Stephen Jackson, of the award-winning Weaver’s Shed restaurant in Golcar took a trip to Sweden and found stunning landscape and food to match

LAST week, my wife and I took a trip to Sweden, and I’d love to tell you all about it. I’d not been for many years, and Tracy had never been at all, so I booked a special surprise trip for us.

After we arrived at the airport, we took our hire car down the Sodertalje archipelago, a stunningly beautiful landscape of dense forests, wide fields and myriad tiny lakes and islands. On one such tiny island, Oaxen, there is the most amazing restaurant, and as we boarded the little ferry that potters across from the mainland, we were both giddy kippers. Oaxen Skargardskrog, for that is the name (don’t even bother trying to pronounce it correctly – it’s almost impossible), is a beautiful villa overlooking a small harbour in which is moored an old archipelago cruiser, The Prince Of Orange, onboard which one stays overnight. Although a little ‘cosy’, the boat is very comfortable, with all mod cons, and serves a terrific breakfast on the upper deck. The cheaper quarters share bathrooms, and the larger staterooms have their own facilities. The restaurant is only open in the summer months, and at Christmas, and serves ultra-modern Scandinavian cuisine with an emphasis on wild, local produce. Peculiar leaves and herbs sit on the plates, adding deft touches to the delicate flavours of fish and game from the nearby lakes and forests.

For dinner, one disembarks the boat and climbs the stairs to the restaurant. The staff are marvellous, and as usual with the Scandinavians, fluent in chatty English. Makes one quite embarrassed at times. We were shown into the simply-decorated dining room, lit with tiny candles and very cosy indeed, and the meal began.

Wow. What flavours! There were several pre- and post- courses served between the first, main and dessert choices, all explained impeccably by our waiters. There’s too much to list, but there were some definite highlights; a smooth, powerful anchovy mayonnaise was served with minute cubes of cured salmon, and topped with crunchy petals of rye bread. A small plate was brought to the table with an upturned glass on it, which was filled with the sweetest smoke. As it was lifted, the scent was intoxicating, and the smoke cleared to reveal a tiny canapé of raw cod liver on a tartare of whitefish. It was sublime. All of the flavours were so delicate and fresh; it was almost a whole new set of flavours to take onboard. There was goat’s butter spiked with bayleaves, something I’m going to try immediately. This was served with an amazing array of breads, one of which they called pancake bread – it was essentially like a tiny crumpet loaf, and was astonishing. Another amazing course was a combination of raw venison and scallop, served with wild leaves, ferns, yoghurt and seaweed. Mind-blowing flavours, pretty as a picture. A dessert made with wild sea buckthorn foam, with puff pastry and fresh strawberry jam tasted just like a warmed vanilla slice; oh, it brought back so many memories.

After a wonderful night’s sleep, rocked by the gentle lapping of the Baltic, we took breakfast and watched the Eider ducks and their ducklings swim around the boat, and then reluctantly left and headed north to Stockholm.

A superb city, very easy to get around, and with far too many things to see and do in only two days. However, I can recommend the boat tour that leaves from Nybroplan in the middle of town. You get to see almost everything, and can hop on and off the boat for 24 hours, allowing you to visit the old town, the parks and museums most efficiently.

I recommend the Wasa museum for fans of old warships and Skansen park for those with kids – there’s lots of wild animals and old-fashioned funfairs.

Just down the funicular from Skansen is the famous Ulla Winbladh restaurant, where they serve the best meatballs in town – the classic Swedish delicacy of tender meatballs in cream sauce, served with a dollop of mash, pickled cucumber and lingonberries. My plateful was demolished in record time.

In the evening, Gamla Stan, the old town, is where a lot of the nightlife happens, but me being me, I had to try and find a really good restaurant, and I did.

Frantzén/Lindeberg, named after it’s two co-owner chefs, is quite exceptional, and for me had Oaxen beaten on cuisine, if not uniqueness.

Our amazing waiter was incredibly friendly and helpful, and explained all of the minute dishes that came from the tiny open kitchen.

Each mouthful was more amazing than the last. Highlights included veal with carrots and dill (apparently a take on a traditional school dinner dish!), salted cod loin with ‘potato’ onion (a small, very savoury variety) and an amazing dish of French toast with truffle and 100-year-old balsamico. Perhaps the highlight was the cheese course, called ‘Tour De France 2008’, where we were given a Perspex plate printed with the route of the race, along which, at relevant geographical spots, were placed small pieces of cheese.

We were given a little iPod upon which was a commentary of the cheeses by famous Swedish-born Hollywood actor Stellan Skarsgard! Quite memorable, and a great way to round off the trip for us.

One caveat, though, do make sure you’ve just robbed a bank before you go; Sweden is eye-wateringly expensive. But if you want to experience some amazing culinary delights in stunning surroundings, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

http://www.oaxenkrog.se/

http://frantzen-lindeberg.com/en

http://www.ullawinbladh.se