Tuesday, 4 May 2010

AAAARRRRRGGHH!!! My Viking Dinner

A trip to Sweden isn't complete without a meal of meatballs.

And with that rule in hand, I set about researching the best place to indulge in a plate of traditional meatballs without blowing my weekend budget. I wanted somewhere with atmosphere, some place more Swedish than Ikea with prices that weren't much higher.

Countless hours spent on google, lonely planet, trip advisor and forums lead myself and Tracey to Pelikan - a restaurant not only rated #17 out of 688 dining establishments on Trip Advisor, but also promised classic Swedish fare at a price that wouldn't burn a hole in my debit card.

It was a Sunday evening, and the restaurant was buzzing with diners, people waiting by the bar and waiters whizzing around - it's the kind of atmosphere that I adore when going out to eat, low candle light, tables haphazardly arranged in an intimate and comfortable setting, a constant hum of laughter and conversation and best of all - the aroma of really, really good food in the air.

We had to wait about 10 minutes for a table, so Tracey and I ordered drinks at the bar before being led to our table. Luckily Tracey was raised on the traditional Chinese diet of "we'll eat anything, especially if it's weird and really hard to get", so she was anything but a picky eater. Which was good, because I couldn't decide on an appetizer or entree.

For appetizers, we opted for a Swedish charcuterie plate and 'SOS' - a platter of pickled herring, one boiled potato and Swedish cheeses. The charcuterie had a cured ham, similar to prosciutto but slightly gamier, elk which was very gamey and one other cured meat that I can't remember.

Entrees consisted of the obligatory meal of Swedish meatballs, which came with lingonberry sauce, gravy and mashed potatoes. For those of you who've enjoyed this exact meal at Ikea in between browsing the living rooms sets and selecting shelving units, let me tell you right now, the real thing is so much better. It's like spending your life eating that really cheap ice cream we used to get in middle school (you know, the one with the wooden spoons) and then suddenly getting a pint of really good Haagen Daz ice cream. Suddenly the whole world is a different place.

Our selection for a second entree to share was boiled pork knuckle with three kinds of mustard and mashed sweet potato.

Yes, it sounds a bit disgusting, and when it arrived, it looked just like it should have, a large boiled knuckle sitting in the middle of a white plate.

But the meat just slid off the bone and melted right in your mouth. Combined with the mustard - a selection ranging from the sweet Swedish variety to the fiery hot French version, it was probably one of the best meals I've ever had. And I eat. A lot.

Somehow we rolled ourselves out of our chairs and headed back to the hostel, but not before the waiter joked that they had wheelchairs in the back in case we couldn't get up. I think he was joking at least...

Not ready to sleep, we opted to sit outside in the hostel's courtyard cafe and sip herbal tea, while eavesdropping on the other hostel guests' conversations until the food coma was too much and we staggered back to our rooms, clambered up the ladders to our respective bunk beds and passed out.

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