When it comes to food, there are two things that
Sweden does exceptionally well – wild game and seafood. In the Culinary Olympics, in which more than
50 nations send their finest chefs to compete in a hotly contested cook-off
every four years, Sweden
took gold in October 2012 with its dish of spice-crusted red deer saddle.
But for seafood, locals head straight to Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city, whose
proximity to the cold clean waters of the North Atlantic Ocean blesses it
with the freshest fish and shellfish in the country. In fact, Gothenburg was
named the 2012
Culinary Capital of Sweden, solidifying its gastronomic reputation.
Both of these illustrious wins have once again
cast the spotlight on Scandinavia’s New
Nordic cuisine movement, which focuses on locally sourced, seasonal and
organic ingredients like reindeer, moose, forest berries, chanterelle mushrooms,
truffles -- and of course, seafood.
Just as Barcelona has La Boqueria and London
Market, Gothenburg has an iconic food market -- dedicated to all things
fish. A scenic walk along Rosenlund’s Canal, which surrounds the city’s core
like a moat, takes you to the instantly recognisable Feskekörka
(“fish church”), which has been a landmark market since 1874. In the historic
church building you will find fishmongers peddling whole salmon, giant chunks
of tuna, cod fillets, langoustines, crawfish, fresh crabs, pickled herring and
anything else that once swam or scurried across the ocean floor.
This reverence for fish and shellfish continues
within the cathedral-style building of the iconic Sjömagasinet, a renowned seafood
restaurant with airy decor and spectacular views of the Göta estuary. Under the
mastery of Sweden’s 2010 Årets Kock (Chef of the Year) Gustav Trägårdh, Sjömagasinet serves delicate,
soft and flavourful dishes like sashimi salmon marinated in homemade soya
mustard sauce, lobster claw with bacon bits, pine nuts and raisins, and
pan-seared cod topped with fried anchovy fillets. The building, constructed in
1775, harkens back to Gothenburg’s deeply-entrenched nautical culture as it was
used as warehouse for the Swedish East India Company, a shipping company which
operated out of Gothenburg in the 18th Century.
As you move through the city’s gastronomic
powerhouses, you will notice a trend of holding onto tradition. While Sweden is
known for cutting-edge design and innovation, Gothenburg and its seafood
culture remains surprisingly traditional when it comes to its cooking; opting
for local flavours and seasonal ingredients over the latest cooking fads.
A name synonymous with Swedish cuisine in
Gothenburg is legendary chef Leif Mannerström, so much so that in celebration
of his 70th birthday, the city named one of its iconic blue street
trams after him. Mannerström ran Sjömagasinet for 16 years before taking over the
equally famous Kometen (The
Comet) in 2009, a popular eatery with both locals and celebrities. More than 75
years old with original chandeliers, cherry wood furniture and paintings from
decades past, Kometen feels like going over to grandma’s on a lazy Sunday
afternoon for roast dinner. Only instead of roast beef, you are served pickled
herring, cod, anchovies and all manner of seafood along with locally-sourced
Even among the city’s four one Michelin-starred
institutions – an impressive feat in itself considering that Rome has only one
Michelin-starred restaurant – tradition still lurks behind the innovative menus. At Thörnströms
Kök, you will find eight to 10 different types of sourdough bread alongside
your meal, featuring flavours of fennel and sea
salt, lemon and dill, walnut, onion, rosemary and cumin among others, which
chef Håkan Thörnström has baked every day for the last 15 years. And the
kitchen always uses local seasonal ingredients – the common thread in New
Nordic cuisine – in such dishes as butter-fried halibut in a langoustine
reduction with pumpkin puree and a pumpkin seed, watercress and tomato salad.
If you would rather eat meat over seafood,
locals nod in consensus whenever Familjen
(The Family) is mentioned. Warm red and green minimalist Scandinavian-style
decor welcomes diners to this fixture just off Gothenburg’s popular boulevard,
Avenyn. Under restaurateur Björn Persson’s watchful eye, classic dishes are
given modern facelifts, such as Pytt i
panna, a quintessentially Nordic potato and meat hash which is transformed
into an exquisite lamb-and-roasted-root-vegetable dish with pickled summer
beets, caramelised onions and anchovy butter. A quick scan through other items
on Familjen’s menu – wild boar, homemade lamb sausage with caramelised cabbage,
beef tartare with bleak roe cream, fried bone marrow – are served alongside
other with traditional and seasonal Swedish ingredients like almonds,
chanterelles and rosehips.
Navigating Gothenburg’s culinary scene would be
incomplete without a nod to native son-turned-celebrity chef, Marcus Samuelsson
of Red Rooster fame in New York City’s
Harlem neighbourhood, who is now one of the creative forces behind Norda Bar and Grill, housed in
Gothenburg’s old post office building in the Drottningtorget neighbourhood.
Norda combines the bold flavours of America’s East Coast cooking with local
ingredients from Western Sweden across the Hav (“sea” for seafood) and Land
(meat) sections on its stylized menu, which reflects how the city’s proximity
to the ocean and its surrounding forests permeates its culinary culture. Shrimp
used in the open-faced sandwiches are hand-peeled and topped with bleak roe,
its steak tartare is served with oysters while the hand-cut fries are served
with truffle-flavoured mayonnaise.