The restaurant is called Bastard (bastardrestaurant.se): well, seriously, how could you resist? Anyone who thinks that the exciting Nordic stuff is only being done in big-name cities is missing a trick. The Skåne area at the very heel of Sweden is nurturing some really forward-thinking talent.
Like Andreas Dahlberg and his uncompromisingly-named baby. This handsome restaurant – a butch, raucous room, clinical tiles clashing with opulent peacock wallpaper, vintage educational posters and chandeliers made from Campari Soda bottles – is so worth travelling for.
Flavours aren’t big, they’re mahoosive: ox heart served with artichokes, lemon and olives; or thick, charred sourdough toast, with chilled butter and a just-opened tin of excellent, salty anchovies. Chicken and wild mushrooms comes with the chicken’s skin: crisps from paradise. The Bastard plank isn’t a rococo Glaswegian insult, but a board piled high with excellent charcuterie. There’s a wood-fired oven in the fairylight-strewn, shabby little garden where herbs run riot, and the cocktails are killer. This is the kind of restaurant I adore.
They’re a healthy bunch, the locals. If they’re not running along the seafront at the futuristic Västra Hamnen district, they’re wafting about in rubber wetsuits. Only a Swede could look insouciant in a rubber wetsuit. To keep up with the Jonssons, we go to the venerable bathing establishment Kallbadhus at Ribban beach (ribersborgskallbadhus.se), a quirky, wooden building poking out into the Baltic sea, full of lithe, tanned health-nuts. After years of eating out for a living, I don’t get naked lightly, so we sneak off to nearby Restaurang Ripersborg (ribersborg.com).
It’s hilarious, a vintage beach establishment complete with plastic palms and a clientele of elderly, dolled-up dames. Nothing funny about their lacy potato pancakes though: topped with jewel-like trout roe and soured cream. And toast with skagen, the cliché Nordic combo of prawns, dill and mayo, or a huge steak stuffed with pickles and mustard and fashioned into an obscene-looking sausage. Geese honk past. This is not the place to come for Malmö modernity, but it’s hugely endearing.
Off to shop with the locals, around the market square of Möllevångstorget, its satellite streets throbbing with Asian restaurants. We spend hours in cheesemonger Möllans Ost (mollansost.com) – who knew there were so many wonderful Swedish cheeses? My favourites are Herta, a nippy goat’s cheese from Gothenburg, camembert-like Lill-stina and pungent, excellent ewe’s milk Boltjärn Blå, all chomped with hafi, sour-sweet gooseberry jam. I’m not so taken with getmese, a brown cheese made from goat’s whey boiled for hours until the sugar in it caramelises. It’s like goaty cheese fudge.
After ‘fika’ – the art of coffee and cake – at delicious Sockerbit (sockerbit.se) in fashionably edgy Davidshall, we end up in ‘ecological’ Moccasin (moccasin.se; Malmö is admirably immersed in the green ethic): I love it for introducing me to Pure Green organic vodka from Stockholm, so clean it doesn’t leave me with even the suggestion of a hangover. You never know, I could get into this whole ecology thing.
We take a sideways trip to Ystad, an intriguing little town famous for its fictional resident, Inspector Wallander. Up hollyhock-fringed streets of cottages, we retrace the dour sleuth’s steps, drinking fresh, unpasteurised Ysta Fresh and Ysta Dark beers brewed in Bryggeriet (restaurangbryggeriet.nu), one of Sweden’s first microbreweries, and eating ‘Wallander’ cake, a lurid blue confection of marzipan, cream and icing, in his favourite café. At the end of our tour, D asks, ‘who’s Wallander?’
The cooks of Skåne were locavores long before the trend, but one man is making traditional produce thrillingly innovative. We travel out into countryside that looks like a children’s book – astoundingly green and dotted with red wooden buildings – to Daniel Berlin’s restaurant Daniel Berlin Krog (danielberlin.se), hailed as the latest star of the new Nordic cuisine. It’s the antithesis of Bastard: tiny (only five tables), its pale colour palette serene and uncluttered.
Daniel and his fellow chef bring the food out to the table, as is the modern Nordic way, while his father recommends natural and biodynamic wines. The dishes, crafted from the fruits of that green countryside, are transcendent: a whole celeriac baked in ash for six hours, then scooped out tableside and bathed with aged Swedish cheese. Some are presented like art: pork ‘doughnuts’ on a landscape of pebbles; fondant egg yolk with nutty spelt and a lick of brown butter; perfectly white tiny onions, piled in gleaming domes.
Veal jus is poured onto its meat through a tangle of fresh herbs – it takes two chefs to do it. There’s not a dull moment in a long, intricate meal – and when we feel a teeny bit jaded, we’re sent out into the lush gardens with a berry ice for a bit of a breather.
At the end of one of my dinners of the decade, we worry how we’re going to get back to our charming, middle-of-nowhere b&b, Logi Gamlegård (logigamlegard.se), but Daniel himself drives us. The evening leaves us dazzled and touched. Sweden’s southernmost part is lovely, just lovely.
For a skagen toast recipe, click here
Marina O’Loughlin is the Guardian Weekend’s incognito restaurant critic. She stayed at the Master Johan hotel in Malmö (masterjohan.se) and travelled courtesy of Visit Sweden (visitsweden.com).
Photographs David Thomas
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