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Image 1: Here’s yet another one of my journeys into a remote area just for a meal. This time, it involved a flight to Copenhagen, then driving into Sweden via the famous Oresund bridge. After passing through Malmo, we…

Image 2: …continued East into countryside for another hour or so, until…

Image 3: … we finally reached the town of Skåne Tranås. We were pretty tired by this stage, so we were very happy to see this sign at last. And yes, it’s a name that attracts foodies from all over the world – Chef Daniel Berlin!

Image 4: First, we checked in to our lodge for the night. This was just a 3-minute walk from the restaurant, which was fortunate, as we were already half an hour late for our reservation. So we quickly changed and followed the sign to the restaurant.

Image 5: As we approached, guess who we saw – it was the man himself, Chef Daniel, waiting at the door! Apparently, we were the last ones to arrive! We appreciated the warm welcome. Nice touch.

Image 6: As we were late, we had to ‘catch up’ with the others since everyone was having the same menu. So, as soon as we’d sat down, the amuse bouche was served immediately - a warm drink infused with mixed herbs from their own garden.

Image 7: Chef Daniel now appeared to serve the next course in person. He told us that, as there’s not much meat in this area, so vegetable BBQs are common during summer, and he thinks celeriac is a great vegetable to cook on charcoal, as…

Image 8: After a short chat, Chef Daniel led us into the dining room. It's very much a family affair here – the Chef Daniel is in charge of the kitchen while his father is at the front of the house. Then, during day, he joins forces with his mother to do the gardening! It was a very pleasant start to our dining experience.

Image 9: Everyone was then invited to have a drink in the garden! The drink was served by…

Image 10: We were encouraged to have a nose around, and to visit the wine cellar and storage area, where various ingredients are preserved.

Image 11: …Daniel's dad! It was a warm savoury soup, made with their home-grown vegetables. And it was delicious – I could have easily finished the whole pot by myself!

Image 12: We also had a chat with one of the cooks who was busy grilling beets on skewers. "They’re your main course," he told us, which I assumed (hoped!) meant "They’re part of your main course."

Image 13: After an enjoyable short break from a long meal, we returned to the dining room, where the table had been completely re-laid. The change of scenery was a nice idea.

Image 14: I mentioned to the staff that I’d expect some meat, but there was nothing they could do – the kitchen just didn’t have any meat suitable for a main course. The only solution, they said, was to give us extra bread and/or extra cheese. As the closest restaurant, or even fast food outlet, was 40 miles away (I know because I immediately checked on my phone) we decided to go with the extra cheese option. They only had two types of cheese, which came with a marmalade of blueberries, apple, cumin and parsnip, and was served with apple and fennel crackers.

Image 16: There were just a few tables, serving about 16 guests, in a small dining room – and that's the entire restaurant! It was easy to see why this place is considered special. It really felt like being at his home.

Image 17: It was obvious that Daniel’s parents had put a lot of work into their garden. It turned out that they remortgaged their house to support Daniel in opening his restaurant. They clearly had faith in his abilities, though they probably never thought that people would end up flying across the world to eat here! Both are now working full time on the garden. And it’s just the beginning for them, because…

Image 18: …it continues to expand, and they now even…

Image 19: …keep a colony of bees to produce their own honey.

Image 20: True, it had been a rather stressful journey up to now, but the surroundings calmed me down. Having grown up and lived, for pretty much all my life, in metropolitan areas, I particularly appreciate such scenic and peaceful environments.

Image 21: This is quail egg with a wafer-thin bacon, a garlic flower and smoked salt. The runny yolk burst pleasantly in the mouth, but the meat lacked saltiness, so the overall effect was pretty bland.

Image 22: Underneath these thin crisps made of dried consommé of small crabs was…

Image 23: … a neat row of leeks, cream of lovage and spring onion flower. Leeks aren’t my thing, flavour-wise, but these were mild without the usual pungent flavour. However, the rye bread underneath was teeth-crackingly hard! Not a successful nibble!

Image 24: These rather cute cups of grilled asparagus tip had sour cream at the bottom – the waitress told us that the remaining asparagus would be served later. They look good, but - again – the pastry was too hard. It was also very greasy - I could feel the residue on my fingers after lifting them to my mouth.

Image 25: At least we couldn’t complain that there was insufficient amuse bouche – they continued to come, one after the other. Finally, something with a more powerful flavour arrived - yeast pancake with pork belly cooked in vinegar. On top was cream of plums, plus a slice of fresh radish. The next to arrive was…

Image 26: …what looked like cinnamon sticks. However, they were actually cream of chicken liver, dusted with cinnamon and aniseed powder. The texture was spot-on, very silky, but they had a very bitter aftertaste. I couldn’t be sure if this was from the foie itself or from the aniseed. Another disappointment. So far, although the ambience of the place was very enjoyable, and we loved the relaxed environment, but here hadn’t yet been a single dish that had lived up to my expectations.

Image 27: Finally, to complete the amuse bouche, this arrived: turnip, raddish and sorbet of apple and sorrel, all served on a block of ice. I couldn’t help thinking that the ice was overdone – it made the small bits of vegetable look rather lonely and insignificant. Still, it tasted pretty good though nothing memorable. The sorbet was nicely conceived and executed, and an excellent palate cleanser. A good way to finish what was a long, but largely disappointing, set of amuse bouches.

Image 28: Now the first course. And it was a very interesting dish. Raw asparagus had been skinned, chopped into tiny sticks, and placed on flakes of mackerel with gooseberry jelly. It had then been finished with a broth made from burnt asparagus skin and barley. I’d never had asparagus raw before, and I was surprised at its texture, which was soft-crunchy, rather like apple. The smell is very similar to leek. I couldn’t believe how different asparagus is after being cooked, but you live and learn! The mackerel was pleasant.

Image 29: The first batch of cucumber in season - with raw shrimps, roasted buckwheat, pressed rhubarb and drizzled with seaweed dill oil. The creamy result was bathed in a fresh aroma from the seaweed and dill oil. Simple, but enjoyable.

Image 30: Warm bread from the oven, slightly burnt. It had been made with four types of grain, and had a texture more like muffin. It came with goat and cow butter.

Image 31: Salted cod loin, and place it in an oven at precisely 28°C. It's cooked with rapeseed oil, from one of the yellow fields of rapeseed flower we drove past earlier, and served in a cod broth with cod cheek at the bottom. The fish seasoning was spot on, as was the cod roe sauce. The delicate texture of the cod seemed to dissolve into a soft fibrous texture in the mouth, resembles crab claws, quite unique! And the hint of horseradish complemented the dish perfectly. It was, by some distance, the best course of the meal so far.

Image 32: This was followed by duck yolk with woodruff, in a pastry cup made with potato. The pastry was beautifully done – completely different from the amuse bouche. And the combinations was excellent. The textural contrast of the crispy shell and runny yolk, together with the explosion of flavour from potato cream, egg white and mustard seed was simply divine! The meal seemed to have recovered – thank goodness!

Image 33: Nordic cuisine leans strongly towards the minimalist, a fact highlighted by the meal so far. Let’s face it, where else would a small piece of white asparagus, together with a crisp made from chicken broth, be considered as a whole course? But it was nicely done: it had been cooked with precision to give a pleasant crunchy texture - though I don’t think the pieces of walnut underneath were really needed.

Image 34: … it tends to retain its moisture and flavour, even after 10 hours on an open fire like this one!

Image 35: He simply scoops out the heart of the celeriac

Image 36: … and serves it in a butter broth. The result was was creamy with good acidity. Nothing especially Wow about it, but it was a nice comfort food.

Image 37: And so…on with the meal! Now came a small strip of turbot, with cepe and fermented apple broth. The made a well-balanced combination of earthiness and acidity – again with lovely, delicate texture. There’s no doubting that they know how to prepare and present seafood here – both are extremely well done. It’s also interesting that all fish served at Daniel Berlin is sourced from the waters between Denmark and Sweden.

Image 38: At first, I thought she was joking. I glanced behind her, half expecting to see a colleague with a ‘real’ main course, but there was no-one to be seen. It seemed that the cook we’d chatted with earlier had been right after all - beetroot really was our main course! Now, don’t get me wrong. In itself, the beetroot was pretty good. Very good, in fact. It was sliced very finely, so it had an attractive, flaky texture, and it had an intense, beetrooty flavour. The blackcurrant sauce and veal fat underneath added a sense of substance, and there was also a nice smokiness to it.

Image 39: As the pangs of hunger were still gnawing at me, I was looking forward to the main course. But when the waitress arrived, she served nothing but a small bowl of beetroot leaves. “At this time of year,” she explained, as she put the bowl in front of me, “beetroot is at its peak of flavour, so we serve it as the "meat" course. It’s been cooked in its own juice."

Image 40: But despite all that, I found it very hard to feel positively towards a meal without a ‘proper’ main course. Which, to me, means not just a side dish and preferably meat or fish (unless it’s a vegetarian meal, which this wasn’t). All we were given was a bit of veal fat underneath the beetroot. I have to admit to being disappointed. I mean, most people will be hungry. I certainly was. Having expected a large meal tonight, I’d had almost no lunch and I needed sustenance. But every course here was just a bite or two. It just wasn’t enough!

Image 41: Now onto the first dessert - honey and ice cream (made with sour cream), which had been soaked in a whipped milk with lemon verbana. It was rather good – very milky and foamy.

Image 42: Then, to finish, a sweet and savoury dessert - frozen goat yogurt and buttermilk sorbet with rosemary caramel, covered by a thin salted meringue.

Image 43: Our tea was accompanied by delicacies from the local chocolate shop, served in a neat wooden box!

Image 44: So - great service, friendly people, lovely family. In all, a superb experience, except (ironically, as that’s what we were there for) the food! As I pointed out earlier, every amuse bouche needed refining. And, while I appreciate the effort and skill required to grow one’s own vegetables, these were pretty ordinary. The whole meal was monotonic with little depth of flavour or breadth of texture. In any case, a side dish served as a main course is, for me, an automatic disqualification! After it was over, we walked back to the hotel and went to bed. I dreamed of breakfast.

Image 45: Everyone was then invited to the greenhouse for petits fours and tea. I loved the idea of changing the environment a couple of times. It really works well with long meals like this.

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  • FDE

    Correct. You summarised well. That was the experience. Oh well…

  • Alan Spedding (cumbriafoodie)

    There wasn`t one single attractive element to that meal. None of the courses excited me.Definitely not my thing at all. Seems like you had a very long and expensive journey when you could have eaten far better food on your own doorstep.