Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Throwing stones

A busy week, writing an author profile for Pen Pusher and an article for Joeblade which involves actually research and interviewing people, shockingly. Anyway, I thought I'd pacify you with a restaurant review from when Leon and I went to Glas, just around the corner from London Bridge. (For his sake, I should point out that I have taken liberties with his dialogue. His puns are usually of a much higher standard than mine.)


As I walked into Glas, a Swedish restaurant in London Bridge, I was already flexing my punning muscles. Swede smell of success, I thought, and chuckled inwardly.

Well, as it turns out, everyone has got there before me. Glas grew out of a chef Anna Mosesson's Swedish food stall in Borough Market, which was called Scandelicious (tenuous, but I'll give her the benefit of the doubt). Then my dreams of coming up with a truly awful Nordic pun were scuppered by a visit to the loos, where I found several reviews pinned up on the walls, one entitled: Hard of Herring. Crap, I thought, I'll never beat that. I'll just have to talk about the food.

Luckily, that's pretty easy, because Swedish food is both distinctive and unusual. Glas aims to help you sample some of Sweden's best hot and cold dishes by recommending each diner orders two and three small dishes. At between £4.45 and £7.75 a plate, we were happy to oblige.

We dived straight in with the herring three ways (with vodka and lime; with sherry and tomato; and spiced, with sour cream and chives). I wasn't mad on the tomato or sour cream versions, where the extreme fishiness of the herring was only too evident, but I was pleasantly surprised by the vodka and lime iteration. The two cool, tangy flavours took the edge off the piscine pungency, leaving you to enjoy the surprising meatiness of the fish.

I suspect the steak tartare is less authentically Nordic, but the meat was beautifully cured and the extras - apple, tomato, horseradish, and the obligatory egg yolk - were perfectly chosen.

After our herring odyssey, the hot dishes arrived. I found the Venison cabbage parcels with cassis coulis disappointing, like the bastard offspring of a loveless marriage between a spring roll and, well, a cabbage. 'Aren't you eating that?" said my companion, whisking the parcel away. "These are delicious!" So I suppose I should put that down as "received a mixed reaction".

We were, however, unanimous in our praise for the Cobblers box, despite its snigger-inducing name. It was outstanding - a beautifully tender piece of steak topped with deliciously fatty bacon on indulgent mash... topped with the nicest gravy I have ever tasted.

We'd washed all this down with a good Austrian white wine - the wine list, like the menu, is small but perfectly formed - and threw caution to the winds to try a 'Swedish liqueur' with our puddings (yummy apple cake for him, refreshing and quirky lime and basil sorbet for me). It was... er... OK, it was vile. It reminded me of the unpleasant oily stuff in my parents' archetypal 80s drinks cabinet.

Dodgy liqueurs aside, I was impressed. But one question niggled. What is Glas for? With its bright lighting and minimalist furniture, It's too bright and un-cosy for a date, too fiddly and formal for a canteen-style bite to eat, too uncomfortable for a boozy lunch with friends, and hardly in the best location for attracting business crowd. And yet it was full - authentically Swedish people were being turned away by the time we finished, as the kitchen shuts at half nine.

"You'd think they would have looked that up before they came," I remarked to my companion.
"Well," he replied, "I suppose there's one Bjorn every minute."


Anonymous Alex said...

Haha! I'm ashamed to admit that it took me at least 2 seconds to get that.

8/08/2006 6:03 pm  
Blogger a.c.t said...

I spent a few days in Stockholm and ashamedly never actually tried any traditional Swedish food. It wasn't through lack of looking though. Now I know it exists, I might give it a go.

8/09/2006 12:08 pm  
Blogger Pie said...

I think I would have left the Cobbler's box to my imagination rather than asking for it. Way too embarrassing!

8/09/2006 1:05 pm  
Anonymous lb said...

The Cobbler's Box was great, even if there didn't seem anything especially Swedish about it. Lucky cobbler, I found myself thinking.

I think most people's idea of 'Swedish food' stops with those small, disturbingly solid-looking meatballs they serve in the Ikea cafe.

8/09/2006 2:50 pm  
Anonymous galatea said...

When I open a restaurant, I am going to serve *only* dishes with double-entendre names. And I'm going to call it The Lunchbox.

8/09/2006 4:20 pm  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

Heh heh great stuff. good luck with your writing and I am really enjoying reading your blog. followed Pie here...


8/09/2006 6:37 pm  

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