Home Lifestyle The Hidden Gem That’s Been Around For Generations

The Hidden Gem That’s Been Around For Generations

by Keerat

By Cheryl Simmons – Restaurant Critic

Discover The Timeless Elegance of Oslo Court

 

Driving around the leafy residential streets of St. Johns Wood, in north-west London, I keep thinking I have put the wrong postcode into my trusty sat nav. There is no restaurant frontage that I can see.

Then I spot a brightly-lit sign, Oslo Court.

But I’m still not convinced.

We are outside a Grade II listed block of flats and it all looks fairly nondescript to me.

Once inside, though, we have found a hidden gem, Oslo Court, a family-run restaurant that has been owned and run for nearly 40 years by Tony Sanchez, a Spaniard who trained as a chef in Geneva and gained his hospitality experience in nightclubs and restaurants during the 1970s. In 1982 he felt confident enough to start his own business.

 

 

It has come a long way since those early days when a three-course Sunday lunch would set you back a relatively modest £7.50. Unsurprisingly, it was a resounding success with long queues of hungry customers waiting to get inside.

It probably hasn’t changed much in the four decades since – apart from the expansion of the menu.

There is a feeling of travelling back in time as you enter through the lobby to an atmosphere that is warm and inviting, with crisp pink tablecloths, which are the foundation for a delicate silver vase with a single rose on each table – and one of the many throwback features from earlier decades, melba toast and real butter.

The room has lush carpets, swag and tail curtains and beautiful chairs which all help to create a feeling of understated glamour.

The clientele is an interesting mix, ranging from well-heeled ladies who lunch to business customers clinching deals over the delicious food.

 

Often, too, there are tables of families, sometimes extending through three generations, while it is not unusual not to more than one birthday or anniversary being marked at a single sitting, with celebratory cakes brought out in triumphant style by the ever-attentive waiters.

The staff are incredibly loyal and only last month, Neil Hashmat, the venue’s longest-serving employee who started work at Oslo Court more than 35 years ago, was voted ‘Best waiter in Britain’. The charismatic 71-year-old legend of the dessert trolley has been offering up his home-made delights since he first joined the fold.

For regulars, meeting up again with Neil was like visiting an old friend, while new customers would be spoilt with a mouth-watering plate of sweetness. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 the sweet trolley has gone into temporary retirement, but Neil is still going strong.

There is a waiting list for a Saturday evening which is when I visited with my partner. Even though the restaurant was crowded, we were seated quickly and crudities and warm rolls soon followed.

The set menu immediately brought a sense of nostalgia with many dishes long discarded and replaced by other eating establishments, making an appearance.

Escargots, Coquille St. Jacques and French Onion soup were all present and correct, along with seven other options. I chose the Calamari which was delicious, very lightly battered and fresh. My partner opted for the soup which he thoroughly enjoyed. His usual criticism is that that any soup he is offered is lukewarm, but not this time, it arrived piping hot.

There were so many of those main dishes from yesteryear to tempt me that I was spoilt for choice and there was also a good selection of vegetarian options.

Decisions, decisions. I wanted to try it all.

 

 

From classics like Veal Schnitzel or Holstein, Crispy Roast Duck and their own signature dish of Chicken Princess Oslo Court to the wide variety of fish encompassing Halibut, baby Turbot and the magnificent Dover Sole, it was almost too much to take in.

In the end I played it safe and opted for one of the most classic of classic dishes, the Steak Diane. It was absolutely divine, perfectly cooked and beautifully seasoned. I enjoyed the full plate – nouvelle cuisine with baby portions is certainly not on the menu here – another rarity in this modern age.

My other half opted for the Calves Liver. Very few restaurateurs offer this delicacy and this too was beautifully presented and tantalised the taste buds.

Although the dessert trolley is no more, it certainly didn’t make an iota of difference to the superb selection of sweet treats on offer including retro Crepe Suzette, Profiteroles, Apple Strudel and Creme Caramel.

 

Again, picking out a couple of these dessert delicacies was another tough choice. In the end the strudel and profiteroles didn’t disappoint although I am sure the same could have been said for anything and everything on the magnificent menu.

Coffee and petite fours are included in the price of dinner and although a few dishes have a supplement, the basic price of £42 per person for lunch and £52 per person plus ten per cent service charge for our three-course set dinner was excellent value, complemented by a half-bottle of Chateau Boutisse, Grand Cru St. Emilion 2014 at £28.50.

Many celebs, sports personalities and leading politicians have feasted at Oslo Court and Great British Bake Off presenter and TV star Matt Lucas, while compiling his Desert Island Discs, said he would plump for the restaurant as his luxury item.

You’re not wrong, Matt!

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