Culinary Canvas

Anton Bjuhr’s Slice of Swedish Nostalgia

Take your tastebuds on a journey to Northern Sweden.

Words by Sophie Miskiw. Photography by Johan Ståhlberg.

The tastes that summon childhood memories are often unique to a person or culture. If you grew up in England, nostalgia might taste like sausage rolls or McVitie’s Iced Gems (cornerstones of a nutritious diet). Venezuelans might recall the taste of Tequeños, crunchy sticks of fried queso blanco cheese. And those from Northern Sweden, like Stockholm-based pastry chef Anton Bjuhr, will likely tell you the taste synonymous with home is cloudberries with vanilla ice cream.

“It’s very classic. It’s something I eat when I go back home, something very much from childhood,” says Anton.

It’s this common pairing of dairy with cloudberries that inspired one particular kaffe godis (a sweet treat to accompany the postprandial coffee) served at Anton's two Michelin Star restaurant Gastrologik. Once the savoury dishes and sweet servings have been polished off and the coffee is served, this final bite - a yoghurt-encrusted cheesecake - is ceremoniously set down on the table. It’s different from the preceding courses, designed to be distributed and enjoyed privately between diners. An airy cheesecake base, prepared with fresh cheese from the Swedish island of Gotland using a Japanese technique, piped with an oven-dried cloudberry compote and encased with dried yoghurt and fennel pollen.

“I think cake is a very nice thing. It’s like creating a ceremony. And we wanted to make it as Swedish as possible. It comes on a small wooden cake stand with a wooden cake cutter, and the guests slice the cake themselves. Sometimes it’s nice to have some privacy in the evening because we want people to be comfortable. We’re a two star restaurant but that doesn’t mean it has to be stiff and boring. It should be personal.”

It’s not quite the pared-down vanilla ice cream with cloudberries of his childhood, but for Anton it is quintessentially the taste of home.

“We probably don’t have the same flavour or texture memories, we come from different places. But when you feel something about a serving, it becomes much bigger. If the smell reminds you of something, or the texture or flavour combination. To me, this serving means a lot. And when I serve it and explain it, you can tell. I think that gives you a lot as a guest.”

While cloudberries are commonplace in the north of Sweden, even those from the south may never have tried these bulbous golden berries. And so this final sweet serving is also Anton’s way of taking international guests on a mini taste tour of a region they might not have the time to explore during their trip.

“Cloudberries can be kind of exotic, even in Sweden. So for an international guest, they’re here to see Stockholm but it can be like taking a journey through Sweden in the same evening.”

Words by Sophie Miskiw. Photography by Johan Ståhlberg.