Food & Drink
Fine dining in Skåne
Last year for the first time, the Michelin Guide awarded stars to restaurants in Malmö – not just one, but three.
“There’s a very strong food culture here in Skåne,” says Titti Qvarnström, chef at Bloom in the Park, one of the three. She also became the first female Swedish chef to be awarded a Michelin star.
“We’ve always been between two camps – Denmark and Sweden – and that has resulted in our own culinary identity,” she says.
With hard work comes Michelin stars, and with the stars comes the attention. When the New York Times listed the world’s most exciting travel destinations for 2016, Skåne was in ninth place, thanks mainly to its food.
And there’s certainly plenty to discover in this region of southern Sweden.
“It’s not really news that Skåne and Malmö are home to exciting cuisine, but the international attention on our New Nordic cuisine has allowed many of our chefs to follow their heart,” Qvarnström says.
“Of course, the Michelin Guide has helped put us on the map, but there have always been good restaurants here. They just haven’t gotten the attention they deserve.”
The Skåne New Nordic is based on building on its old traditions and creating dishes with their origins in the region. The chefs are young, ambitious, and looking for a tradition that has been forgotten to some extent.
“People here have always stayed on the fringes and perhaps also haven’t been allowed in,” Qvarnström says. “And this has, possibly out of necessity, created a strong identity of our own. But we shouldn’t forget our old tradition of hospitality, where authentic home-cooked food is a key ingredient.”
There’s no gap between good old hearty home-cooked food and what Qvarnström and her team do at Bloom in the Park, she says. She’s proud to be from Skåne, and that links everything together.
“I believe that the traditional Skåne äggakaka will make its way into haute cuisine – under a new guise perhaps,” Qvarnström says of the local specialty that resembles a pancake and is eaten with bacon and lingonberries.
“That’s much of what New Nordic is about: daring to look at the products we have and to develop them.”
Now, with a Michelin star, she no longer has to sneak her inventions onto the menu.
“I want to surprise our guests,” she says. “To me, eating out is comparable to going to the theater. The guests enter and are transported into a kind of Alice in Wonderland world where they eat, enjoy, and perhaps try something new, without a lecture from a waiter before they order.”
‘There have always been good restaurants here. They just haven’t gotten the attention they deserve’
For 15 years Thomas Drejing, with his restaurant Petri Pumpa, was something of a gastronomic godfather, and numerous now-famous chefs started out as apprentices in his kitchen in Lund: Daniel Berlin, Petter Nilsson, and Tina Nordström, for example.
“Many of the forms of Nordic cuisine were developed here in southern Sweden, partly thanks to our close links to agriculture and water,” Drejing says. “But we are always going back to earlier cultures and behavior. There’s seldom anything new under the stars. What we are seeing today comes out of the southern Sweden of the 1980s.”
Thomas Drejing ran Petri Pumpa from 1984 to 1999, and those 15 years were filled with innovation. Sixteen years after he closed, Drejing finally received recognition last fall in the form of an honorary award at the Restaurant Gala.
“I believe in New Nordic,” he says. “It feels like something people can relate to. Who doesn’t want to have something that’s local and feels authentic? However, what we’re really doing here is making something new out of an old tradition.”
Daniel Berlin has been hailed as “the next big thing” outside of Sweden. At home, Berlin and his little family restaurant in Österlen, named simply Daniel Berlin Krog, have been garnering praise for the past five years.
“For me it’s about being proud of what our region has to offer,” Berlin says as he sits in the office of his restaurant in the Skåne countryside and plans the menu for the upcoming season. “We’re now starting to become confident in the ingredients we actually have here and to believe they are good enough. That wasn’t always the case before.
“In the past, people used to look to reliable ingredients and producers, mostly in the direction of France,” he says. “A Skåne tomato will never taste as good as an Italian one, but for me it’s more interesting to make food that’s tailored to serving what we have here and what we’re good at. It’s also exciting from a food travel perspective.”
Food tourism to Skåne has never been greater, Berlin says, and his 25 seats are very coveted. More and more people want to experience new foods and new flavors in new restaurant environments.
“Of course there’s one restaurant that’s very important for all Nordic cuisine,” Berlin says. “Without Noma, our region wouldn’t have given us the confidence we have now. Just as Thomas Drejing was groundbreaking in his day and served carrots just as naturally as meat, Noma has helped us recognize that what we have here is good enough.”
Malmö is just a bridge away from Copenhagen, the place at the top of all foodie lists in recent years. These days, the diner traffic is flowing in the other direction, too.
Text: Lars Collin
Published: April 7, 2016