Paul Connolly was a restaurant critic in his previous career. He especially loved imaginative, reasonably-priced, unpretentious food, so imagine his delight at finding Mando Burström Billia’s Skellefteå restaurant, Nordanågården.
When we first moved to Skellefteå a decade ago, there was really only one place for great food – Bryggargatan, a flash of sparkling silver in a grey culinary landscape. But it was, and still is, very pricey for most of us, a once-a-year treat. My sweet-spot is imaginative food at a reasonable price. A once-a-month treat, if you like. Which is where the new incarnation of Nordanågården comes in.
“Fusion” as a culinary term is hated by chefs and customers alike. It’s so redolent of the late-1980s it conjures up images of over-tanned men in pastel jackets with sleeves rolled up, leaping over the bonnets of cars as they chase a villain. It stinks of shoulder pads and David Hasselhoff’s oily cleavage in Baywatch. It’s just wrong.
But it’s not just the term ‘fusion’ that’s wrong (it also makes me think of the Hadron Collider and the end of the world). The food was rubbish, too. I remember wasabi mashed potato and rhubarb tuna. Trust me, I wish I didn’t. Fusion, as a concept, was one thing – in reality it was rarely anything other than a taste-clashing disaster.
That’s why Diamanto “Mando” Burström Billia’s restaurant Nordanågården has been such a spectacular surprise (and a real success) since it opened 18 months ago. Mando, who was born and raised in Athens, has promised diners a Greek and Mediterranean take on Scandinavian cuisine and a Scandinavian twist to Greek food. That sort of pledge would not normally be a very kind one to make.
As with the promise, “I will eat your liver with fava beans,” it would elicit in me a mild thrill of curiosity (‘would the texture of fava beans really go with liver?’) but a thrill that would soon be overwhelmed by terror and the urge to run very fast in the opposite direction.
Yet Mando’s promise is not a threat. It’s a celebration, a wild, vivid jubilee of what food can be. A vegetarian moussaka with the textural satisfaction and complex flavor of a much more complicated dish. A crispy hake dish, served with beetroot puree, green pesto and smoked anchovy aioli, shouldn’t work. Such a battery of strong flavors should be fighting a noisy and bloody battle to the death in your mouth. But Mando has them working together, helping each other glide deliciously over your tongue – it’s a proper work of art.
A sigh on your palate
The best is last, though. A miraculous rejuvenation of that hoary old Swedish dagens staple, Beef Lindström. Mando says she always wants to feature a couple of old-fashioned Swedish favorites for the regulars who used to patronize the restaurant before she took it over. The old regulars are being treated – Mando’s take on this dagens regular is magnificent. The patty is not brittle like the meat-tinged pumice stones you often get thrown on your plate. It is succulent. The taste and texture are like the finest beef tartare marbled with beetroot and capers and flavored so tenderly it leaves a sigh on your palate. This Beef Lindstörm gives fusion a good name.
By the time you read this, the restaurant’s menu will have changed. Mando’s fabulous restaurant serves both lunch and dinner, and has hugely popular wine-tasting evenings. It’s a terrific restaurant, with friendly, attentive and knowledgeable staff. It’s also very reasonably priced. Best restaurant in Skellefteå? For my money, yes, Book it now.