As any Scandinavian will tell you, the best shellfish east of Maine comes from the west coast of Sweden—specifically, the rugged stretch known as Bohuslän, which runs from Gothenburg to the Norwegian border. What better time to go than now? Lobster fishing season is underway from now until May 2016.
Bohuslän's breathtaking archipelago offers an enchanting blend of charming fishing villages and idyllic granite rock islands. While most of the thousands of islands that jut out in the sea along the coast are uninhabited, even those that have houses typically don't allow cars.
Apart from its wind-swept beauty, Bohuslän is famous for serving up some of the most exquisite shellfish in Europe—from locally caught lobsters and crayfish, which Swedes insist are the best in the world, to mouthwateringly fresh shrimp and mussels. Meanwhile, the eateries along the coastline attract many of Sweden's top chefs, such as Ulf Wagner at Michelin-starred Sjömagasinet in Gothenburg, which is considered by many to be Sweden's finest fish restaurant.
Wagner agrees there's something special about Swedish seafood."The water in northern Europe is colder, so the fish and shellfish grow less quickly, and therefore develop a richer flavor and better texture," he says. He explained that the timing of the lobster season is based on protection of the species—making sure it is able to reproduce before being caught—and the time of year when it tastes the best.
"There's no question that seafood is seasonal," he says. "Shrimp can be caught at any time of year but taste best in the fall. I eat crawfish all year round, but only ever eat crab from October to Christmas, when it's at it's most flavorful. The same goes for lobster, which should be enjoyed from the end of September through January." Here, the top five stops for seafood lovers on the West coast of Sweden.
With its Michelin star, Sjömagasinet, run by Ulf Wagner and head chef Gustav Trägårdh (Swedish Chef of the Year in 2010), is one of Gothenburg's most treasured gastronomic institutions. The menu varies depending on the catch of the day, but lobster, crayfish, shrimp and oysters, as well as cod, monkfish and turbot, regularly feature among the chef's recommendations.
Only open during the day, this renowned eatery is uniquely situated inside the one of Gothenburg's most striking buildings—Feskekörka, the fish church or fish market. Every morning, Gabriel head chef Johan Malm and his team can be seen stocking the mouthwatering shellfish buffet with the freshest lobster, crab, shrimp, salmon and oysters on offer from the market stalls downstairs.
The stunning island of Marstrand is 35 minutes up the coast from Gothenburg. Marstrand is one of Sweden's most exclusive destinations—a place of legends and royal visits that is steeped in history and known as a playground for the rich and famous. Since Johan Gustafsson and Anders Edgren opened Johans Krog in 2012, it has quickly established itself as one of the most popular eateries on the coast.
The tiny, rugged island of Käringön is not the easiest place to get to, but it's worth the effort. Once you get there, the team at Petersons Krog will be ready to greet you with an assortment of the freshest seasonal seafood money can buy. And there's no time like the present—October is lobster month, meaning they're offering a special seasonal menu.
As you continue up the coast toward Norway, don't miss the quaint fishing villages of Hunnebostrand and Bovallstrand. Both have maintained plenty of their authentic charm, which is reflected in their culinary establishments. Bella Gästis is the best eatery in these parts, with an extensive menu featuring delicious shrimp sandwiches, mouthwatering seafood chowder, and oysters caught fresh from its very own tank.