Bloom in the Park

For our anniversary dinner, we went to Bloom in the Park, one of Malmö’s three Michelin-starred restaurants.

The setting is lovely—a deceptively rustic looking building in the shadow of the water tower in Pildamms park, a short distance (but a world away) from the bustle of Malmö’s shopping streets.

Bloom’s unique “concept” is that they don’t have any menus; nor at any point do they tell you what you are eating. They just bring you the food and allow you to experience it fully through your own senses, without any preconceptions. Of course it’s fun to try to identify the flavours and ingredients.

As with the food, you don’t choose your own wine. If you opt for the wine menu, they serve you wines chosen to match each course (and top up your glass generously as required), but they don’t tell you what you are drinking. Oddly, the wine menu is more expensive than the food menu.

On arrival, we were invited to go out to the terrace and relax in the evening sunshine with a complimentary glass of champagne. If you don’t drink alcohol, they’ll offer you a glass of lemon tea instead.

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On the terrace of Bloom in the Park

The dishes are highly inventive, with an emphasis on presentation verging at times on theatrical flair. For example, the bread was black and served on a bed of charcoal; the delicious post-dessert treats were served on a slate on a big heap of moss.

Most dramatically, at one point we were presented with test tubes full of green liquid, cooled with dry ice that overflowed all over the table.

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These little “hamburgers” are made with a disc of blood sausage and onion jam.

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We nominally had a 5-course meal, but between amuse-bouches, hors d’oeuvres and other in-betweeny courses, we lost count of the number of dishes we actually got. Each one was a visual delight.

 

 

Service was extremely efficient and attentive, and after the first few courses we felt that everything was happening so fast that we wondered if it would all be over within half an hour. But that wasn’t the case; in fact after the main course we were invited to have a break and take our drinks out to the terrace to stretch our legs.

After the meal, you are given a card with a web address and a password, so that when you go home, you can if you wish satisfy your curiosity and finding out what food you experienced.

Total cost for two, excluding service charge, was 2,475 SEK; each 5-course meal was 695 and the wine menu is 795.

 

Brottets bana—a life of crime

In the southern part of Malmö is the quiet suburb of Limhamn, where we lived for a few months 15 years ago. In times past, Limhamn’s prosperity was underpinned by trade in two abundant commodities: herrings and limestone. Even the name of the town, lim hamn, means “lime harbour”.

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Limestone was used in cement manufacture

The quarry from which the limestone was extracted is called the kalkbrott (chalk quarry) and is the biggest hole in the ground in northern Europe, extending over a square kilometre to a depth of 65 metres. I took some of these photos in January of this year and some in July. No prizes for guessing which is which!

As most of the excavation is well below sea level, the floor of the kalkbrott may well be the lowest-lying land in Sweden. Since its abandonment, it has been left to nature and the various levels have been recolonised by vegetation.

The limestone mined here was transported by a private narrow-gauge railway to a cement factory on the coast. Initially, the trains were drawn by horses, later with steam. In the 1960s, 2 km of the route was replaced with conveyor belts in an underground tunnel. Mining at the quarry ended in the 1990s, but the disused rail tracks still remained when we lived here in 2001. The tracks, fencing and signalling were removed in 2008 and the wayleave reverted to the city in 2009.

Compare these two photos taken 15 years apart:

Both photos show the Methodist church on the corner of Kalkbrottsgatan and Linnégatan in the centre of Limhamn. The one on the left, taken in the autumn of 2001, shows the railroad crossing signal and boom, and the tracks running along the street. In the photo on the right, taken this weekend, the rail line has been converted to a cycle track.

There used to be warning signs on the line saying “Gå ej i brottets bana“, which is a very clever double meaning. It straightforwardly means “don’t walk on the quarry railway”; but it also means “don’t embark on a life of crime”.

It’s a little ironic therefore that both the quarry and the cement factory have featured as scenes of crime in Nordic TV dramas. The very moving Wallander film Hemligheten (Secrets) opens with the discovery of a murdered boy in the kalkbrott. And the cement factory served as a suitably grim industrial setting for at least one typically tense episode of The Bridge.

Living Swedish style

Our home for these two weeks is in a lovely leafy suburb about 5 km from the centre of Malmö. It is a quietly affluent area with huge parks and an astonishing number of wild rabbits. Our house adjoins a cycle and pedestrian path, part of a network that is largely separate from the roads, so that you can walk or cycle around safely without having to deal with vehicle traffic.

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View from our bedroom towards the city centre

We rented the house through Airbnb. On Tuesday morning we briefly met the owners; they were just about to set off on a two-day drive of their own, for a holiday in Croatia. They are completely laid back about having us living in their home; the only “rule” they posted on their Airbnb listing was “treat our house as if it were your own”. They also left us a bottle of wine with a note inviting us to help ourselves to the tomatoes and cucumbers growing in their glasshouse.

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We’re also free to use their bicycles, including this handy (and somewhat unwieldy) cargo bike for doing grocery shopping.

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Two things we noticed very quickly: there are no curtains and no clothes storage in any of the bedrooms.

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The lack of curtains is typically Swedish; we had noticed years ago that as you walk around a Swedish neighbourhood in the evening you can see all the people in their houses and apartments going about their evening routines. The explanation I have heard is that Swedes don’t approve of having something to hide; if you are not engaging in nefarious activities, why would you need curtains?

What we hadn’t realised is that in summer, the lack of curtains means you are woken every morning at 5 a.m. by the full force of the sun shining directly in your face like a 100 MW laser beam. Which is good in a way, because it means you get up early and make the most of the day.

The lack of any wardrobes, closets, hanging space or drawers for your clothes is a bit more problematic. It makes for a really uncluttered look—the only things in your living space are things of beauty such as photographs and artworks that you have specifically chosen. But it’s quite inconvenient. For these two weeks, we’ve got around it by just living out of our suitcases; we’ve left our suitcases open on the floor of one of the children’s bedrooms.

The dogs are very happy to have a big garden to run around in. They were predictably excited at first by all the rabbits, but there are so many that they may actually be starting to get bored with them.

 

Jul i Skåne—A Swedish Christmas

Sydkraft

During my time in Malmö I worked for an electricity company called Sydkraft. Now owned by Eon, they were the regional electricity company for the southern one-third of Sweden.

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The Sydkraft building (now Eon Sverige)

My Swedish colleagues were extremely friendly and I remember that once a week we would go to lunch in the nearby Kronprinsen shopping centre and eat fläskpankakor med lingonsylt—bacon pancakes with lingonberry jam. Delicious! On another occasion, we went to a public bath where you alternate between sweltering in a hot sauna and plunging into the icy sea. I remember we got told off for drinking beer in the sauna.

On Saint Lucia’s Day, 13th December, we had an unexpected treat when a group of beautiful young women came into the canteen at lunchtime and sang Lucia carols, while we ate ginger biscuits and special buns called lussekatter.

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Saint Lucia singers, Sydkraft, December 2001

Skåne

I had weekends free, so I took the opportunity to travel around the local region and further afield. Near Ystad on the south coast of Skåne, I visited a stone circle or “stone ship” called Ales stenar (Ale’s stones), magnificently situated on a clifftop looking out to sea. Fans of Wallander may recognise this as the spot where Wallander brought Annette Brolin for a romantic picnic.

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Ales stenar, near Ystad, Sweden

Yuko and I also visited the nearby university city of Lund, where the cathedral has a wonderfully complicated mediaeval astronomical clock.

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Horologium mirabile Lundense

Malmö

Nowadays, Malmö’s outstanding landmark is the Turning Torso building by Santiago Calatrava, the tallest building in Scandinavia, towering above what remains otherwise a low-rise city. But when we were there in 2001, it did not exist, and the city’s tallest building was still the Kronprinsen—or possibly the tower of St Peter’s Church.

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Sankt Petri Kyrka, Malmö (14th-century Gothic)
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This fine building is the old city hall in Stortorget.
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Saluhallen (a covered market with restaurants) in Lillatorget
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Also in Lillatorget was this fine old telephone box

Christmas

For our Christmas dinner in Sweden, we went Swedish style, including smoked reindeer. If you examine the packaging closely, you’ll be pleased to see that Rudolf has, in fact, been allowed to join in the reindeer games.

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Can you spot Rudolf?
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Christmas dinner, with glögg

We bought these “triangle lights” in Sweden and still use them in our window every Christmas. In the picture, you can see lights like these in each of the windows across the courtyard.

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God Jul!