Food 7 / 10
Drink 7 /10
Atmos 7 / 10
Svea A Little Bit of Cheltenham Which Was Swedish
Sadly SVEA closed in April 2017. We’re leaving this up for a while in case you had a visit planned. The situation is that the building that housed SVEA has closed, leaving the business with no home. The owners have not ruled out a return. Let’s hope so.
The Longer Read These days you can more or less have yourself a Nordic-themed day in Cheltenham with a coffee in the Scandinavian Coffee Pod, maybe a trip to the Scandic Hus shop in the Suffolks followed by lunch at Svea.
Svea, Cheltenham’s only Swedish restaurant, is tucked away in Rodney Road just off the High Street. Step in and you might score one of the warmest smiles in Cheltenham, from the owner, and there’s a nice feeling of authenticity about the decoration, colour scheme and furniture. This restaurant has been around long enough not to be trendy. References to Abba, IKEA or Volvo are strictly tongue in cheek and there’s a kind of patina, this place was here long before Hygge and Fika became fashionable.
The sensibly short menu is all about Swedish classics; a soup of the day, Smorgasbord, marinated herring, meatball or smoked salmon options. On this visit dishes included Flygande Jacob (£9 – chicken, smoked bacon, banana and peanuts in a cream and chilli sauce), Dingle (£9 – dill stewed potatoes, spinach and smoked salmon) and Arboga (£8 – marinated herring with new potatoes, crisp bread and dip). Open sandwiches include Hono (£7 – meatball, cheese, poached egg) and Smorresmorgas (£5.50 – home cured salmon on rye bread, dill and mustard sauce).
Our order was a Skagen open sandwich and Frolunda (meatballs). The Skagen was a tasty light lunch for £5.50, prawns with red onion and lemon and dill mayonnaise and a fresh salad and some boiled egg. Frolunda (traditional meatballs in cream with fried potatoes (mashed potatoes were ‘off’) and lingonberry jam. This was more substantial and the obvious comparison is with IKEA’s eternally popular meatballs… needless to say these were very much in a different league, accompanied by some delicious sweet pickled cucumber. Frolunda is a quick fix of comfort food. Puddings include a Cake of the Day and Kanelbulle, the famous Swedish cinnamon bun with a touch of cardamom.
There’s an interesting drinks selection at Svea, such oddities as Mackmyra (Swedish whiskey), homemade Nubbe (a word with a meaning halfway between ‘schnapps’ and ‘dram’) and Pistonhead Flat Tire Swedish lager, a beer which, sadly, upholds the Scandinavian reputation for so-so brewing. Spendrupps Old Gold is a better option*.
Svea has a nice atmosphere, is a clean, warm and friendly space – and the food (even meatballs and fried potatoes) has a pleasant fresh, healthy feeling which is helped along by the sensible portion sizes.
*The beer expert on our team of reviewers says that he’d be happier if I mention that Scandi brewing has come on leaps and bounds, with Mikkeller and To Øl now being world leaders. OK, they’re Danish, but it’s a fair comment on my slander of Scandinavian brewing.