It is all too easy to stereotype a nation. Sweden, in most people’s imagination, is a vast uninterrupted stretch of tundra and forests, wooden chalets and herds of moose. And yet, there is another side to Sweden, that of the county of Skåne, the most southerly point of the country which is separated from Denmark by nothing but the strait of Øresund, known in English as the Sound.
This part of Sweden is one of placid, fertile countryside, dotted with spotlessly clean villages spilling over onto the beaches along the coasts whose colours – and length – are amazing. Owing to its fertile soil and mild climate (compared to the rest of Sweden of course) this land has been dubbed the "granary", and yields 55% of the nation’s agricultural produce. It is surprisingly easy to reach: once you have landed in Copenhagen, a twenty minute train journey, (departing directly from the airport) takes you to Malmö. The region’s capital city is still in the throes of a transition from former industrial pole of Sweden to university city, and the restaurant scene is evolving at the same pace.
Malmö restaurants: first stop, Saltimporten
It is mandatory to stop off for lunch at Saltimporten, opened in 2011 by Ola Rudin and Sebastian Persson when they closed down their former restaurant, Trio. Two well-known chefs, already on their way towards a Michelin star, who dropped everything to open a venue in a former warehouse in the dockland area? An apparently suicidal choice which actually turned out to be an extraordinary success. The restaurant opens from midday to two o’clock and serves one single dish of the day (with an alternative vegetarian option), such as lamb, cauliflower and ash dusted goat’s cheese or Salmon, peas, spinach and salad. For less than fifteen Euro you also get a coffee – supplied by a local coffee roaster – and as much naturally leavened bread as you want.
Hipster? Wait ‘til you see Bastard restaurant, which boasts the whole works – good looking tattooed chefs (here pictured at the Le Grand Fooding event in Milan), a secret garden offering a post-industrial atmosphere, wood-fired ovens turning out gourmet pizzas for washing down with organic wines and creative cocktails, a preference for offal and home-made cold cuts. The fame of this restaurant is well deserved, however: here you start to appreciate the authentic atmosphere of Sweden in general and Skåne in particular; no frills, a down-to-earth approach to food that is free to think outside the box. After all, hasn’t this always been the case here?
"As our guest, you have to trust"
As I was told by Titti Qvarnström, the only woman in Sweden to have earned a Michelin star: “In Sweden we have no tradition to come to terms with. Our mothers used to think luxury consisted in heating up frozen foods in a micro wave. So, my generation was free to start again from scratch”. At Bloom In The Park this young chef has done away with the menu. You don’t know what you are getting until your dish is actually served up and you are challenged to find out for yourself by using your sense of smell, your eyes and your palate. "As our guest, you have to trust us. We know what the best products of the season are, how to cook them and how to pair them with wine" explains Titti "We want to take our guests into a whole new world with a fantastic atmosphere. To enhance this alien effect, we only speak English".
Daniel Berlin Krog, an innovative formula
The same sort of "wow effect" is what Daniel Berlin sets out to create in his eponymous restaurant. In 2009 the chef said goodbye to city life and moved to the tiny village of Skåne Tranås. "I wanted to be master of my own time and be closer to producers. I had no precise idea about what I wanted to do. Then I started to reflect on what a normal dinner is like in quality restaurants: you eat about twenty dishes, one after the other, you get drunk and go home without recalling anything. With no significant experience to show for it".
His personal solution takes the form of a menu (80% vegetarian) divided into two parts. First of all, 7 dishes are served up, then you go out into the garden to drink something and “think about what you have eaten” and when you go back into the dining room for the next 7 dishes, everything has changed: the lighting, the furnishings, the table settings, even the flowers in the vase. If you are wondering whether such an approach works or not, suffice it to say that this restaurant with its seating capacity of 30 is normally fully booked for six months in advance.