Love, Champagne and Oysters

On a sunny afternoon, in the haze created only by good champagne and lovely company, a challenge was made...

Words by Madalena Vilar. Photography by Johan Ståhlberg.

Hidden along the west coast, between meadows, the ocean and countless rows of grapes, restaurant ÄNG’s philosophy is to live in symbiosis with the environment surrounding it. Inside Ästad Vingård, right by the farm’s vineyard, head chef Filip Gemzell preaches this lifestyle and runs the restaurant on the belief that good food comes first from choosing and handling the ingredients respectfully.

Based on his own story and experiences, the head chef creates dishes based on strong core values, inherited from his days working with various Japanese chefs and mixed with the precision of a whole career as a pastry chef. Besides precision, the secret of good food lies in the love of the one making it. In the case of this dish, quite literally.

On a sunny afternoon, in the haze created only by good champagne and lovely company, Filip’s life partner, Ann-Catrine, challenged him to use one of her favourite food items—oysters—to create a dish. The catch: they couldn’t be raw.

Inebriated by the challenge, and according to himself, helped by the champagne, the pastry chef, now turned Michelin-star chef wanted to start right away and had a clear picture in his mind of the flavours, textures and presentation he was looking for.

After a few tests and try-outs, he found the perfect oyster: the wild Edulis oyster. A European native, the flat oyster is intense in its flavour.

“You have a lot of varieties. Some are sweeter, some are saltier, some are weaker and others stronger in flavour. I think an oyster should taste like the sea.” Filip explains “That’s why we use the seawater in them, to get the taste of eating them raw. We open the oysters, we sieve away the stones and the sand and we use the water in the emulsion. We want to reproduce their flavour when they are raw, but make it even stronger”.

Served in its own shell, the Edulis oyster is combined with the seawater and vinegar produced at the farm. A sprinkle of shrimp shell powder finishes off the dish, which quickly enchanted the one responsible for it. The restaurant manager, and Filip’s partner, Ann-Catrine, loves the dish.

“It’s her favourite and it’s my dish for her”, Filip adds.

ÄNG’s concept revolves around using ingredients that grow close to home and creating unforgettable dishes. Having researched the area, Filip found the perfect supplier: local Lotta Klemming, the only female oyster diver in Sweden. She and her family dive for oysters year-round, pausing only in the very hot months of July and August, when mating season is on. A caring move that matches Filip’s reverence not only for the ingredient itself but for the context it lives in.

“I’m very happy they don’t dive for them when they are reproducing, that’s not very common because it’s quite tough economically. Most oysters worldwide are sold during summer.”

The oysters can be preserved in butter and served during the off-season, but if the freshness of recently picked oysters sounds appealing, save your visit to Ästad Vingård for the coldest months. You might be lucky enough to taste the dish paired with the vineyard’s own sparkling wine.

Words by Madalena Vilar. Photography by Johan Ståhlberg.