A Brit tries Swedish fermented fish for the first time. And it’s… fine? 

He didn’t cry, he didn’t scream, he didn’t even vomit. But in a nondescript hotel room somewhere on the Swedish High Coast, Gregg Harfleet ate two whole bits of surströmming. 

A Brit tries Swedish fermented fish for the first time. And it’s… fine? 
Gregg Harfleet drove eight hours north to try surströmming the traditional way. Photo: Gregg Harfleet

He says that it tastes a bit like camembert. 

“It wasn’t very fishy at all, which is quite surprising for the smelliest fish in the world,” he told The Local. 

Fermented herring is Sweden’s answer to a question no one asks: what’s the smelliest fish in the world? 

Everyone has heard a surströmming story; like the family who would put it in a field and shoot it in order to open it without having to endure the smell, or how it’s banned on several airlines because it could be a security risk.  

Now, YouTube is filled with videos of people enduring the stinky foodstuff. 

Harfleet, however, goes the extra mile – or rather, the extra 650 kilometres – to a place called Sollefteå on Höga Kusten, the High Coast, near the birthplace of the infamous fermented fish. 

He said that he was trying to offer people a different take by eating it as locals do, rather than straight out of a can from his local supermarket. 

“I felt obliged to give the tradition its fair shot, rather than go the clickbait route,” he said.

Harfleet moved to Sweden as so many of us do, for love. Originally from Kent in the UK, he now lives in Linköping and works in business development. The YouTube videos are just a passion project for him, started during the pandemic, but he’s really proud of the supportive little network he’s built up of native Swedes and international people alike. 

“The reaction from Swedes has been really heartwarming to see,” he said. Some commenters have even invited him to join them for a real surströmming party when the (not so) fresh summer batches are opened next year in late August. 

In the video he takes a bite of a fancy tapas-sized morsel, one laced with pickled onion and another with a dollop of blackberry jam. Hotell Hallstaberget is one of the only hotels in the world where they serve surströmming á la carte. 

“It tasted really good!” he told The Local a day after the video was posted. “Maybe that’s not the reaction that some people would have expected.”

The video generated several thousand views overnight and nearly 200 comments from Swedes pleased with his efforts to do justice to the tradition of surströmming.

“Next time, maybe I’ll get a tin and cook it in my innergården [the courtyard of an apartment block],” he says. 

Perhaps a follow-up video is in order.

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Eating out in Stockholm: Is this the Swedish capital’s best pizza?

Pizza, people and an environment that will transport you to Campania. Perfect for a dinner with friends, a casual date night or a weekday lunch, writes Lauren Abston in this restaurant review.

Eating out in Stockholm: Is this the Swedish capital's best pizza?

On a sunny, late Sunday afternoon after working up an appetite kayaking in Brunnsviken, my friend and I stop by Magari for lunch.

Walking in, we are warmly greeted by the host who speaks to us in English. In the front corner of the restaurant sits a group of six men animatedly gesturing and speaking in Italian. They have drinks and no food, giving an impression they have been sitting and enjoying each other’s company since their lunch, hours before.

We opt for a table outside under the colourful, patterned ceramic tile and start rifling through the menu which explains the name of the restaurant as well as the origin.

Nicolas and Giuseppe are the pizza chefs who hail from Irpinia, the birthplace of pizza. Their goal is to bring innovation and fresh ideas to classic pizza, and the well-organised menu reflects this as it’s split into classic and contemporary pizza.

In addition to pizza, they have starters, snacks, calzones, and dessert. Saying magari is an enthusiastic way to stress how much you desire something. Our waiter helpfully answers our questions about some ingredients we’ve never heard of, helping us narrow down our pizza choices. 

The eponymous Magari lager, served in a wine glass, is the perfect antidote to my thirst on this humid afternoon; it’s cold, crisp and tastes faintly of tropical fruit. Magari has a concise drink menu with sparkling, red and white wine by the glass or bottle, plus classic cocktails.

Soon after the drinks arrive, our pizza is whisked out. We’ve opted for the classic Margherita Irpina and a vegetarian Nerano, with plans to split them half and half. 

Chock full of cheese on top of fresh pureed tomatoes, with scattered basil leaves and olive oil drizzled on top, the margherita does not disappoint. It’s paper thin everywhere except for the blistered, ballooned, chewy crust on the edges. I cut a piece off for myself with the crimson Tramontina fork and knife, and then I greedily pick it up to eat it instead of continuing to use the silverware.

It’s absolutely delicious, and I eat two pieces before remembering that I am supposed to share, and I offer to cut a slice for my friend.

She hands me a slice of the Nerano. It has fior di latte, fried zucchini and round slices of caciocavallo, a nutty cheese from Southern Italy placed on top. Instead of tomato sauce, it has a zucchini cream for the sauce so the pizza is a lovely green and white. It lacks a little salt; we imagine the zucchini has soaked up most of the oil and salt during the cooking, and it doesn’t compare to the margherita, but it’s still delightful.

We finish both pizzas and remain chatting as another group of Italian men spreads out over the table next to us with bubbling flutes of bollicine. 

As a late lunch, it’s a lagom amount, although we are both eyeing the larger than life cannoli that a family of three orders for dessert. I make a mental note to order that the next time. 

Magari may be the best pizza in Stockholm, and the quality food is heightened by the family feeling evoked the second you walk through the door. Going for a weekday lunch gets you a ton of value, 125 kronor for pizza or pasta, plus salad and coffee.

If you want to go on a Friday or Saturday night, I recommend booking a table in advance or planning to take it away. The best seat in the house is at the bar where you can watch the chefs expertly topping and firing the pizzas in the wood fired oven that takes up the majority of the kitchen. 

Magari Pizza Contemporanea

Rating: Five stars

Location: Sankt Eriksgatan 110, 113 31 Stockholm

Price: Starters and snacks: 40 to 250 kronor; pizza: 130 to 199 kronor; desserts: 95 to 150 kronor

Details: Monday through Thursday from 11am to 10pm. Friday 11am to 10.30pm. Saturday noon to 10.30pm. Sunday noon to 10pm.

This review is the writer’s own opinion. Lauren Abston moved to Stockholm two years ago from San Francisco. She loves exploring all the city has to offer, trying out new restaurants and bars with friends, picking up new Swedish words and learning how to dress for four distinct seasons.