Another reason behind this increased range is the ever-increasing interest and awareness among Umeå residents when it comes to food and drink. This can be attributed to a number of factors, including Umeå’s growth as a city, its healthy entrepreneurial climate and experience as 2014 European Capital of Culture, all of which have been positive in increasing interest in Umeå as a destination. Quite simply, Umeå feels increasingly like a mini metropolis; the behaviour one see’s in large cities, with people out and about in restaurants and bars even on weekdays, is now visible here as well.
“Where previously couples ate dinner at home, they now go out to a restaurant,” says Mia Karlsson Jonsson of Rex, by way of an example. She feels that the people of Umeå are getting better at going out. Lars and Per Åkerlund of Open-Closed in Väven believe that the restaurant is now seen as a meeting place like any other, where one can enjoy a positive experience even during the week.
These two gentlemen, who have run delicatessen Duå for ten years, are also the subject of considerable praise from many of the city’s restauranteurs – they are seen as two of the major inspirations behind the increased interest of Umeå residents in food and drink. Both Anders Samuelsson at Gotthards and Peter Stenmark who runs Köksbaren and Le Garage say that the brothers’ love of quality produce, and their dedication to conveying this passion, has been crucial, even if there has clearly been a generally increased interest throughout Sweden, driven by the media in various food programmes and the explosion in niche cookbooks.
Jörgen Engdahl at Hunger & Törst also speaks of the enthusiasm for the local, the genuine and typically northern.
“We have a richly stocked larder of raw ingredients all around us, which in itself increases awareness; people have game in the freezer at home, berries picked on their doorstep and mushrooms from their last trip to the mountains. Quite simply, people want to know here the food they are consuming comes from.”
One thing that many Umeå restaurants have in common is an interest in locally sourced and grown, organic produce, as well as the use of new techniques in the kitchen. But of course, they all have their own niche that they believe in.
At Gotthards, they look to challenge themselves by preparing food that has never been made before. Their goals are to focus on green produce in many of their dishes and to capture an ethnic element by using unexpected spices that provide unusual flavour combinations. The menu is change on a monthly basis and has a strong emphasis on sustainability in terms of preparation, with each raw ingredient used in its entirety.
As an example, Köksbaren has opened Vinrum, a chambre separée for up to six diners. Those who book this room can look forward to an individual, holistic concept that will leave nobody unmoved. The menu they are offered is always a surprise, although it will always consist of dishes that excite and challenge the chefs. Aims are high, with Peter Stenmark speaking in terms such as “no limits” and “Umeå’s best dining hole!”.
Otherwise, they continue along their chosen paths, with Köksbaren an excellent meat restaurant with a strong social aspect and Le Garage a proud family restaurant serving French bistro cuisine with a Swedish twist.
At Rex, they also harbour high ambitions. When the restaurant celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2016, they were able to offer Umeå Town Hall in its entirety to the city’s residents. In addition to the Rex brasserie, the heart of the business and now Umeå’s oldest restaurant, there are now conference facilities, a floor for private parties, Rådhuskällaren – a craft beer pub taking inspiration from the USA, Canada and Denmark – and Juliette, a café during the daytime, transforming into a bistro and spacious cocktail bar catering for an adult clientele in the evenings. At night one is met by jazz tones and a lighter, more luxurious menu of oysters and champagne, cheese and charcuterie, duck liver pate on toast and much more.
The latest addition to the group is Runt Hörnet, which also includes Invito and Allstar, serving cold side dishes, somewhat larger than starters but smaller than main courses. The idea is to allow customers to test a number of dishes. The menu changes weekly and dishes are seasonal.
Hunger & Törst, located in the classic Aschanska Villa beside the Umeå River and previous home of the restaurant Socialize, is now run by restaurateur Jörgen Engdahl. He is fulfilling his culinary dreams with a fixed three or five-course menu that changes each week. The restaurant quite simply chooses on behalf of the guest, to offer the very best seasonal produce. Despite the fixed menu, Jörgen emphasise that anyone with allergies or who doesn’t, for example, eat fish or meat should inform the staff and this can be resolved at the time; although naturally, if this is notified in advance the restaurant will be better able to surprise.
Each menu has a set drinks and wine package, although you are of course welcome to browse the range in the cellar. Aside from the fixed menus, cheese and wine is also on offer as well as a chambre separée for up to 22 guests, or simply a pleasant sojourn at the bar. The restaurant has also been known to invite different wine, cheese and beer producers to make guest appearances.
Open-Closed, the renowned cocktail bar that transforms delicatessen Duå into a campfire spot for a small but fortunate crowd of guests each Wednesday through Saturday evening, is constantly developing its bar. This involves working hard on its unique expression, continuing to focus on excellent produce and, not least, its fine history. Because a cocktail menu that changes form every other week under the auspices of prize-winning bartenders Emil Åreng and Karl-Martin Edin, while remaining true to its style, can never do anything other than delight. And another bonus is that you never know who you’ll run into at the bar.