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Daniel Berlin and Margareta Schildt Landgren
Photo: Claes Westlin

Daniel Berlin is one of Sweden's most highly rated chefs, producing stunning innovative dishes in his small 14-cover restaurant in Skåne in southern Sweden. He has often been described as a genius by restaurant critics, but despite all the praise he remains a very modest man.

Daniel's success stems from his dedication. He is totally committed to producing what he considers to be the best food that he can create. Although he interacts a lot with his customers, to provide a very personal dining experience for every visitor to his restaurant, when pushed he confesses that he cooks to please himself, not his customers. Of course, most diners appreciate the approach: they know they are being treated to the best food that a confident chef at the top his game can possibly create.

Sweden's stunning and innovative restaurants

What is it about Sweden that enables the country to produce so many stunning and innovative chefs? For a country of just 9 million people, how is Sweden able to develop some of the world's most talked-about restaurants? For instance, three Swedish restaurants are listed in The Restaurant magazine's 50 Best Restaurants in the World:

•  Restaurant Frantzén in Stockholm (20),
•  Fäviken in Jarpen (34),
•  Mathias Dahlgren in Stockholm (41).

Sadly, Daniel Berlin's restaurant isn't on the list yet, but many predict that it soon will be.

Theories abound about why Swedish food is on the rise. Swedes' love of nature and their allemansrätt means that foraging is part of the way of life, and not an affectation. It goes without saying that the top restaurants use locally sourced ingredients as well as allowing simple and clean flavours to shine. But the best Swedish restaurants also have the power to amaze by their use of innovative techniques. Perhaps it is simply the application of Sweden's famed flair for design applied to food, but they are certainly creating a wow response in the food world. 

Winner of San Pellegrino Cooking Cup


Photo: Claes Westlin

Daniel Berlin is an outstanding exponent of innovation in food with the ability to create a genuine wow factor. He is a past winner of of the San Pellegrino Cooking Cup and by his mid-20s he was Head Chef at Turning Torso in Malmö in charge of a team of 17 chefs and 30 waiters.

Reconnecting with food

One day he decided it was all too much. He felt disconnected from food, as he was hardly spending any time cooking, so he quit and set up his own restaurant, named simply Daniel Berlin.

The restaurant is in the heart of Wallander country, being just 15 miles from the fictional police headquarters in Ystad. The surrounding countryside is familiar to Wallander viewers: bleak, desolate yet beautiful.

The restaurant is in a yellow house in Skåne Tranås, a pretty hamlet. For Daniel the important thing is that it stands in 3 acres of land as he aims to get 80% of his produce for the restaurant from his own land, with the remainder coming from within three miles of the restaurant. It is not an economy measure, but a philosophical commitment to enabling diners to really experience the locality and the seasons.

Inside, the restaurant is stylish, in a minimalist kind of way. The grey-painted dining room is furnished with black tables, handmade wooden chairs with leather pads. A tasting menu is 1100 SEK (£100, $160, €120) but, with a typically Swedish ouch factor, this is almost doubled if an accompanying wine package is selected.

Blackened celeriac


Photo: Claes Westlin

One of Daniel Berlin's signature dishes is a whole cricket-ball-sized blackened celeriac, which is usually brought to the table with its skin gently smouldering. The flesh is scooped out and laid on a bowl of sago grains before being drizzled with Västerbottensost sauce. All this is the result of cooking the celeriac for 6-8 hours, by which time it become quite meaty and earthy. In true Berlin style, nothing is wasted: he uses the blacked skin in his sourdough.

The modesty of Daniel Berlin is best reflected by the fact that he drives most people back to the local inn at the end of their meal. Brilliant food. Amazing service. What more can you ask for?

Food festivals


Photo: Claes Westlin

If your budget does not run to visiting Daniel Berlin's restaurant, why not try and get along to a food festival if you are visiting Sweden? In many regions the farmers, producers and restaurateurs get together to show off the food that is special to them. If you are lucky you will get to see some of Sweden's top chefs cooking.

One such festival, in the very southern part of Skåne, is at Skanör and Falsterbo and is held every year in May. In 2104 Daniel Berlin made an appearance and cooked superb dinners, fully booked months in advance. He also prepared simple lunches that were totally amazing.

Food festivals are a good way of experiencing some wonderful Swedish food so I urge you to get along to one during your next visit to Sweden. Pay Daniel Berlin a visit too if you can!

Margareta Schildt Landgren

Links

•  Daniel Berlin's restaurant: www.danielberlin.se/en/
•  Nearest international airport: Malmö (40 miles) with flights from most European countries
•  Recommended hotels: Logi Gamlegård (2½ miles) or Ystad Saltsjöbad (15 miles)
•  Skanör and Falsterbo Food Festival: www.skanorfalsterbomatfestival.com

Margareta Schildt Landgren

Margareta is a food journalist who has written over 20 books including Notes from a Swedish Kitchen. More…

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