Sunday, April 29, 2012

Smorgasbord in Bohuslan Sweden

The coastline between Gothenburg and the Norwegian border on the west coast of Sweden is teeming with islands, islets, and skerries, where small fishing communities still make a living from the sea. In the province of Bohuslän, they’ve given a twist to the traditional smorgasbord – a feast of buffet-style dishes – by adding the bounty of the sea to the luxurious spread.

The province of Bohuslän has a distinctive fishing culture, full of tall tales of hardy fishermen and howling storms. The area can have fierce winters, but is blessed with sizzling summers. Running the length of the west coast north of Gothenburg, right up to the Norwegian border, the province is replete with quietly picturesque fishing villages. Some 3,000 islands and 5,000 islets follow the line of the Bohuslän archipelago, and in summer many of the cozy settlements turn into lively seaside resorts. Pleasure boats line the harbors, and the cafés and restaurants open up their terraces along the seafront, serving the freshest of west coast cuisine. Many of the tiny islands just off the coast have old-fashioned fishermen’s huts, some of which are now summer houses, perching on the gently sloping, pink-tinted granite cliffs. The air tingles with the smell of seaweed, smoked fish, and pickled herring.

The quayside restaurants of Fjallbacka, on the Bohuslän coast
The humble herring has been fished along the coastline of Bohuslän for centuries and no local smorgasbord would be complete without this little fish.
The smorgasbord – a buffet-style spread of mostly cold dishes – is said to date back to the mid-14th century, when the upper classes began offering guests a small side table of hors d’oeuvres to accompany the alcoholic schnapps, or brännvin, for which they had a penchant.
Over the centuries, these little appetizers, initially just bread, butter, some cheese, and of course the occasional herring, went from plain and simple to increasingly lavish and elegant, moving from side table to main table, with all manner of dishes.
Today these colorful, abundant lunch buffets tend to have seasonal and regional twists, such as the emphasis on fresh fish and seafood in Bohuslän, where they often include “the Big Five” – lobster, oysters, shrimp, crayfish, and mussels. Most spreads include a variety of breads, from dark rye and crispbreads to flatbreads and seeded rolls, and plenty of pickled herring in various sauces, from strong mustard to a subtle onion. Add a mix of salads, cold cuts, eggs, pies, potatoes, and cheese, and the smorgasbord becomes a feast for the eye as well as the stomach, a rainbow of colors like the pretty painted houses of the wharves.

Smorgasbord in Bohuslän’s restaurants includes deliciously large helpings of fish and shellfish, such as lobster, crayfish, and shrimp

Best Places to Eat Smorgasbord

Salt & Sill moderate
Hotel and restaurant Salt & Sill sits prettily on the tiny island of Klädesholmen, one of the west coast’s most scenic locations and famed for its herring trade – they even celebrate a “Day of the Herring.” The chef serves up one of the best classic smorgasbords in the region and as the name – “Salt & Herring” – might suggest, there are a few delights of the sea included in the spread. On Sunday lunchtimes, guests can pick and choose from the many nibbles lined up, with a particularly fine selection of herring – there are 40 different types of preparation. In December, the smorgasbord turns into a julbord, a Christmas version that features traditional festive dishes such as Christmas ham and salt-cod lutefisk, as well as the year-round favorites – different types of bread, cold cuts, cheeses, pickled gherkins, beet salad, sausages, roe, mackerel, and so much more. It’s all traditionally washed down with strong spirits, such as aquavit, schnapps, or brännvin (literally “firewine”), which certainly lives up to its name.
471 51 Klädesholmen, Tjörn; open from 5 PM Fri, from 1 PM Sat, & 1–5 PM Sun for classical smorgasbord;
Also in Bohuslän
Lökeberga (; moderate) is a family-run hotel and restaurant right by the sea, half an hour north of Gothenburg. It is renowned for its smorgasbord, which uses typical ingredients from Bohuslän, including seafood and goat cheese. There is even a cake and dessert smorgasbord to sample if the main dishes don’t fill you up.
Also in Sweden
Operakällaren’s smorgasbord was legendary in its day, and after a 15-year break, it’s back (; expensive). Served in what is perhaps the best restaurant in Sweden, under cut-glass chandeliers in a historic Stockholm building, the lavish spread rivals the finest of culinary experiences. Expect plump soused herring, gravadlax, smoked reindeer, meatballs, and delicious side dishes from cheeses to pâtés. A true feast.
Around the World
Miss Maud (; inexpensive) opened as a Swedish hotel and restaurant in Perth, Australia, in 1971, offering a sumptuous smorgasbord at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Open 365 days a year, Miss Maud boasts Australia’s only authentic Swedish smorgasbord, with a few Aussie favorites snuck in for good measure, such as Princess Cake and the eternal favorite: “pavlova downunder.”
The Good Food Trail
Making all the difference to the culinary scene in the region, Taste of West Sweden has been highlighting the best of West Swedish food and produce for just over a decade. Member restaurants, food producers, and farm shops all focus on locally sourced produce and fresh ingredients, from seafood and fish to game and dairy products, including many of the ingredients of a good smorgasbord. The 25 restaurants, traditional inns, and old manor houses featured in the program ( offer the finest in dining experiences, and many include a smorgasbord with Bohuslän’s “Big Five.” You can visit cheese-makers, dairies, and even a brewery as part of the scheme. Kosters Trädgårdar (www. on Sydkoster Island is a particular highlight in summer, when their herb garden and café are open.

Three Days in Bohuslän

Bohuslän’s coastline, featuring islands, skerries, Sweden’s only fjord, and its only marine national park, can be explored in just a few days.
DAY ONE : Drive north from Gothenburg following the archipelago passing the two largest islands, Orust and Tjörn. After an hour’s drive you reach the charming settlement of Lysekil, on Sweden’s only fjord, Gullmaren. In the afternoon, continue to nearby Smögen, one of the most scenic fishing villages on the coast, now a popular vacation spot.
DAY TWO : Follow the main coastal road north toward the unusual Bronze Age rock carvings at Tanum, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Reach the hub of Strömstad, near Norway, in the evening and treat yourself to some pampering at its renowned spa, before dinner at Rökeriet, a traditional smokehouse in the harbor.
DAY THREE : Take the morning ferry to the Koster Islands and explore the car-free north island, hiking among the purple heather, yellow gorse, and pink-tinged cliffs before cycling or canoeing around the south island. Return to Strömstad by ferry in the evening.
How to get to Bohuslan Sweden
The coastal region of Bohuslän lies between Gothenburg and the Norwegian border. Flights arrive at Gothenburg-Landvetter international airport, 13 miles (20 km) from downtown. There are good local buses and car rental.
Where to stay in Bohuslan Sweden
Strandflickorna (inexpensive) is an oldfashioned, peaceful hotel near the sea in the coastal town of Lysekil.
Salt & Sill (moderate), Sweden’s first floating hotel, has 23 stylish rooms in two buildings off the island of Klädesholmen.
Quality Spa & Resort Strömstad (expensive) is a world-class hotel and traditional health spa.

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