Food is the essential underpinning to looking at art, not only for the nutritional requirements it satisfies, but also for the time it allows for discussion and digestion of what has been seen. What follows is an opinionated sample of our successful forays into Scandinavian food and drink.
Almost all of these restaurants serve lunch and dinner; most offer outdoor seating whenever the weather cooperates. Some or our best meals were mixed salads offered in museum cafes, which outclass ours by a factor of 10. The Louisiana Museum offered grilled salmon with greens and potato salad, which we ate outdoors in brilliant sunshine overlooking the ocean. At the Malmö (Sweden) Kunsthalle we had a wonderful mixed salad with smoked mackerel, carrot terrine, greens and potato salad.
Scandinavian dining can very expensive; only Finland has adopted the euro, but the euro provides a quick exchange equivalent when comparing the various kroner denominations with our own devalued currency. All restaurants take major credit cards; most Scandinavian waiters speak very good English, and reservations are always a good idea.
Tel: 47 22 44 97 00
Two short ferry trips bring you to Lille Herbern, a tiny 'hideout' island situated in Oslo harbor bay. This seasonal (April-October) restaurant matches an idyllic setting with very fine food. Seafood dishes, such as grilled arctic char and a delicately sauced bouillabaisse, dominate; meat and fowl are also offered.
Café Tekehtopa / Restaurant Ylajali / Bar Babylon
St Olavs Plass
2 0165 Oslo
Tel: 22 20 33 23
This trio shares space in a former pharmacy building located a short walk from the National Museum and nearby parks. The Café Tekehtopa's reasonably priced salads and excellent pizzas turned us into repeat visitors.
Tel: 358 9 681 2030
The upstairs restaurant serves smartly updated versions of Finnish classics. Downstairs service is à la carte, with indoor tables sprawling onto the sidewalk during sunny days to afford excellent people-watching opportunities on Helsinki's fashionable esplanade.
Tel: 358 9 638 873
Helsinki is a city that likes to eat early; this casually intimate bar/restaurant serves until 11 on weekdays. We enjoyed tender reindeer steak stuffed with greens in a wine reduction sauce, and a wallenberger (a sort of crabcake made from whitefish and crayfish) served with beure blanc and a mash of fresh peas.
Tel: 358 9 647 255
Steeped in tradition (Sibelius dined here and would probably still recognize the place), Kosmos serves heavier, heartier Finnish cuisine. Popular with locals.
Tel: 020 7424290
We skipped the nicely appointed second-story restaurant in favor of a quick bite in the downstairs café. Our choice — smoked salmon and a fried egg on dark bread — was a supercharged protein dose.
Stureplan 2; Östermalm
114 46 Stockholm
Tel: 46 8 440 57 30
This centrally located traditional seafood restaurant dates back to 1897 and is popular with all sorts. Herring assortments, seafood plateaus, moule frites and daily grilled or poached fish, along with one or two meat dishes.
Mästersamuelsgatan 4; Norrmalm
111 44 Stockholm
Tel: 46 8 611 13 31
Another 1897 debut that has maintained its 19th-century bistro ambience, Prinsen features artworks on the wall, which project a bohemian aura. The food is good, although beyond the budgets of most artists.
Birger Jarlsgatan 4; Östermalm
114 34 Stockholm
Tel: 46 8 545 35 60
The bistro-style servings are fine, but the real action is people-watching, especially if you are seated in the glassed-in front section, where you can eyeball the many species of Stockholm nightlife crammed further back in the bar.
Jacobs Torg 10
Tel: 011 46 8 676 5800
This small, 28-seat 'back pocket' to the opera café does not take reservations. Diners perch on stools before a marble bar countertop, admiring the staff's precise, error-free deliveries. We came back several times to try the sumptuous mix of reasonably priced international-style cuisine and traditional Swedish dishes.
Islands Brygge 33
2300 Copenhagen S
Tel: 32 54 11 11
Open-faced fish sandwiches are popular in Denmark. Prego's is a sandwich you eat with a knife and fork: mounded fried and poached flounder, asparagus, caperberries and greens on toasted rustic bread. Close to the Islands Brygge galleries.
St Kongensgade 59
1264 Copenhagen K
Tel: 33 38 75 00
This restaurant, with its trendy, Nobu-style fusion cuisine, can be expensive, but the food is excellent. The sushi was so fresh it needed neither wasabi nor soy; our stuffed rabbit loin was bound and sliced, served like a sushi roll.
1112 Copenhagen K
Tel: 33 32 30 30
No ketchup is in evidence here, just excellent food and some of the largest portions we encountered in Scandinavia. Ketchup's prices, however, are on the high side for bistro fare.
Tel: 33 12 85 04
Well-made fish dishes dominate the menu of this restaurant, located on the water in Copenhagen's old harbor area.
Images courtesy Christopher French.
Christopher French is an artist and writer living in Houston. Terrie Sultan is the Executive Director of The Blaffer Gallery.