Story and photography by Bo Zaunders
Cycling, Cod and Edible Flowers:
With Björn Stenbeck at Salt & Brygga
Walking along the waterfront in the revitalized western harbor area of Malmö, we arrived at Salt & Brygga, a stylish restaurant, dedicated with a passion to the idea of serving organic food and wine. Ecological correctness has become something of a mantra in restaurant circles throughout Scandinavia, but when Salt & Brygga started in 2001, it was a novelty and Björn Stenbeck, the man behind it - and whom we were about to meet - is now considered one of the true pioneers.
He looked tanned and fit, and greeted us with a big smile.
As we sat down, I noticed some bicycle posters on the wall. It turned out that Björn was an avid cyclist. Not only has he pedaled across most of Europe, good portions of Africa and all of Scandinavia, it appears he has cycled the length and breath of the entire USA. And that’s not counting Central America. In Arizona, he pitched his tent on an Indian reservation and was shown holy places by the Navahos. He made lots of friends, and recalls being treated to apple pie at some of the camping grounds in the national parks. “I find the Americans very sociable,” he said. “Not like the Canadians and Swedes, who are a little harder to get to know.”
The first time Björn thought of starting an ecological restaurant was back in the early 1980s, when he was biking in California. The decisive moment might have been when he visited the Farmers Market in San Francisco (not surprisingly, Alice Waters is one of his great heroes).
Of course, getting into the restaurant business would mean a radical change in his life. He was a teacher, involved with child psychiatry, family therapy, and in charge of Malmö’s psychiatric ward. “But,” he said, “I was ready to spread my wings and try something new. And in the US, I got a lot of ‘you can make it if you want.’ ”
Not everything was smooth sailing. At one point a bank refused to lend him money. But he is happy to report that now the bank is gone, while he is still around and flourishing. Incidentally, his was the first smoke-free restaurant in Sweden. As for the staff, Björn is proud to report that the ergonomics are felt to be optimal. Everyone is healthy and happy and has worked at Salt & Brygga for a long time.
And everyone bicycles to work.
It was time to eat. The appetizer of beetroot-infused gravlax was quite amazing, not least because of its intense red color.
Our second course was cod fresh from Lofoten - organically farmed or caught on a hook, according to the rules of the house. With it came baby carrots, broccoli, potatoes, and cauliflower in red wine. On top was an assembly of edible flowers, such as daylily and slingerkrasse, brought in from Björn’s own garden. Decorative and healthy, the dish was also delectable, and perfectly complemented with an organic 2007 Pinot Gris, Domaine Fernand Engel.
Our meal concluded with a plate of raspberry parfait, elderberry sorbet and - you guessed it - a sprinkle of tiny flowers.
Bicycle posters aside, the walls of this charming, high-ceiling restaurant are covered with colorful prints, and there’s a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking Öresund and, in the far distance, Copenhagen.
“On a clear day,” Björn said,” you can count the church spires.”
© July 2013 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.