Picture a restaurant with a burning glass-blowing kiln instead of a fireplace. One with funky, cloudy Fruktstereo ciders for a sparkling aperitivo, and with hand-made glassware on a wooden table that's been branded with a scorching hot glass mould. Imagine roaming sheep welcoming you at the front door, a photo of Twin Peaks' Dale Cooper keeping the evil spirits out, and iron pliers/rods/sledgehammers hanging on the walls instead of paintings?
Welcome to Restaurang Rot, set inside Big Pink glass studio, far from everything, on the eastern coast of Gotland in Sweden. The island is known as the go-to Swedish retreat and as the place where the best Swedish crops come from – even those served every year at the royal Nobel banquet in Stockholm.
It's rare nowadays, when every possible concept has been done and redone, copy-pasted in restaurants around the world, to find something so original and unique as Rot.
Photo by Karl Melander
The tiny restaurant has just 14 seats behind one communal table. It’s set inside a glass-blowing studio run by rock star blower Jennie Olofsson, who started blowing glass when she was in her early 20s, and now her work is being showcased from fine dining restaurants in Stockholm to The New York Design Center. With long tresses of blonde hair, slender physique, tight jeans, oversized jumper and a hip hat on her head, Olofsson has a captivating and charismatic persona – and is completely dedicated to the art of blowing scorching hot glass while having loads of fun with it.
"I seriously believe that creating hot glass is the greatest art that has ever been made. That's how crazy I am about glass," she says. "To create, get my hands dirty with ashes, my brow sweating and make something so crisp and crystal clear, to me is the most beautiful thing."
Jennie's skills, studio, fire and the sound of cracking glass are paired with unpretentious, incredibly tasty, local and seasonal cuisine by chef Luqaz Ottosson. Despite his youth, Ottosson, at 34, has been at the forefront of Swedish food scene for years now, having been young chef of the year (2012), eco chef of the year (2014) and twice chef of the year finalist.
He is known for his use of organic produce and works closely with the local small-scale producers and within the rich island terroir.
Photo by Joel Nilsson
Rot/Big Pink are set inside a refurbished wooden and stone barn, far from any town of real size. We are greeted by Ottosson while he's simultaneously flipping cabbage on the outside grill and pouring us Yellow Cidermarine, Fruktstereo's apple-sea buckthorn pet-nat.
It feels more like a friend’s garden barbecue party than a restaurant, as we are handed paper-thin wraps of pickled celeriac filled with beef tartare, and skin-on baked baby potatoes with shaved Gotland truffles.
Once we move inside, Jennie takes over the lead as she sits us behind the big wooden table where branches of rose hips, bright orange pumpkins and gnarled tree branches intertwine with her glasswork and starched white napkins. Fruktstereo’s Straight Outta Gotland cider is being poured in organically shaped glasses with stems resembling wind-bent pine trees found around the isle.
Photo by Joel Nilsson
Luqaz brings out the main course, out-of-this-world juicy, crispy-skinned roasted pork belly, baked in Frukstereo cider, served with burnt cabbage and pork sauce with mustard seeds, kale and broccoli. Beautiful Nordic afternoon light peers through the windows, painting the dining room in warm, bright colours, as Jennie effortlessly blows some more glasses in front of us and the chef serves us generous portions of almond cake on brown butter, ice cream with tonka and blueberries.
While Big Pink/Rot is well known among the Gotlanders and foodies from the mainland it became a global viral sensation back in 2017 when they first did a visually stunning dinner, cooking with molten glass, which Jennie was pouring over a turbot like something out of a sci-fi movie.
The idea is a bit like sous-vide cooking or salt-crust baking, only that the casing in this case is a 1150 °C hot glass mass that is being poured over a couple of layers of wet paper used for protection. The glass quickly cools down and hardens around whatever ingredient you are preparing. Once the glass starts cracking, about 20 minutes later, the dish is done, and Jennie cracks the casing open with her hammer, leaving the dish super-succulent and tender, with all its juices preserved.
Photo by Joel Nilsson
Due to the demanding and technically challenging nature of cooking with glass, Restaurang Rot does the glass dinner in collaboration with Big Pink only about 4 times a year. Check out the websites for more information.