There are two ‘in’ things this festive season which have dug their heels into the snow and established themselves firmly in time for the next six weeks or so: that outrageously cute John Lewis penguin and Scandi-chic.
The former, a world class slice of marketing which will have parents cursing that the only way to obtain said fluffy Antarctic bird would be to steal and enslave one from the local zoo. The latter arctic trend, on the other hand, has been lying dormant for generations in London and is finally starting to flourish for all to be a part of.
Over 60,000 Swedes call London home these days and it’s no surprise that Swedish culture and gastronomy is coming in from the cold to drift through the capital.
Enter Skandilicious. This month-long pop up, based in the lower echelons of the old Guardian newspaper grotto in Farringdon aims to provide a complete Swedish Christmas experience from start to finish. Upon entry, guests are warmly welcomed to follow the seasonal smell of fresh ginger biscuits which leads to glug a deliciously fragrant mulled wine known as Glögg, mixed with almonds, cinnamon and raisins at the drinkers’ discretion.
The dining room itself makes use of natural light perfectly and is minimalistic yet functional in its design. It holds one hundred covers but feels a lot more intimate, which is of course crucial to being a personal journey through Swedish culture from Glögg to post-prandial gingerbread martini. Yes, gingerbread martini. You won’t find one of those in your bloody red cups at your local Starbucks.
It’s not like a business class flight where it’s perfectly acceptable to have a tactical chunder as a result of over-indulging in the executive lounge
Round one in the Smörgåsbord arena is diverse and alluring enough to encourage the diner into a saliva-induced sprint due to the quality and variety that’s available to be tempted by. Remember, this is a marathon, so take it easy and don’t get as carried away, as I did, after the starting gun was fired; it’s not like a business class flight where it’s perfectly acceptable to have a tactical chunder as a result of over-indulging on free food in the executive lounge before undertaking the ‘getting your money’s worth’ of cleaning every plate in the mile high diners’ club.
A ménage à trois of pickled herring variants, a brace of sumptuous salmon types, prawns, parfaits and pickles (to name a few of the wares on offer) are washed down with award-winning Swedish lagers, wines and, until this evening, the “do not consume EVER due to past experience” aquavit. I’ve not touched aquavit since an evening years ago now, in symbiosis with many a fine cuban cigar; nothing was tactical about the outcome. I’m glad to report, however, that this incarnation of my glass of devil juice was delicious – in addition to having an elderflower tingle to soften the blow on my glass jaw.
The bell rings once again and our table engages the Smögåsbord once more. Mustard-crumbed ham, prinskorv sausages (they look like Christmas crackers), a whole side of salmon, and meatballs that were so well textured and seasoned they should get the IKEA cooking division to resign en masse.
It wasn’t all meathead fare however. The cep omelette was delicately balanced in flavour and made the perfect accompaniment to the earthy beef ribs (just in case you meatheads were being scared off). The highlight for me, however, was the quality of the Janssons Temptation, served individually in ramekins so no fights over portions break out. It was by far the best I’ve ever eaten. They must know me too welI; I can resist everything but temptation.
Despite being TKO’d by the indulgence of the generosity displayed by the main course, the puddings really do suit every taste and the vast majority of participants will be easily familiar with the sweet treats as a whole.
I’m almost choking myself in the confession that it’s like having Christmas magic sprinkled onto your evening
The championship belt winner to bust my gut, however, was a no-contest between the ris à la malta with berry sauce and the julgrot with cinnamon and sugar; essentially warm, rice-based puddings that I’d take over the dreaded booze-soaked Christmas pudding that disgraces our festive dinner tables every year.
Defeating the final course and avoiding Christmas pudding will easily lead you into a false sense of security when the final bell rings. Aforementioned seasonal non-coffeehouse drinks quietly await in the large, clean and brilliantly Swedish ethereal bar: making perfect use of the many mirrors with a purely candle-lit post-prandial kickback on the plush sofas.
That’s the way I’d choose to end every dining experience. The existence of the bar itself remains a secret to be discovered and, as I’m writing this, I’m almost choking myself in the confession that it’s like having Christmas magic sprinkled onto your evening. Alright, I’ll get my coat and resign alongside the IKEA meatball makers.
Skandilicious has truly displayed a new angle in which to escape the annual tedium and routine that a normal festive season offers; although it far backdates our traditions, it’s one of the few stones which remain until now unturned in the great smörgåsbord that is the gastronomic scene in London.
Everyone involved is truly passionate about delivering the best Swedish experience that can stand up to the scrutiny of the discerning ex-pat Swedish client – not to mention the city sharks who will be circling around the serving area.
It shows, too. Swede-chic is here to stay, and Skandilicious will be the smörgåsm leading the way in bringing this wonderful culture of gastronomy to your Christmas table: and not a turkey in sight
Skandilicious is at The Old Guardian Media House Theatre Delicatessen, 119 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3DA, November 14-December 21.
Lunch is served between noon and 4pm, with dinner and drinks 6pm till midnight Sunday to Wednesday and till 1am Thursday to Saturday.