While small in stature, Växjö is packing a surprisingly big foodie punch, with plenty of people travelling here to try out its great restaurants. This may be because the lakes, forests and meadows of Småland are right on its doorstep, or maybe it’s because this growing city wants the rest of Sweden to sit up and take notice. Either way, it’s a great destination for foodies.
PM & Vänner is the undisputed king of the scene. You have the choice of the bistro or the fine-dining restaurant, as well as a bar and bakery, and the fine dining is not just Michelin-starred, it’s also named on just about every great food and restaurant list in the world. Brasserie 1742, located inside the unusual Kosta Boda Art Hotel, offers a seasonal menu that experiments with flavour combinations, while concept restaurant Pinchos offers tapas from around the world, served up in a circus-like environment. It sounds odd, but it works.
Around 45% of the population of Sweden’s third-largest city, Malmö, is foreign-born, with residents coming from more than 170 countries and around 150 languages being spoken. In light of that, it should come as no surprise that the Malmö food scene has exploded, with some saying it’s on track to become one of the best in Europe, if not the world. If it’s Michelin-starred food you’re keen on trying, Malmö has several for you to choose from: Vollmers, with two stars, incorporates Swedish and Scandinavian gastronomy and ingredients in a modern and unique way, while the classic Sture got an overhaul when new owners took over and appointed Chef Karim Khouani, who has turned this French restaurant into a destination.
For less fancy (and less expensive) options, you can’t go wrong with local favourite Bastard, which serves up solid and delicious fare, or the always lively Mello Yello, which offers great food in a fantastic atmosphere and setting, Malmö’s hip Lilla torg square. And for a real treat? Head about an hour south of Malmö and try Daniel Berlin, in Skåne-Tranås; this family-run business is gaining a big reputation far beyond its small-town borders for its hyper-local ingredients, inventive preparation and lush, cosy setting.
It goes without saying that you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to great food in Sweden’s capital city. The scene is constantly changing, so while established stars such as Konstnärsbaren, which serves up modern takes on traditional Swedish food, and inventive Frantzén, continue to get rave reviews, there are also successful up-and-comers such as Ilse, which serves a small and beautifully thought-out menu each day, and Rutabaga, the latest incarnation from star Swedish chef Mathias Dahlgren, that has thrown out the meat and instead opened what he says is a ‘world-class, green, lacto-ovo-vegetarian kitchen that draws inspiration from around the whole world.’
Those are some of the stars, but like any city worth its salt, Stockholm also has some amazing hidden gems that are worth seeking out. Way down on the western edge of hip Södermalm is the Hornstull district, which has been undergoing a bit of a renaissance in recent years. One of the best new additions to the area is Cebicheria Barranco, which serves up the best and most authentic Peruvian food in the city, along with some seriously great cocktails. Another great place to try is Millesgården, the museum on Lidingö that has a fantastic restaurant serving up delicious traditional Swedish fare – and if you come here during the warmer months, grab a seat on the terrace and enjoy the views across the water. Urban Deli is another one you won’t want to miss; what started as one restaurant/deli/food hall on Södermalm has now expanded to multiple locations without losing out on quality or taste, although fans will argue as to which outlet is the best.
Home to a large and long-established farming community, and surrounded by the bounty from the surrounding Baltic Sea, this island is the ideal place for fresh, exciting ingredients just waiting to be whipped up into serious eats. Hotell Borgholm Restaurant, which not only has a Michelin star, but has also been named one of the world’s 50 best restaurants and is on many other ‘top restaurant’ lists, is the star of the scene, with chef Karin Fransson creating unusual and exciting dishes that make reservations tough to come by.
But there are other foodie delights to discover on this wonderful island: Lammet & Grisen Öland is all about meat (the name means ‘lamb & pork’), with the locally raised lamb and pig cooked right in front of you, and you deciding just how much you want. If you want to try the local speciality kroppkakor (potato dumplings stuffed with pork) Arontorps Kroppkakor & Mat is the best place to do so, while Kaffestugan in Böda is the place to go to gorge on pastries, cakes, stone-oven-baked bread, sandwiches and other delights, and where you can also pick up some great homemade jam and other gifts to take with you.
Gothenburg has a great mix of traditional restaurants and more adventurous ones. What makes the scene special is the amazing abundance of seafood on its doorstep, as well as the great local produce available just outside the city. At Thörnströms Kök, chef Hokan Thörnström earned his Michelin star with a menu that is always changing, due to his use of local, seasonal ingredients. It’s the best of modern Scandinavian cooking in the city. For something a bit more down to earth, try Smaka, which serves Swedish husmanskost – really traditional working food that will line your insides while making your tastebuds tickle.
The explosion of Thai restaurants has led to a lot of choices, and one of the best is Moon Thai Kitchen, the wildly decorated eatery offering up a menu that is chock-a-block with the best of Thai cooking and ingredients. And while every city in burger-hungry Sweden has its favourite burger joint, Restaurant 2112, which attracts a cool rock-n-roll crowd, serves up some of the best in the country – probably because they only things they serve are burgers and beer. You also will want to stop by the famed Fish Church, where you can sample seafood from the many fishmongers, or sit down for a meal.
Gotland is a bit of a jewel in the Baltic Sea, with the main town, Visby, managing to cram more than its fair share of great eateries inside its ancient city walls. Oddly, though, there is only one fish and seafood restaurant, Bakfickan, in this island town, and luckily it’s a great one, serving up traditional Swedish dishes such as toast skagen, lobster soup and pickled herring. Kitchen & Table is the brainchild of Swedish chef Marcus Samuelsson, who brings influences from Manhattan and mixes them up with local produce.
Surfers isn’t, as you might suspect, a hangout for blonde Swedish surf dudes. Instead, it’s an unusual Chinese restaurant that puts the focus on Szechuan finger food, all washed down with cocktails made with fresh fruit and juice. Krakas Krog, on the other hand, is where you’re going to find some taste combinations and ingredients that will have you talking for a long time: eggs with morels, turkey in truffle broth or maybe frogs’ legs direct from the garden. Serving mostly food made from ingredients from the farm, Lilla Bjers is an award-winning organic farm restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere that belies the delicious local food – well worth the trip.
Lapland may be located in the far north of Sweden, but being a bit off the beaten track has only enhanced the commitment to local and traditional cuisine, which was developed long before supermarkets were readily available. The Sami community still makes its living from reindeer herding, spending long stretches of time in the mountains, leading to an in-depth knowledge of the local foraging scene. This results in unique raw ingredients that have not only appeared on the plates of the annual Nobel Banquet, but have become sought after both around Sweden and in other parts of the world.
Lapland is, of course, a vast area, so the best way to discover the best food is to ask the locals; they’re proud of their region and will be very helpful. That said, here are a few you might want to add to your list: Restaurang CG is one of Luleå’s most popular restaurants and you can feast on things like elk steak, Jokkmokk cheese and Arctic char. In Kiruna, you’ll find cheap and delicious eats at Stejk Street Food, which is home to local legend the Reindeer Steak Sub; it’s so delicious you won’t mind the long trip north.
Älvdalen’s salmon, trout, reindeer, Arctic char: Dalarna, like many other more remote areas of Sweden, is all about using local foods from nature and making something spectacular out of them. The locally produced reindeer from Grövelsjöns is particularly tasty, while Idre’s stomp, a regional bread, must be tried to be believed.
Onkel Jean is the most awarded restaurant in Dalarna. It incorporates local ingredients into high-end cuisine and the result is delicious and often unexpected. Another local gem that hasn’t yet caught the attention of the world is Solgardskrogen, which uses an unfussy approach to its food: everything is made from scratch and everything comes from the immediate region. The menu is limited but well though-out, and the chef presents each course, telling you where it’s sourced and how it’s being served. Definitely one to watch.
Jämtland is such a foodie destination that the Östersun area is a designated UNESCO City of Gastronomy. The food, the local produce and the astounding array of small-scale food manufacturers have put this somewhat backwoods area on the international foodie map. And if there is just one place you have to try while in the area, it has to be Fäviken Magasinet, considered by many to be the best restaurant in the world, due to the wizard in the kitchen, chef Magnus Nilsson, who bases his creations on what is grown, foraged and shot in the local area, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
Havvi i Glen is a big player in the Slow Food Sápmi movement, which is based on mountain Sami cuisine, with its seasonal menu featuring local ingredients like wild mushrooms, reindeer, Arctic char and cloudberry sorbet. For those with a sweet tooth (and in Sweden that’s pretty much everyone), at Åre Bageri you can grab a great pastry or cake, while the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet is cheap, filling and delicious. For dinner it’s seasonal fare in the dining room upstairs.
If we’re honest, there aren’t a lot of places to eat on Möja, the charming little island in the Stockholm archipelago, but it is known for its abundance of wild produce – wild blueberries, wild strawberries and wild mushrooms in particular – and it’s also known for Wikströms Fisk, one of the best fish restaurants in Sweden. Since 1990, this family-owned restaurant has been doing things in a bit of an old-fashioned way: the father, Rune, fishes for everything used in the restaurant, while the mother, Inga-Lill, and their daughter, Stina, prepare and serve the food. The meals may seem simple, but sometimes simple is best; these are some of the most wonderfully prepared fish dishes you’ll ever come across.
This area, on the west coast of Sweden, is blessed with close proximity to possibly the best seafood in Sweden, and the food scene reflects this. You could pretty much swing a cat and hit a great restaurant, but we will narrow it down a bit for you.
Located on the island of Tjörn (and only reachable by ferry), Magasinet Härön is where chef Mats Nordström has put years of experience in top kitchens (as well as experience as a working fisherman) into this unique and award-winning restaurant, where fresh fish, shrimp and mussels are served alongside produce such as fresh asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes. Åstols Rökeri is known for serving smoked salmon from its own fish smokery, while the fish stew draws fans from far and wide. Salt & Sill is considered one of the best seafood restaurants in an area teaming with great seafood restaurants. The always changing menu has its roots in traditional Scandinavian cooking, with a twist. Brygghuset doesn’t just serve great seafood and meat (including reindeer carpaccio); it also offers lobster safaris in the archipelago.