Eating Sweden for Eating Eurovision
In the BBC, drinking prosecco having just witnessed the spectacle that is the Eurovision semi final, 20 + food bloggers gathered around Andrew Webb, brainchild of this fun project. Yielding a canvas I love Peckham bag full of ping pong balls, I anxiously awaited my turn to choose a ping pong ball with a country name on it. Portugal! I really wanted Portugal. I hoped and watched everyone draw a country. It was still in there! I know a great local community Portugese off licence come greasy spoon and I wanted to go there.
I didn’t get it. I got Sweden.
Which left me slightly flummoxed knowing nothing whatsoever about Swedish cuisine, save what I’d experienced in IKEA (not bad!). Naturally, my earliest initiation to Swedish Cuisine as the Swedish chef on the Muppet Show. I loved him. But that’s not really exploring cuisine, or is it?
So, I arrived home, my brain whirring and got on google, facebook, twitter (hello @swedishmike!), and gathered as much information as I could, armed to make a decision on Friday evening.
It was so much fun. The more I read and the more I interacted with Swedes online, the more I found to like. They love the Eurovision! They seem to like comfort food. They liked the Irish entry! They love meatballs. I love meatballs! They like random meats. I want to try some of that! Elk, reindeer, I want to try it. They bury herring and eat it. I’ll leave that one alone. Sorry, I’m sure it’s lovely but I need to build up to that one.
So, what did my investigations reveal? Little Sweden! Little Sweden? Yes! It exists. Not far from Edgware Rd lies a Swedish Enclave with a Swedish Church, a Swedish pub (The Harcourt Arms), a Swedish shop (Totally Swedish), a Swedish Restaurant (Garbo’s), the Embassy of Sweden and the Swedish Chamber of Commerce. Well, that was where I needed to be!
I rang Garbo’s to make a reservation and the owner, answered. I asked if I could reserve a table for half an hours time. He said I could. I asked if he wanted my name? He said, oh, ok. And then he hung up. Informality! I love it.
We arrived, and it was quiet for a Friday evening but I had read that lunch time is their best time and also their busiest. It’s a very cute white restaurant with an enormous stuffed elk head on the wall wearing a viking hat. This was perfect.
We started with some cocktails, Wolf Paw and Valhalla, well, how could we not? Very nice they were too, Wolf Paw the favourite, vodka with lingonberry juice. To start we had Janssen’s Temptation, a rich and unctous creamy potato dish laced withr anchovy. It was enormous and I was glad we had decided to share. Next up was our very meaty main courses, Kåldolmar, a stuffed cabbage dish that I had been told to try, cabbage leaves are stuffed with beef and pork and served with a sauce, and Kötbullar I Gräddsås, Swedish meatballs in a creamy sauce. We didn’t try the braised elk on this occasion, as I was keen to try everyday food, but I’d like to go back to try it. The cabbage dish was a bit sweet for my taste but the meatballs were tasty and good solid comfort food, I think I will have to make them this week. After all of this meat and cream there really was no room for dessert.
I had a chat with the owner, a really friendly and approachable man, to get his thoughts on the Eurovision. We had a fun chat! He’s less than enamored with the current effort, but the glory days were good, and we chatted at length about Abba, Fabba (yes!), Roxette and Ace of Base, all of whom (excl. Abba) had eaten at his restaurant. Indeed, Roxette had an album launch there. Brilliant! There was also a photo of him with Sven Goran-Eriksson on the wall, and the Irish connection, a photo of him with George Best.
Next, we careered to the Harcourt Arms. A very lively spot, full and buzzing, selling the usual tipples and Swedish cider Kopparberg and Swedish beer. I like Kopparberg, although be warned, it’s deceptive, a very fruity and unalcoholic tasting mixed fruit cider is a dangerous 7%! Dangerous when you don’t know, that is, which is how I found myself drunker than pals in a round one Christmas some years ago. I quickly partook of some water. The Harcourt Arms do food too, I’ll be sure to go back to try it. They had a big Eurovision party last night and it would have been so perfect it I could have gone, but a friend was getting married, and that trumps Eurovision.
So, that was it. A great couple of days, investigating, interacting with random Swedes I’d never met before, finding Swedish food bloggers and exploring Little Sweden. It was brilliant and I am going to make a point of exploring in this fashion. London is such a great city, and has so much to offer, and this reminded me how good and surprising it can be!
Garbo’s, 42 Crawford Street, Marylebone, W1H 1JW Tel: 020 7262 6582
The Harcourt Arms, 32 Harcourt Street, W1H 4HX
Read everyone elses adventures here: http://eatingeurovision.wordpress.com/.