You cannot be someone who is keen on their food, go to Stockholm and not visit Ostermalms Saluhall.
Beneath the vaulted ceilings there’s beautiful slabs of aged beef, friezes of fresh vegetables and more smoked and cured fish than you could poke a stick at. There are plenty of locals loafing about, picking up salads and bits of pieces for their Saturday night supper.
And then, there are the sandwiches. Nearly every one of the bars are serving the sort of the open faced sandwiches that littered Lisbeth Salandar’s diet. Sometimes they’re topped with roast beef, or a meat paste. Most often they’re adorned with some form of cooked or cured fish and a decorative spray of salad.
And here is where our problem start. You see I have chosen to bring with me to Sweden a man who dislikes both ‘fishy’ fish, and- believe it or not- sandwiches.
A burger, a hot dog, a panini. Yes. These things which contain hot items are all fine for The Hungry One.
But present him with a plain, cold sandwich, or worse yet, an open sandwich, and watch his nose wrinkle in abject distaste.”How am I supposed to eat that?” is the question that springs forth as he suspiciously prods it with the tip of his finger.
With a knife and fork, that’s how. I don’t often boss him around, but in this instance I’m firm. We’re not leaving Sweden without eating some open sandwiches.
At the back of the Saluhall, under the watchful eye of a reindeer head that’s erupting from the wood paneling above the Melanders Vilt butcher I find a snaking queue.
There are scads of people patiently waiting to get some time infront of the blonde and shiny,pressed, checked shirt wearing staff of Tysta Mari.
Once you reach the front of the queue you discover large bowls of salad to the left and sweet treats displayed in curved glass cabinets to the right.
And then there are the sandwiches. For The Hungry One it’s a tall tower of roast beef and salad.
Wrapping around it is a pebbly brown curried relish, which is reminiscent of a Coronation Chicken salad that’s been twirled through a blender.
Playing along are cornichons, rings of red capsicum, diagonal strips of cucumber and slips of dill. At the very bottom is a buttered piece of ruisleipä-a dark rye bread that has the texture of slightly damp, sturdy cardboard.
He washes it down with a ‘Smaland’ beer and only grimaces occasionally at the prospect of eating cold bread and fillings as one of his holiday meals.
Meanwhile I’ve been talked into ordering the classic prawn salad; skagen. It’s a mayonnaise drenched bundle of small cooked, cold shrimp on a board of bread. Tucked in are sprigs of dill, two stems of tinned white asparagus, slices of tomato and playing hide and seek at the bottom are two slices of boiled egg.
There are some curiosities in my sandwich; there’s a wedge of lemon tucked under the cucumber. To be honest I’m probably not going to eat a whole wedge of lemon. When I pull it out it’s slippery with mayonnaise and skids from my fingers.
There are also some of curiosities around us. For example; the woman sitting behind us is only wearing one shoe. Both her conversation and ours has to leap over the doof of meat being methodically pounded at the adjacent deli. And the cost of my accompanying glass of booze is Scandinavian high; at £8.50 for a glass of pale pink Gris Blanc.
So; that’s a glimpse of lunch at Ostermalms Saluhall.
It may not be The Hungry One’s favourite lunch ever, but for a taste of classic Sweden, in a pretty stunning food-lovers spot, to me, it is hard to beat.