Eating in the Castle Garden

Eating in the Castle Garden

Slottsträdgårdens Kafé was the second smultronställe we came across on our last day in Sweden. Although we later learned that most Malmö inhabitants have made a well-worn path to Slottsträdgården, we couldn’t get past the sign that read, “Gäller ej behörig trafik,” and which seemed to be saying “You can’t drive here!” In the end, we drove there. But most people who visit this little café run by Swedish celebrity chef Tarek Taylor would come by foot, winding their way around the back of the castle museum.

Here, in the heart of the city, behind the walls of the old castle, a Swede born to two immigrant parents is heading up a massive farm-to-table effort. After making waves in Sweden’s fine dining world with his first restaurant, Tarek wanted to strip away all the pretension and the fuss and get back to what was important: the ingredients. The café uses the rhubarb from the garden in pies and jams; Jerusalem artichokes (he says one grown here last year was the largest he’d ever seen); fennel, cabbage, carrots and celery. While they can’t produce meat themselves, all their ingredients are local and 85% of them are organic. Tarek recently got approval to add a brewery and a bakery on the site, slated for completion in 2014.

“Several years ago,” Tarek says, “this park was not safe. No one walked through here. But now things are changing.” The weekend before our visit, 1500 were served out of this tiny kitchen. “That’s how we keep our prices low,” Tarek said with a gleam in his eye.

There were several options for lunch – we both ordered the pork belly with cracklins, mustard and parsley root puree. It came with a side of potatoes drenched in butter and finely chopped nettles. “The pork is from organically raised pigs in nearby Österlen,” Tarek said smiling. It was hands-down one of my favorite meals of our trip. A salad comes with every meal. This one contained a mix of fried capers; pickled onions, golden beets and toasted almonds.

As we sat in the greenhouse, people kept passing through and greeting Tarek, and he stopped to chat with each one, exchange a smile and a hello.

“I feel like a million dollars,” he told us. It’s easy to see why. Tarek is at the height of his game, with his successful television show that teaches kids to cook and eat well, his involvement in changing the local school lunch program and his successful cookbooks – not to mention the little revolution at Slottsträdgården.

Very few people I’ve met have ever just taken a bite off my plate. When Amy couldn’t finish her pork belly, I asked for hers. She also handed me her cracklins, but when I said I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, Tarek gamely reached across the table and took a forkful.

Nope, there’s no pretension here. Just great food.