Two summers ago we went to Sweden for a family wedding. We decided to make it into our summer holiday as it seemed like a long way to go for a wedding. We travelled by boat to Denmark with our little car, then drove around a large part of the west coast of Sweden. At the time, it felt exhausting, and by the time we got back we weren’t sure it had felt much like a holiday.
Now as I look back on our time there and the experiences we had, it was actually quite a lovely holiday. Despite the terrible weather and the hours and hours of driving, we ate some lovely food and saw some fantastic things. It is an amazing country and somewhere I would definitely like to return to one day.
We sailed from Harwich to Esbjerg in Denmark, then drove along the E20 through Denmark to Copenhagen. We crossed the huge bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo – our first stop in Sweden. Our parks conference the February before we went away had included a speaker from Malmo, and it inspired me so much I knew we had to visit.
Everywhere that we stayed on our journey along the coast was a member of the Bo på lantgård – ‘staying on a farm’ – http://www.bopalantgard.org. Our first farm was Vragerups Gård (http://www.vragerup.se/) in the countryside outside Malmo. It was an idyllic farmhouse with beautiful furnishings and we really didn’t want to leave.
In terms of eating out our plan was to drive around and see what looked nice, which means on one hand you might find a real gem of a restaurant, but on the other hand it could be dire. Our first night we found this place…
It couldn’t have been a more stunning location, and the food was equally nice. I have managed to find out that the restaurant is called Kallbadhus (this might be the name of the whole complex) or Kalendarium, but it is also Sweden’s longest swimming pier (http://www.kallbadhus.se/).
Nearby to where we were staying, we discovered this unusual village, which we think it styled on a medieval style town. It felt like a film set, especially as it was seemingly deserted.
We had a somewhat miserable day out in Malmo as it rained, and rained and rained. So much for visiting parks – we ended up on a coach tour of the city, which was not quite what we were hoping, but there wasn’t much choice short of getting soaked. We did also discover a cluster of craft workshops and a quaint sweet shop – perfect for gifts for younger brothers!
Our plan the next day, with storm clouds looming, was to head for the sun and blue clouds wherever they were on the horizon. This worked out quite well, and we came across a little cafe-cum-farm shop. We sat in a beautiful glasshouse and ate tea and cake under a canopy of kiwi fruit!
That evening, we found a lovely little restaurant in a nearby town and enjoyed a great meal. That was until the roof above me sprung a leak, which turned into a waterfall, and the whole restaurant was swamped! We sat in the car wondering what kind of holiday we were on…
One thing that Swedish hospitality does well is a fantastic spread for breakfast: cooked meats, jams, compotes, fresh fruit, yoghurt, cheeses, and breads including the dark rye breads. I fell in love with what I like to call pillow bread, what it’s real name is I’m not sure – but it’s soft, flat, with dimples in it like a sofa. I ate a lot of it during this holiday, and brought a lot back with us.
As we travelled up the coast and slightly inland to our next stop – an incredible looking colonial style house – there was more rain…
Drip, drip, drip, little april showers…
We started to see signs for a vaffle stuga (spelling probably not quite correct) and ended up in a log cabin deep in a huge forest eating waffles! They were delicious and it was nice to sit inside by a fire while it drizzled outside. There was a hamlet of houses selling artisan made items and we came away with a lovely rug that now sits in our living room.
Hults Gard (http://www.hultsgard.com/) the next place we stayed, looked beautiful, but our room was small and felt like we were staying in a hostel. One of the things I enjoyed most about the incredible amounts of driving that we did, was it meant we could watch the landscape change – from the rolling farmland and towns near Malmo, to dark evergreen forests, then through great expanses of farmland with railroads, and finally to the rocky coastal islands with their clapboard fishing villages.
The wedding was held in a fairytale castle near Gothenburg and was a whole weekend of eating and celebrating. We were treated to a gourmet meal featuring some delicious Swedish dishes – sadly no pictures.
Our final leg of the journey took us further up the coast and out onto an island. We were staying at a strawberry farm called Tyfta Ostergård (http://www.lekander.nu/eindex.html) which had the perks of fantastic jams and compotes for breakfast.
It was run by a lovely family with three generations of the family living and working there together. The guest accommodation including a lovely kitchen and sitting room were decorated with that impeccable Swedish knack for style.
It was out on these islands that we had our best meals of the holiday. It was also probably the poshest and most expensive meal that we have ever eaten – but worth every penny. Situated on the “herring island” of Klädesholmen is Salt & Sill (http://www.saltosill.se), a small restaurant with a stunning view and excellent food.
The highlights of this meal by far were the starters. I wish at the time I had written down exactly what we had eaten, because now I just have the photos as a reminder, but don’t know any of the more interesting details!
N had a trio of pickled herring, each piece pickled differently, on a different bread or cracker, topped with a different sauce. Each mouthful was pared with a different shot of snaps.
I chose salmon, which turned out to be THE best salmon dish I’ve ever eaten. I think that salmon dishes often run the risk of being a bit boring, but this was incredible. I think it was poached somehow – it was so delicate, and still so pink, and came on a bed of green vegetables with a sauce that I think was broad bean.
For mains we had fishcakes and a piece of cod with a foam – sorry I can’t recall the details more accurately.
Desserts were also a highlight. N had a(nother) trio of handmade truffles with a strawberry coulis.
I had a delicate dish which comprised a miniature panna cotta dusted with vanilla, a chocolate fondue sauce, and a caramelised banana wrapped in filo pastry and finished with a scattering of nuts. This restaurant would come highly recommended from me to anyone looking to visit this part of Sweden. It’s not to be missed.
The island of Tjörn had a wealth of interesting places for ‘foodies’ to visit. We found a pick-you-own tomato farm!
It was run by a lovely couple who showed us around their giant pollytunnel where there were growing unusual organic salads. I have never seen or heard of some of the incredible vegetables, salads and herbs they were growing, so it was a fantastic experience. Ever since this experience, I have always loved the idea of setting up a pick-you-own tomatoes, what a fab idea!
There was one cafe that I had read about on my internet searches before we left for Sweden that I was determined we would visit. It is a small cafe-restaurant in the fishing village of Mollösund, which is right on the far tip of an island called Orust. Café Emma (http://www.cafeemma.com/eng.html) is a member of the Slow Food movement, and serve homemade food using seasonal and local ingredients.
We both had their signature rich fish soup for starters, which is made with saffron, shrimp and two kind of fish. It was served with bread, aioli and a herb mayonnaise. I must admit this isn’t the sort of starter I would normally order, but it was incredible.
It was a no-brainerwhat N would choose for his main – a homemade burger. It was served in thin pillow bread, with a fresh tomato salsa and a bean salad. Who said burgers have to be unhealthy?
I chose a quinoa salad with asparagus, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, olives, roasted beetroot and micro salad leaves. This is food to die for.
Café Emma serve the kind of food that you never forget. Food that you dream about. Food that you spend hours trying to recreate. These are my food memories.