” The style at Basement is rough food “, I was told by the head chef, Camilla Parkner – strange, I thought for a Michelin star restaurant! But she quickly qualified; “It’s stylish-rough – we take food that you might eat for Sunday dinner at your grandparents but then we make it a bit more stylish” I’d come to have a chat with Camilla Parkner and try the dinner at Basement, to find out what makes Gothenburg the culinary capital of Sweden and how the city can support as many as five Michelin star restaurants.
At Basement we found an understated atmosphere – down a couple of steps from the street level and you’re into a cosy bar area with tomato red walls, natural wooden tables and abstract modern lithographs on the walls. Camilla’s straightforward personality matches the mood of the restaurant – she seems modest and uninterested in any pretension, telling me that the food is great in Gothenburg because the chefs here are down to earth and stick to what they know and love. She brushes off her achievement of being the only female head chef in a Swedish Michelin star restaurant, saying that she is a head chef first, although she is happy to encourage other female chefs.
We move into the main room of the restaurant where the upmarket brasserie atmosphere continues with teracotta tiles, roughly plastered whitewashed walls and square red abstract paintings dotted around the walls. Camilla tells me that the owner Magnus Larsson collects art from the local galleries in the neighbourhood and I’m reminded of the Camilla Lackberg murder mystery novel I’ve brought to Gothenburg as holiday reading. Set on the West Coast of Sweden The Ice Princess features an elegant Swedish murder victim who owns an art gallery just around the corner from here on Chalmersgatan and sells striking red and yellow abstract paintings by the talented but alcoholic artist, Anders, much like the ones on the walls of Basement. There’s a kelim on the floor with chairs and seat cushions in washed out shades of dusty olive and burgundy with olive green glass candle holders on the white table linen.
Camilla tells me about the food at Basement which is known for it’s signature dish of slowly cooked roast meats – just like your Swedish grandmother might have cooked. “For 10 years we’ve always had a slow cooked meat dish on the menu at Basement” explains Camilla ‘”and that’s what we’re a bit famous for”. The meats are cooked at a low temperature of 85 degrees C for 16 hours making them succulent and tender and they are served with different accompaniments according to the seasons.
I hope you enjoy the video below with Camilla Parkner on what makes the food in Gothenburg special
Fish and shellfish also feature heavily on the menu – how could they not in Gothenburg? Camilla confirmed what I’d already heard, that the deep, cold, coastal waters create the outstanding quality of seafood that the city is known for and told me she has never found a flavour to match it in the world. In the main restaurant area Camilla serves a Seasonal Selection tasting menu which changes every fortnight based on whatever produce is in season – as she said; “I’m not a person that always longs for the summer because I love every season and try to use the best from every season.”
For example, the menu that we tried later that evening included slow roasted suckling pig with a puree of apple and celariac with a crispy topping of fried green cabbage – a typical Swedish Christmas vegetable. There’s also a Wagner’s classic menu that changes only slightly and is a homage to former chef Ulf Wagner who has now moved to another great Gothenburg seafood restaurant at Sjömagasinet – the lobster salad is his signature dish. In the bar area at the front, where tables can’t be reserved in advance, a more informal and less expensive menu is served with just a couple of choices per course such as fish of the day or a slow cooked meat dish.
Each fortnight Camilla creates a new menu using the seasonal and local produce and then the whole team of waiting and kitchen staff sit down together to try it, together with different wines for each course, carefully chosen by sommelier Daniel Rodriquez to compliment the food. This gives the team a chance to adjust any of the flavours before it is served to the diners in the restaurant.
Later that evening, having watched the Julfilm (Christmas film) on the facade of the Museum of Art and being nearly swept away by the windy weather, we are blown back into Basement, hungry to eat some food and not just talk about it. Once again we are charmed by the relaxed atmosphere and find our table right opposite the open kitchen where we can observe the chefs at work. The action in the kitchen provides a fascinating side show with none of the clattering and chaos that I would expect if my own family was creating the meal. After a while I became hypnotised by the culinary ballet as the two chefs glide about with a look of intense concentration on their face, carefully placing a spoon of sauce here or a tiny sprig of dill there. Camilla and the rest of her team stayed in the enclosed kitchen behind where there was no doubt some more serious pan bashing going on.
We opted for the 4 course Seasonal Selection menu but if you were looking for a serious gourmet blow-out you could go for the 6 course version with additional courses of terrine of fois gras and a cheese course before the desert. Although the courses were small, we were full by the end and in fact there were a couple of extras – a ‘pre-starter’ and a ‘pre-desert’ as the restaurant apparently offers something a little extra on Fridays. We also opted for the wine tasting menu which is carefully chosen to accompany the food, with a different glass of wine for each course.
Our pre-starter was a few slivers of smoked salmon with a mustard mayonnaise sauce, a miniature wafer of rye bread and a small but delicious cup of frothy lobster soup. Guy was unimpressed by the tiny portion, forgetting that we hadn’t even started on the main menu; “I hope the next course is bigger than this or we’ll have to stop off for a cinnamon bun on the way home!”
The real starter was thinly sliced deer tongue that had been given the 16 hour slow cooked treatment with a sour cream sauce mixed with tiny balls of bleak roe that popped delightfully in my mouth. It made a very pretty picture layered with crunchy sweet miniature onions and slices of yellow pickled beetroot topped with another crisp wafer of sourdough bread. The whole meal was explained to us in great detail by the charming waitress to the point that we thought she might tell us the name of the deer or point out the very slopes on which the grapes of our Austrian Kremstal Riesling wine had been grown.
The fish course that followed was cured char beside a neat coil of linguine which was covered over by the frothy lemon and cheese sauce, although I could taste more of the lemon than the cheese. The garnish was lemon tossed fennel and there was a pile of crispy fried shallots on the top, with the freshness of the lemon cutting through the fried garnish perfectly. “Almost as good as my lemon chicken at home” exclaimed Guy smacking his lips as we washed it down with the more full bodied Lorcher Kappellenberg Riesling from Germany. A few more glasses of this Reisling and we’d be in danger of falling in the canal on the way back to our hotel.
Between courses we took the opportunity to look around us at the restaurant which was now filling up. An elegant, casually dressed 30-something couple sat down beside us and then asked to be moved a moment later. We hoped that we hadn’t scared them away but were assured that they just wanted to sit beside rather than opposite each other in the more romantic softly-lit room towards the back. Most of the other diners were couples from 30s to 60s and looked as if they were there for a special meal together. On the other side of us were an older couple who looked on in amusement as I (discreetly, I hoped) whipped out my camera to take a picture of every course. We chatted to the sommelier Daniel who told us had practically grown up in his father’s restaurant, with his earliest memories from the age of 3 being the sight of potatoes baking in the oven.
Our main course was the signature roasted meat dish that Camilla had promised me earlier – a cinnamon glazed, slow cooked neck of suckling pig served with a creamy and aromatic apple and celeriac puree. The meat was scattered with apple slices, small cubes of smoked pork and crispy fried green winter cabbage, with the seasonal apple flavours being used in different places within the dish. With the roast suckling pig we drank a light and fruity Pinot Noir from the Hahn winery in Monterrey, USA.
It seems that no Michelin star restaurant can resist a bit of drama with swirls of liquid nitrogen and ours arrived in the form of an extra pre-desert course. We were offered a marshmallow mouthful on a lolly stick – flavoured with Julmust, a traditional Scandinavian soft drink that looks a bit like coca cola and is only produced at Christmas. This was rolled in gingerbread crumbs and dipped in the liquid nitrogen to freeze it slightly, giving us a Christmas flavour Popsicle. Our waitress told us that the Swedish and Norwegians down the Julmust at Christmas parties if they’re driving and want something non-alcoholic. “It’s not sold in Denmark though”, she told us, joking that the Danes drink beer even if they’re driving! (You may gather that the Swedes were always being invaded by the Danes and have a bit of a love-hate relationship)
The real desert was Camilla’s version of Death by Chocolate, using the technique she had told me about of using the same ingredient in several different ways on the plate. The chocolate cake was made up of four different layers of chocolate brownie, truffle, mousse and jelly accompanied by hazelnut ice cream and mousse. The whole plate was scattered very prettily with dried raspberries, violet petals, pomegranate seeds and roasted pistachio nuts, making it more of fashion statement than a desert. On the top of the chocolate cake there was a sprinkling of sea salt, a typical Gothenburg touch that we had seen in the Gothenburg truffles at Cafe Kanold earlier that day.With the desert came a sweet red Italian wine – produced by Domini Veneti from the Veneto region.
Three hours later and we were feeling very mellow, having savoured every mouthful and enjoyed every drop of wine, just about making it back to our Hotel Elite Plaza without falling in the canal. The memory of our meal at Basement was of flavours in complete harmony and balance and the precision and care with which it was all created in the kitchen and served by waiting staff. We loved the informal atmosphere too and the unpretentious approach to food. Camilla Parkner got it right when she told us that the art of Basement is to take familiar flavours that you might eat for Sunday lunch at your Grandparents and then recreate them in a new, stylish, and totally delicious way.
You can listen to my interview with Camilla Parkner in my podcast about our visit to Gothenburg
Need to know about Basement
Basement is open in the evenings Tuesday to Saturday, closed on Sunday and Monday and at lunchtime.
Take a look at the Basement menus; 4 course set menu 675 sek, 6 course set menu 895 sek accompanied by a wine tasting menu 495 sek – these Seasonal Selection menus change fortnightly on a Friday. There is also a pre theatre menu which includes a glass of sparkling wine served 5.30-7.30 for 495 sek and the Wagner’s classic menu originally created by Ulf Wagner is 895sek. The Bar menu is served in the front room of the restaurant but you can’t reserve tables in advance – starters such as seafood toast with salad or terrine of fois gras on toast 115-169 sek, main courses such as fish of the day, slow cooked meat in red wine 179-249 sek and desert of the day 115 sek
(Currency Conversion; 1 sek Swedish Krona is currently aprox £0.09, $0.15 so the 4 course menu that we tried for 675 sek = £63, $99, 75 Euro)
You can read more about Head Chef, Camilla Parkner in this interview
Ready to try more Michelin star restaurants in Gothenburg?
The other Michelin star restaurants in Gothenburg are;
28+ (Just next door to Basement) Götabergsgatan 28, 411 34 Göteborg – the restaurant started as a cheese shop and cheese is still one of its specialities.
Kock & Vin Viktoriagatan 12 411 25 Gothenburg – Classic dining with Swedish ingredients and sometimes unexpected flavours. In the basement is a popular bistro and wine bar Bjorns Bar and they also own Familjen with a relaxed atmosphere and Swedish home cooking
Fond Götaplatsen, 412 56 Göteborg – in a glass building by the Gothenburg Museum of Art, Swedish tradition with new flavours inspired by the Nordic landscape.
Thörnströms Kök Teknologgatan 3. 411 32 Göteborg – Modern Scandinavian and regional cooking
Visitor Information for Gothenburg or Göteborg
- The local tourism site Göteborg.com is full of information on the best things to see and do
- For information on West Sweden visit the West Sweden Tourism site or follow them on Twitter @WestSwedenTB or on their Facebook page and you will find their blog at ExploreWestSweden.com
- Another useful site for all things Gothenburg is I Love Göteborg
- If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing it’s worth getting the Gothenburg City Card which will allow you entrance to all the major attractions as well as public transport. Look out for the deals that some hotels offer that include a Gothenburg Card with the hotel booking.
- We stayed at the elegant 5 star hotel, Elite Plaza Hotel which is right in the centre of Gothenburg in the Inom Vallgraven district and walking distance from most things. Check for the best hotel prices in Gothenburg and book here.
- We flew with SAS to Gothenburg from London Heathrow with 2 flights a day to Gothenburg’s Landvetter airport.
- To get a flavour of the West Coast of Sweden, you may enjoy the detective novels of Camilla Lackberg set in the coastal town of Fjällbacka and with references to Gothenburg
- During our visit to Gothenburg we used the conveniently sized Thomas Cook Gothenburg Pocket Guide which I can recommend.
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey