The west coast of Sweden is defined by water — sea, lakes, and rivers — and by rich, fertile farmland and enchanting forests. The area is bursting with the finest of raw ingredients and, thanks to the passion of its local farmers and producers, an abundance of food and drink.
That Swedes embrace the idea of reduce-reuse-recycle is evident in their clever adaptive reuse of centuries-old barns and farm structures as inns, markets, cafes, and shops that mix old-world charm with the minimalist Scandinavian design sensibility. There really is no better way to experience this part of the country than by bundling loved ones into the car and heading off on a culinary road trip.
From Gothenburg heading south to Helsingborg, the trip is about 300 kilometers. The best place to start is Skårs Gård in Äskhults By, a farm dating back to the early 1800s that once served as a post office and a country store. Nowadays, it’s a family-run inn that embraces the philosophy of smakglädje, which loosely translates as "joy in flavors" — no doubt inspired by the larder at their doorstep. This is rustic, regional soul food with a twist: Smoked reindeer is served with roasted beets and horseradish ice cream.
Then it’s deep into the forest to pick up delicious marinated goat cheese from Maria at Skoga Gårdsmejeri. After a quick tour and a cuddle with the baby goats, drive through the rolling hills, across the fertile countryside, and along Sweden’s southwest coastline.
Ästad Vingård is a must. The vineyard, restaurant, and natural spa are located in the rural countryside, surrounded by beech forests and a crystal clear lake, just outside the tiny village of Sibbarp. Local restaurants have menus deeply rooted in the agricultural heritage of the surrounding area, and the chef at Ästad Vingård organizes his menu under such thematic headings as Lake & Sea, Forest & Meadow, and Farm & Nature.
Continuing south towards the countryside just outside Halmstad is Heagård's Skafferi. Housed in an enormous converted stone barn from the 17th century (skafferi is the old word for pantry), the multi-use space is a restaurant, gallery, café, deli, home furnishings boutique — and a perfect spot for brunch. Down the road is Riccardo’s Dolce & Verde, a gelateria and antipasti bar housed in the old stables on Möllegårds farm (circa 1646). Riccardo makes gelatos and sorbets inspired by childhood memories, old family recipes, and a constant search for interesting flavors like whiskey cream and gingerbread.
Following along the coastline at the center of the Bjäre Peninsula is Båstad, a quaint seaside town that’s also home to the Swedish Open. There, in an old grain warehouse by the seafront, is Restaurang Sand, a sophisticated food experience based around local and seasonal classics prepared with surprising flavors. Bjäre chicken is served with local mushrooms, pancetta, and sage and followed with pear terrine with thyme ice cream.
In the rolling hills of Sinarpsdalen just outside Båstad is Lindegrens, a nose-to-tail butcher shop that makes all sorts of salami, bresaola, and air-dried meats. Housed in a contemporary, minimalist Scandinavian barn, it’s clear that taste, ethics, and transparency are of paramount importance. Cattle graze outside, and glass windows and doors leave no question about how, exactly, the food is produced. Visitors can join sausage making and food foraging days.
Take the back roads to the coastal town of Höganäs and fill up the picnic baskets with fresh vegetables from the numerous stalls parked along the road. An old salt glazing factory, today repurposed as Höganäs Saluhall, is an extraordinary food hall with a restaurant that serves up the best brunch spread around: local, seasonal, zero waste. Garage Coffee serves beans roasted by the Helsingborg-based Koppi Kaffe & Rosteri under the simple motto "good stuff for good people" — cortado, please! An artisan brewery on site offers fantastic unfiltered and unpasteurized beer.
A few miles up the road is the seaside town of Mölle, where Grand Hotel Mölle does a Nordic take on afternoon tea and offers a place to lay weary heads. In the harbor is Brandstation, a lovely little place to eat, buy produce, and generally enjoy life while appreciating the good bones of an old fire station. David Mill and Eva Dahlberg, the couple behind these ventures (as well as Höganäs Saluhall), have been influential for offering their businesses as a platform where local farmers and producers can sell their wares to a wider audience, a commendable way to enhance and enrich their community.
No culinary road trip through these parts would be complete without a visit to Oxhallen, a former cattle hall in Helsingborg port that plays host to a merry band of regional food producers and a local craft brewers. The energy, the quality, the product — this could easily be described as the most passionate farmer’s markets in existence.
Photos by Peter Boman.