Rob Hunt, co-owner of Kork wine bar, offers a personal history of his time in the Skellefteå food scene, and raves about his favourite Skellefteå restaurant, Bryggargatan. Over the page, Paul Connolly reveals his number one.
I love restaurants, which perhaps explains why I have spent the last 20-something years working in them. Whether it be a tiny cafe making sandwiches, a burger joint, or a bistro – if somebody is bringing me something to eat and I have preferably been supplied with something to sit on, then I am at my happiest. Having somebody take their time to prepare food for me is the height of luxury.
Working in the food industry, at whatever level, is challenging. The hours can generously be described as unsociable (at times ungodly), the work is stressful and is only ever moments away from descending into chaos, and the working conditions are unique compared to most other jobs, especially in Sweden.
We hear stories of the wonders of lunch hours and fika breaks but most of us have never experienced them. In spite of this, the positives have always far outweighed the negatives. The job has allowed me to travel and work around the world, meet a lot of highly skilled, talented and amazing people, and eat some absolutely incredible food, albeit often leaning on a bin in a sweaty dish-room during a very brief break in night service.
Many places to eat!
Skellefteå has changed massively in the 15 years since I first visited, and then later began living here. The little town I first came across has grown rapidly. There are things to do now, and this change is evidenced in no more obvious area than in my industry. Skellefteå has transformed from a town with one or two restaurants, a couple of pubs and a vast amount of takeaway pizza and burger restaurants to what it is now. Now there are many places to eat! Fine dining, incredible bakers, brew pubs, Miss Voon, Italian restaurants, good Indian food and even a wine bar (a little plug there for my place, Kork).
In December 2011 Bryggargatan moved to Skellefteå. From 2004 it had operated out of The Old Brewery in Piteå, under the original stewardship of Jón Óskar, Sarah and Runar. Two excellent chefs with roots in Icelandic cuisine and a fantastic sommelier from Piteå. Their plan was quite simple: serve quality food using singular ingredients, incorporate arresting drinks, add exceptional service, and combine it all in a pleasant, understated environment.
It went pretty well. They have appeared in The White Guide, have been featured in TIME magazine as part of the top 50 Greatest Places (along with Skellefteå), and have received countless accolades. Bryggargatan is a special restaurant. Since opening, it has set the standard for not only restaurants in Skellefteå, but in Norrland as a whole. Now in the hands of just Jón Óskar and Sarah, they have exceptional chefs, attentive waiting staff and a beautiful dining room with amazing views of the river. The menu changes regularly, but quality ingredients, prepared in what can be broadly described as being in the Scandinavian style, is the raison d’etre, although the kitchen is free to use flavors and ingredients from around the world as they see fit.
The service team, headed most nights by Judith and Anton, are exceptional. Service is informed but not pushy or pretentious.
The best drinks in town
As well as the main restaurant they also have a bar to the rear. They unquestionably serve the best drinks in town. The bar area is dimly lit and cozy; white tiles complemented by dark wooden furniture. A perfect place to begin or end a night.
On my last visit we ate grilled scallops with chimichurri and a burnt butter hollandaise, stenbitsrom (caviar) with sourdough and råbiff (steak tartare). The scallops were unreal, a little smoke from the grill, offset with a beautiful buttery hollandaise and a punch from the spicing of the chimichurri. The stenbitsrom and the råbiff are both Bryggargatan staples as the seasons dictate. A beautiful sourdough fried in butter and then topped with smetarna, herbs, lemon and caviar. Simple but completely delicious.
Food to experience
The tartare with capers, mustard, pickled onions, egg yolk and tarragon is a classic. Perfectly balanced and made even better by a glass of French pinot noir. But words can only say so much; restaurants, food and drink need to be experienced. Which leads nicely onto this past summer. In July they hosted the ÓGIN mixology sessions. ÓGIN is the brainchild of Jón Óskar, great chef, but also a master distiller. The premise is to capture the wild, special taste of Swedish Lapland and make a gin which captures that unique character. Different bartenders or mixologists from throughout Sweden have descended on the bar every weekend tasked with crafting sublime cocktails using ÓGIN. As my impending credit card bill will attest, it has been a huge success and a great initiative, culminating in some amazing, high-quality creations. I will be back. When I have a spare moment.