I’ve just come back to Oslo after visiting the town I grew up in for a less enjoyable reason. But one must eat, and after a long day none of us were in the mood for cooking. Instead we took the opportunity to visit a restaurant that I have been promising myself to eat at for at least a year – Söders Källa.
If you think Söders Källa may sound a bit more like a health spa than a restaurant (directly translating to ‘the Southern Spring’) you’re absolutely right. The restaurant is only one part of what is today a yoga and training studio, conference center and event hall.
Söders Källa profiles itself as an organic with a focus on local producers. Now organic restaurants may be a dime a dozen today, but they’re still quite unusual in smaller towns as Gävle. That the restaurant actually has a sommelier and an organic profile that extends to their drink selection is even more unusual…
We arrived thinking that we would each take one course – two at the most, but we ended up choosing the tasting menu partly out of sheer surprise that they offered one. The menu started with a small serving of cauliflower cream with hazelnuts, kale, green cabbage chips and hazelnut oil. The amuse was delicate, discrete and just enough to awaken our apetites without being overbearing.
We had opted out of the wine menu, choosing instead to order at random throughout the meal – much to the sommeliers consternation. Söders Källa offers half glasses of all their glass wines at a very fair price, and the selection includes a wide array of wines from French chenin blanc to American pinot noir, German riesling and Italian reds. One of the favorite wines of the evening was Peter Jacob Kühns Amphore 2011 Riesling Trocken, a dense and rich creation that worked very well together with many of the dishes without stealing the spotlight.
Our next serving was described as “Swedish sushi”- smoked rainbow trout from Älvdalen with raw cauliflower, crème fraiche, horse radish and kelp caviar. The dish was good, but lacked that certain little extra to keep the guest coming back for more.
The next dish however was a complete showstopper. The langoustine tail that was set in front of us was prepared to perfection, with dried rice and langoustine foam, grilled cucumber, sesame mayonnaise and kohlrabi. The dish was sublime, easily one of the best langoustine dishes I’ve had in my life, and it was all because of the little details. The concentration of the foam, the nutiness of the mayonnaise, and above all the carefully grilled cucumber. It balanced the langoustine perfectly and with it’s light hints of char was what actually pulled the entire dish together.
We held a silent minute for the dish and vowed to eat it again. And again. And again.
The next installation was – if not as striking as the langoustine – quite delicious. A variation of beets and jerusalem artichoke was served grilled, dried, foamed, puréed and whatnot. The course was rich in taste and very savory – everything in balance in what could easily have become bland or simple.
After this we were served duck bacon made from Swedish farm duck with green apple, baby greens in cashew dressing, dried root vegetables and browned butter. The duck bacon dish looked like a slightly messy salad, something you would have been happy to have been served to lunch. Taste-wise though it held a lovely balace between crunch, crisp and savory and tart, and was deemed runner up of the evening by both of my dinner companions.
Next we were served what would turn out to be the only weak dish of the evening. Fried zander with cauliflower, crispy pearl onion and buttered crayfish broth was good but a bit one dimensional. All the ingredients were of a earthy, slightly demure nature and the dish lacked both vivaceousness and acidity.
After a small pause we were served pork cheek from Åsbergbygård with grape gravy, garlic cream, dried onion, apple and parsley served with potato croquettes and lingon berries. This ended up being a fantastic dish, but it took a bit of figuring out. My companions both took a taste of the pork cheek and deemed it too salty. And it was very salty, but the point of a dish like this is never to eat it ingredient by ingredient, but to see it as a whole. And together with a completely unsalted potatoe cake and the acidity from the berries and grape gravy this piece of classic Swedish comfort cooking was lifted to a completely new level.
At the beginning of the meal I had declared myself not to be a dessert person – much to the sommeliers chagrin. I have however been a huge fan of frozen peas since childhood (sounds weird I know, but my parents would give me peas instead of candy as a healthier snack) and consequently fell head over heals for this dish. Green pea sorbet with dried green apple, jerusalem artichoke sabayonne, apple puré and browned butter was invigoring and refreshing for the palate, and managed to stay on the side of good – not just interesting – something many of todays fad with desserts featuring vegetables and unusual flavorings often fail at.
Spiced bark flour cake, vanilla ice cream and birch syrup brought what we hoped was the end to a great but extremely filling menu. Again the chefs managed to keep the dessert savory but satisfying while avoiding the usual pitfalls. We marveled at the moisture of the cake, which was well complimented by the herbaciousness of the birch syrup.
I could write much more about the food, the ambience and the value for money, but in short we had a wonderful evening, and what Söders Källa lacked in finess in the dining room it compensated for with the level of its cuisine.
A great addition to the local dining scene!