I have just arrived in Gothenburg, returning to a city I first visited, and fell in love with, three years ago. And I am not sure where to go for dinner.
In 2010, I feasted on new wave Swedish cuisine, roasted reindeer, scallops as big as your hand, forest mushrooms, ligonberries, lobster and some wonderfully reworked Lyon-meets-Gothenburg fare.
The west coast city has a stellar international reputation for cooking, benefiting from the Swedish government’s decision, in 2008, to promote the country as “the New Culinary Nation.”
The strategy brought together the work of restaurants, food tourism, processed food manufacturing, public food and food production, but the bottom line was this: the government saw huge benefits in giving prominence to the Swedish belief that food experiences and life experiences are indelibly linked. Foraging, hunting, fishing… they are just part of the Swedish lifestyle.
When you’ve got some of the best raw ingredients in the world, and you are brilliant at whizzing them together, why not cash in on it?
Sometimes, however, if the product is that good, you don’t have to do much to it. Just love it and coax it. Which is where Frida Ronge comes in. I have read about her new restaurant and I’ve got to give it a go.
Ronge, 28, is one of the flag-bearers of Sweden’s new cuisine and she’s doing amazing things by letting the produce speak for itself – and doing it Japanese style.
Ronge has set up a small, upscale sushi restaurant, vRÅ, inside the Clarion Hotel Post at Drottningtorget (Queen Square).
The 500-bedroom hotel opened in 2012 in a converted 1920s postal building and, relatively speaking, vRÅ is the size of a postage stamp. Small is beautiful.
Ronge and the hotel management have created a lovely, tranquil spot, just off the ground-floor bar area, amid the bustle of this buzzing hotel. In its first year, vRÅ was nominated as one of the 10 best restaurants in marine gastronomy in Sweden for 2013. The chef, who has worked in Stockholm but counts Gothenburg as home, has also been tipped as a Rising Star in the 2013 White Guide.
It’s not difficult to see why the plaudits have come thick and fast. True to the Swedish philosophy that local is best, Ronge insists on using only seafood from the North Atlantic. The quality is superb.
Rebecca, my Canadian chum, joins me for the eight-course chef’s choice dinner, with accompanying drinks (sake, Japanese beer and some wine from France and South Africa).
The meal starts with traditional cloud and mist green tea before a procession of exquisite dishes kicks off with steak tartare, truffle and red onion.
The sashimi glistens, a stunning presentation of Swedish langoustine, scallop, rainbow trout, herring, perch and flat (and very fat) shrimp.
Some 86 tons of fish and shellfish are sold each week at the auction in Gothenburg and the produce Ronge gets her hands on has got to be among the very best. The quality really is stunning.
The menu features barely baked, salted cod and a plate of accomplished nigiri and gunkan maki. Everything is immaculately but individually presented; taste matches looks.
Seared venison comes with artichoke, ligonberry, garlic emulsion and green juniper.
Mushrooms of every type imaginable are served with a glass of fruity and milky Nigori sake. It’s a wonderful combination.
The accompanying drinks menu is recommended for a special night. I tried some beers and sake I would never have picked out. This has created a problem, however, because I now need to find a supplier of Hitachino Nest White Ale, from the Kiuchi Brewery, in Birmingham.
This unfiltered bière-blonde style ale, brewed with wheat malt, is flavoured with coriander, orange peel and nutmeg.
Can anyone help?
If the answer is “no,” I guess I’ll just have to go back to vRÅ.
The good news is that BMI Regional now operates direct flights from Birmingham to Gothenburg. I took off at 4.30pm and arrived comfortably in time for dinner. It takes longer to drive to Ludlow.