(by an Australian who has not a ounce of Scandinavian heritage and does not means to cause offence but merely encourage others to be more culturally experienced!)
If you’re going to visit Sweden, then a traditional smorgasbord is a must. Not just because you can experience a wonderful aspect of Swedish culture, but because it also allows you to try many different tidbits of Scandinavian cuisine.
My recent smorgasbord experience at Verandan restaurant at the Grand Hotel Stockholm was easily one of my favourite international food experiences ever. For 545 SEK / $82 AUD, you can try smorgasbord the traditional way. There’s nothing to stop you from being completely uncultured and treating the experience like a usual hotel buffet, but trust me when I say you’ll find the whole process much more fun if you follow the rules of engagement!
The general ‘rules’:
- Use many small plates with multiple trips to the smorgasbord
- Do not pile your plate high with food, show restraint
- Cold before hot, herring first
- Be open minded, enjoy!
Step 1 – The herring
Start your smorgasbord experience with pickled herring, a tasting of Swedish cheese, a shot of Aquavit / vodka and a Swedish beer. In all my excitement I forgot to take the dill potatoes as well, so these featured in the second plate, BUT the herring SHOULD be accompanied by these glorious potatoes!
Also not featured here is the beautiful bread basket, with the dark aniseed scented loaf being the clear favourite.
Step 2 – More fish, and eggs
If you thought you were finished with fish, you have been fooled! Whether it’s hot smoked, beetroot cured, gravalax or baked salmon, char or mackerel, the next course is also a feast of fancy of the fish variety. Must come with lemon (and I highly recommend mustard dill sauce!).
Again in my excitement I failed to see the OTHER selection of fish, so I had to do this one twice. By this stage I felt like I had eaten enough fish to classify myself as a mermaid, as I was at least 50% seafood matter by body weight.
Step 3 – Salad and cold meats
A selection of salads and a variety of cold roasted meats with various sauces is next, with lamb, pork, beef, chicken, terrine and ham to relieve the otherwise predominately pescetarian palate.
The salads make for a light and refreshing change from the abundance of protein, however as I discovered, they won’t leave you feeling any less full by the end.
Step 4 – Hot dishes
By this stage I was absolutely struggling. More food?! Roasted lamb, omelette, vegetables, pork….. oh dear! Send for help! I couldn’t bare the thought of any more fish, and had to pass on the beautiful baked cod with eggs (although I did try potato gratin with anchovies to be fair!). This is where the Swedish meatballs feature, which must be eaten with a side of tart lingonberries for the true Swedish experience. I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t finish my measly selection plate here as my impending abdominal compartment syndrome just wouldn’t allow it.
Step 5 – Dessert
Activate dessert stomach! Chocolate tart, macarons, fruit salad, ice cream, cakes and delectable morsels a plenty, there is ALWAYS room for dessert, even in the case of potential stomach rupture in the foreseeable future. I am proud to say I tried one of everything, my favourite being the chocolate tart (which was richer than the King of Norway) and the custard filled berry puff creation. My pancreas and I are no longer speaking to one another.
Surviving the smorgasbord
I can now say that after having had the true smorgasbord experience, most of the other buffets I’ve tried have paled by comparison. It is significantly more fun with an order to follow and a different traditional cuisine to try, and I would highly recommend this experience to any traveller to Stockholm!