craft singles and reminded me of the odd Queen line ‘you call me sweet, like I’m some kind of cheese…’
The brown soda bread had a crunchy crispy crust and soft insides alternately lacerating your gums and then cushioning them. The fletbrød was like a chewy poppadom or a jappatti that had been run over by a steam roller. On its own it was rather akin to eating thick paper but I expect it might be excellent with a dip of some sort.
Then the starters (and the first portion of lutefisk) arrived. Lorry’s homemade fish soup was creamy with nice vegetables including leeks and heartily warming in the cold weather.
The Skagen toast included smoked salmon, prawns, arctic roe served with egg mayonnaise. The toast was rather limp and indeed may not have been toast at all but just sliced bread that had gone a bit dry. All in all the fish was like a prawn cocktail with egg in it. All the elements were super fresh and well flavoured.
For my main I had the reindeer burgers with lingonberries (sweet and tart). I have had reindeer before in a variety of forms and find it to be a lighter watery version of venison. The burgers sat on a bed of vegetables and potatoes with gravy. There was an interesting second gravy in a pot. I was told that this is called brun sauce (brown) and was pretty much identical to the sauce on Ikea’s meatballs. The burgers were like firm squidgy versions of goblin burgers my dad used to cook from a tin when we went camping.
Traditional Norwegian Christmas fayre includes rehydrated salted dried lamb chops steamed with pine twigs, sheep’s head (real Viking food!) and lutefisk.
Here’s a video of the American embassy reacting to some of these dishes:
I tried the lutefisk and it was okay(ish). I didn’t want anymore, certainly couldn’t eat a while plate and the trimmings were what made it zing. The trimmings were fatty well-cooked bacon bits, mushy peas (rather like those we had off the BBQ at the White Horse in Loughborough last Saturday), chopped cabbage (I think) and boiled potatoes. The cod was slightly tough with a jellified outer layer.
The lutefisk was served in two helpings with the second helping being smaller than the first.
The Juletallerken described as rissoles of minced fat, lean pork and Christmas sausage on the English menus was a pile of meat and thankfully no carbs beyond a blob of red cabbage and some more berries. The huge slab of belly pork was topped with excellent crackling and the meat was succulent and sweet. The Christmas sausage looked like a German white sausage familiar to me from having eaten currywurst in Hamburg.
We left Lorry amazingly satisfied by some unpretentious traditional food and singing the praises of our Viking waitress.