Glas, London, SE1

Continuing the recent resurgence in Scandinavian cuisine, London's Glas restaurant serves up a delightful array of small but perfectly formed dishes
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

Glas is just adorable. It's a small, light and softly glowing restaurant tucked into a little side street beside London's Borough Market, braziers glowing at the door. It's personal, pretty, and sweet. The food is freshly cooked, simply presented, seasonally relevant and reasonably priced. Almost as an afterthought, I should mention that it is Swedish. Very Swedish in fact, which is probably why it is also so adorable, personal, pretty etc. If you think of Sweden only as the country that gave us the ball bearing, the propeller, the zip, the safety match and the Volvo, then it is time to update.

Glas is just adorable. It's a small, light and softly glowing restaurant tucked into a little side street beside London's Borough Market, braziers glowing at the door. It's personal, pretty, and sweet. The food is freshly cooked, simply presented, seasonally relevant and reasonably priced. Almost as an afterthought, I should mention that it is Swedish. Very Swedish in fact, which is probably why it is also so adorable, personal, pretty etc. If you think of Sweden only as the country that gave us the ball bearing, the propeller, the zip, the safety match and the Volvo, then it is time to update.

Swedish cuisine has lightened up considerably in recent times, and is fast becoming known for more than 101 ways with herring. In fact, Scandinavian food as a whole is undergoing a major defrosting. Over in New York, chefs Marcus Samuelsson and Nils Noren of the recently relocated Aquavit restaurant have taken Scandinavian cooking from ice cold to way cool with their herring and avocado tacos, black barley risotto and spice-rubbed venison. The gifted Norwegian food writer and television presenter Andreas Viestad is also lightening and brightening classic Scandinavian recipes with his ground-breaking Kitchen of Light cookbook (£25, Artisan) and accompanying TV series.

Now it is London's turn to stir the Scandinavian pot, thanks to the efforts of Swedish-born Anna Mosesson, who dedicated foodies will know from her Scandelicious food stall at the Borough Market. A little over a month ago, Mosesson opened up a restaurant right next to the market, opposite Neal's Yard Dairy. Together with former Swedish chef of the year, Patric Blomquist, she has put together a collection of updated Swedish classics presented as small "grazing" plates. Even more appealing are the prices, running from £3.95 to £7.95 a plate.

With its half timber-panelled walls in Swedish non-colours (the palest of greens and butter creams), exquisite family-heirloom chandelier with real candles, gilt mirrors, and paintings of mountains, water scenes and the Swedish royal family, eating at Glas feels more like dining in someone's home. This is reinforced by the pleasant, helpful floor staff, one of whom is the owner's daughter, Beata.

For such a small, intimate place, the quality of the accoutrements is high: linen napkins, fine glassware, elegant cutlery and pristine white plates. But the food deserves no less. This sort of small-plate eating can end up unconnected, but here, the flavours flow in harmony. Duck-liver and pig's-cheek terrine; roast monkfish with pointed cabbage; parsley and garlic noodles with wild mushrooms; and spiced anchovy and egg salad with smoked eel all sound like members of the family, while retaining their own strong identities.

If there is a signature dish, it's the Scandelicious gravadlax (£4.95), furls of sleek, silky, subtle salmon snuggling up to a lie-detector squiggle of sweet, thick, mustardy sauce and hot, buttery brioche. Baked beetroot (£4.95) fools everybody by being white beetroot. It looks like the ghost of beetroots past, but it tastes just like its red brethren. Served with rounds of melting goat's cheese, crisp toasted walnuts and a fresh little salad of ruby chard and rocket, it's full of simple, non-combative flavours. And what a lush and lovely thing the slab of duck-liver terrine (£5.45) is, with its central plug of meaty pig's cheek, and a splosh of tart/sweet apple and lingonberry compote. Elsewhere it would be called a foie gras parfait and cost twice as much. Next comes a mini smorgasbord: a glass bowl of sweet, spicy herring marinated in vodka and lime; a small potato; and quiche made with Vasterbotten, a complex, aged cheese from northern Sweden (£3.95). Cold herring, rich quiche, warm potato: it's a folkdance for the mouth.

The relaxed nature of the grazing concept is rather contradicted by the practice of bringing several plates at once. Either larger tables are needed, or more structured delivery. The "spiced anchovy and egg salad" (£4.95) is a pale, wan, slab of creamy egginess, topped with lightly smoked eel. It's like eating Jewish egg salad without the brusque deli waiters. Some grazing plates fall into "small main course" mode. Venison on mash with parsnips and carrots in a liquorice jus (£6.75) is lovely, the clean, lean flavours of the rested, rosy meat contrasting with the sweetness of root vegetables and the dark, sticky jus.

Glas actually means glass, and you can drink very well here, from your first Lapin Kulta beer to your last Herrgards Aquavit. In between is a charming, fairly priced list of wines that also seem part of the family, including an aromatic, spicy, peachy Alsatian Cave Vinicole de Hunawihr 2002 Gewürztraminer (£22.95).

Puddings lack the charm of the savoury dishes. An "egg cheese" bohuslan (£3.95) feels like a pale, solid cheesecake, while chocolate "love cake" (£3.95) presumes too much, being too bouncy and spongey to be lovable. It doesn't matter, because I have already lost my heart to the market-driven flavours, sympathetically aromatic wines, nutty crispbread and air of domestic elegance. That's why such a modest restaurant gets such a high score - because it's adorable. *

16 Glas, 3 Park Street, London SE1, tel: 020 7357 6060. Lunch and dinner served Tuesday to Saturday. Around £70 for dinner for two, including wine and service

Scores 1-9 Stay Home And Cook 10-11 Needs Help 12 OK 13 Pleasant Enough 14 Good 15 Very Good 16 Capable Of Greatness 17 Special, Can't Wait To Go Back 18 Highly Honourable 19 Unique And Memorable 20 As Good As It Gets

Second helpings...More Scandinavian restaurants

Aquavit, 58 Watergate Street, Chester, tel: 01244 313 721 This used to be a French restaurant called La Boheme. While there is still plenty of French influence, Swedish owner Brigette Burlin has also introduced a variety of more traditional Scandinavian dishes. Some of the most popular are the marinated herrings with a shot of aquavit, venison with juniper and lingonberry sauce, and a roulade of lemon sole and gravadlax.

Kro Bar, 325 Oxford Road, Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester, tel: 0161 274 3100 This popular bar near the University was opened by a Danish family in 1999 in a Grade-II listed building that was originally home to the Temperance Society. It's a smart, yet laid-back place serving up an impressive range of beers and everything from full English breakfasts to burgers and pasta. Best are the Danish specialties, such as frikadellar (meat balls), open prawn sandwiches and a well-stocked Danish fish platter.

Lundum's, 119 Old Brompton Road, London SW7, tel: 020 7373 7774 A charming, family-run restaurant with attentive service and an almost timeless grace. At dinner, the food is more modern Danish in style (roast cured duck, plaice à la Skagen) while lunch is far more traditional with lots of marinated herring, gravadlax, open sandwiches and, of course, Danish meatballs. Regulars swear by the famous Sunday brunch buffet.

E-mail Terry Durack about where you've eaten lately at t.durack@independent.co.uk

Comments