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The best places to enjoy Swedish cuisine in Edinburgh

Previously long under-appreciated but for the past couple of years the hottest (cold) place on earth, Sweden, has cast off the somewhat twee image it once conjured – Abba, Volvos, wholesome types eating herring in saunas.

Published: October 14, 2015

It is now better known for its design credentials, fashion labels like Acne, Fjällräven and of course the H&M empire (which includes Cos, Monki, Weekday, Cheap Monday and & Other Stories and as such probably makes up about half your wardrobe), and a Stockholm restaurant scene lit up by Michelin stars.

Establishments like Matsalen, Oaxen Krog and Gastrologik have spread the word worldwide about the country's fresh, healthy, fish-heavy cuisine; heavily reliant on seasonal local produce and frequently dubbed “the new Mediterranean diet”.

But where to experience this Swedish culinary revolution in Scotland?

Edinburgh, in short. Glasgow's only Scandi café, Swedish Affär, closed its doors last month after less than a year of trading, and news of the revolution hasn't quite reached Dundee or Aberdeen yet.

Edinburgh's very own Swedish empire, with couple Anna and Mike Christopherson at its helm, provides ample opportunity however.

Akva in Fountainbridge

Akva in Fountainbridge. Picture: TSPL

Comprising Hemma, Boda, Sofi's, Victoria, Joseph Pearce's and Akva - the latest addition to the bar empire at Fountainbridge - this string of bars with their whitewashed, homespun, Scandi-style interiors, offer a variety of Swedish drinks including Aquavit and elderflower and lingonberry ciders, while on the menus you'll find traditional flavours such as smörgåsbord platters of smoked trout and salmon plus cheese, pickles and chilli jam; hasselback potatoes and Kanelbullar cinnamon and cardamom cake.

Joseph Pearce's, 23 Elm Row, Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL

Joseph Pearce's, 23 Elm Row, Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL

They also host singles nights, movie nights, knitting and jogging groups and pop-up shops, and throw parties for Swedish National Day and the Lucia winter festival.

Also building his kingdom is Peter Ljungquist, owner along with his Scottish partners of the Peter's Yard cafés in Quartermile and Stockbridge, now supplied by his artisan Söderberg bakeries – also at Quartermile and on Queensferry Street in the West End.

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Picture: Peter's Yard

Picture: Peter's Yard

Think wheat and rye knäckebröd that will make you forget everything you knew about crispbreads, available in flavours including cumin and nigella seeds or spelt and fig; levain loaves and sourdough bread (and pizzas); Swedish cheeses and smörrebröd open sandwiches piled high with crayfish and sweet pickled cucumber and dill. Or indulge in traditional cardamom buns, almond paste-filled mazarins, kladdkaka chocolate cakes, kokostoppe macaroons and cinnamon braids.

And finally, there is of course, Ikea – don't laugh, there's more to it than meatballs.

And let's face it who doesn't love their meatballs? Picture: Ikea

And let's face it who doesn't love their meatballs? Picture: Ikea

The Swedish food market post-flatpack checkout is a great place to pick up authentic Scandinavian delicacies including gravadlax, smoked elk jerky and tubes of smörgåskaviar fish roe spread, marinated herring with dill, lingonberry and rosehip cordials and pear cider, orange and elderflower marmalade, frozen foods including waffles, rösti (and those meatballs) and ready-to-bake kanelbullar traditional cinnamon buns – they also stock a Swedish home baking recipe book entitled Hembakat, should you be inspired to make your own.

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