When I said I was going to Malmö for dinner one Swedish friend scoffed at the idea. “Why go to such a cultural backwater at all, let alone for dinner?” I find it odd how Gothenburgers are much fonder of Copenhagen than of Stockholm or Malmö, yet pretty much detest the very thought of Denmark. In fact many Swedes joke that they’d like to give the bottom portion of Sweden to the Danes!
So with these cultural tensions in mind, my sister and I decided to pop in for dinner at a restaurant called Bastard in Malmö on our way back to Gothenburg from Copenhagen. It had been recommended by Magnus as one of his favourite restaurants so we felt on firm ground despite the rather ominous name.
Bastard is the closest thing to a gastro-pub that I’ve found in Sweden, in terms of the style, menu, open kitchen and central bar that you can sit around. It’s a sort of bistro-cum-gastropub but without the cosy pubbiness and with a slap of St. John offal and a tickle of Italian sourcing and technique.
We sat at the bar and let our stomachs rule our heads, knowing that we had three hours on a train to snooze off our dinner. As we sipped an icy glass of Gruner we watched a Schindler’s List red meat slicer whirr through irresistible nuggets of cured pig and did the only thing that was right and gave in.
The pate, lard, porchetta and rilletes were superb. The only downside was that the charcuterie had been proudly imported from Italy, whereas I was very keen to sample something a bit more Swedish, Danish or dare I say it, homemade as it is at Björns Bar in Gothenburg or at the best pubs back in the UK. Skagenskinka is renowned for instance, for being a very fine smoked Danish ham and there is a strong tradition in Scandinavia for doing wonderfully naughty things with pigs. Whilst the "plank" was delicious, it seemed like Andreas Dahlberg may have missed a trick.
The star of the show was a beef heart salad with radicchio, rocket and Parmesan which left my sister and I fighting bitterly over the last sweet scraps. It balanced bitterness, saltiness, heat and meatiness perfectly. It transported me back to having a morsel of a friend’s grilled ox heart at St. John, which could hardly be higher praise. It was one of the best things I’ve eaten all year.
Ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta and doused in a fine butter sauce were splendid. Often they can be watery or, worse still like eating a snot filled hanky. But these were well made and generously filled without being the sort of thing you want to send a postcard home about or write more than sixty three words in a blog post about.
The other standout dish was a generous slab or pork belly topped with a chickpea puree and a fennel and pea shoot salad. Words such as glorious; sounds such as oink oink; and feelings such as mmmmm flood back as I look at the photo above. The pork was cravenly moist and depth-charged with flavour whilst the other elements added lubrication and lightness to offset the meatiness. It’s a thrill to find a new take on pork belly – and one I’m keen to recreate at home.
We waddled away from the bar feeling inspired by Malmö and snoozed all the way home to Gothenburg dreaming that Bastard might decide to move up the coast and grace the streets of Little London. For it offers something that Gothenburg desperately needs – imaginative, informal, top class cooking, but without the desperate need to compete with Stockholm, chase after a star or laboriously serve dainty tasting menus. In fact, it’s worth going to Malmö just to eat at Bastard.
We still love to go on trips around the UK, staying in BnBs or camping in search of a good meal or two - hence, Around Britain with a Paunch. Quite often the trips have been prompted by Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook. Here's where we've been to: