English Corner

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How food put Scandinavia on the travel map

Von Ben West

Nordic cuisine is increasingly helping tourist boards sell destinations.

There’s a real buzz about Scandinavia these days. It’s very much on the radar internationally, whether due to television programmes, lifestyle, clothes, values, architecture, furniture, design – and food. Nordic cuisine is helping countries like Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland and Greenland get their share of tourist industry revenue.

Travel industry analysis by Skift identified food tourism as a megatrend defining travel in 2016. It saw that destinations have realised that they don’t need to spend huge sums on risky development projects to lure visitors when far simpler initiatives like accentuating a region’s favourite meals or drinks is a much less financially precarious option.

Scandinavia’s culinary capture of the global imagination started with Rene Redzepi of celebrated Noma Restaurant and Danish TV chef Claus Meyer initiating a new Nordic cuisine with other Scandinavian chefs in 2004. The trend has spread across the world, and in recents months new Nordic restaurants have opened everywhere from New York to Hong Kong.

The most celebrated Faroese restaurant

The Faroe Islands, that little windswept North Atlantic outpost,  self-governing archipelago and part of the Kingdom of Denmark, is one of the last places you’d expect to be a gastronomic delight. Indeed, there was virtually no restaurant scene on the Faroe Islands until under a decade ago, no doubt fuelled by the fact that a strong temperance movement and religious objections meant that it was illegal to serve alcohol in restaurants until 1992.

When renowned chef Leif Sørensen helped launch Koks (koks.fo) in 2011, the most celebrated Faroese restaurant, that all changed. Instantly establishing itself at the forefront of new Nordic cuisine, it is situated in the unprepossessing rural village of Kirkjubøur.

Each dish at Koks – for example shaved horse mussel with cod and  wind-dried lamb on fried lichen with cured reindeer – is a sensation, an array of completely new tastes. Now the Faroes boasts several outstanding restaurants, including Aarstova, Barbara and Raest, and sampling the local cuisine is  highlighted on the tourist board’s website, visitfaroeislands.com. Norway’s tourism website, visitnorway.com, also prominently features the country’s food and drink scene, noting that a culinary revolution has quietly taken place there in the last few years.

The number of tourists in Iceland has risen by as much as 30% annually for the last four years, according to Iceland’s Tourist Board. Part of the growth can be attributed to local cuisine promotion, with renowned restaurants like Dill, Kopar, Grillmarkadurinn, Marmartut and Messinn increasingly infiltrating international media and offering inventive Nordic cuisine using local ingredients such as puffin and shark.

One of the most important attractions

visitdenmark.com details gastronomic suggestions for visitors that include Michelin-starred restaurants, food festivals, microbreweries, cookery tours and a smorgasbord of other suggestions. In Denmark the culinary scene all started in Copenhagen, however more and more corners of the country are now exploiting the global hunger for Nordic cuisine.

The Danish island of Bornholm, for example, has positioned itself as a gourmet destination with one of the finest restaurants in the country, Kadeau, a local brewery, farm shops, artisanal ice cream parlours and an annual cooking contest that attracts some of the country’s best chefs. It’s a good example of how an optional day trip destination can reinvent itself inexpensively as a location brimming with visitor attractions.

It is clear by the huge upsurge of visitors to restaurants, breweries, farm shops and other food and drink delights throughout Scandinavia that gastronomy is now one of the most important attractions sought out by tourists in their search for new and unforgettable experiences. Tourist boards are increasingly recognising that an increasing number of travellers are specifically travelling to experience local gastronomies, and that gastronomy is often seen as a crucial lure for tourists when deciding upon a travel destination.