It started out as an ordinary Saturday. The Husband and I ate a big brunch, caught up with friends and fam on social media, took the garbage out and ignored the growing mountain of laundry. Then we wasted time deliberating on how to dress for the confused September weather. Jumper + jacket? Too hot. Sweatshirt + coat? Too precocious. Boots or normal shoes? Socks or not? Take the umbrella or risk it? English obsession with the weather aint no mythological shite.
British weather is at its ficklest during the Summer to Autumn transition. It cannot decide whether it wants to pack up summer for good. Or grant us a gradual changeover. The weather keeps swinging on an hourly basis, giving us hot, then cold, then hot again. And when it cannot decide between the two, it settles for constant, annoying, pointless rain. Someone in Britain should make a September Rain song already!
I decided on a turtleneck and blazer and the husband followed suit. We dutifully set off on the well-trodden path to the city centre, grabbing a Chatime Milk Tea along the way. Our Southampton weekends are repetitive and ritualistic AF. But that’s exactly what we need sometimes. No London level planning and commuting, just a quiet walk along a familiar route followed by some window/grocery shopping and heavy-duty grub. Omg, have the Husband and I officially become an old couple?
A big Ferris Wheel has turned up in the middle of the city centre and it’s kind of a big deal. The shopping malls are teeming with passengers from the cruise ship. The port of Southampton greets some of the biggest cruise ships in the world, docking so close to where we live in Ocean Village that they might as well be pulling up in our backyard. For someone whose wanderlust is quite problematic to begin with, these bad ass cruise ships, easily mistakable for buildings from a distance, really do not help. I dream of jumping on the deck one day and getting lost somewhere in the Norwegian fjords.
Some fall wardrobe shopping later, the Husband and I decide its time to stop for lunch. That’s usually the easy bit. But what do you want? The Husband asks pointedly. Anything is OK! I reply, even though we both know it’s a lie. This charade goes on for a while (I bet you are snorting at how much you, the married/engaged/single/endangered/*insert every other relationship category* reader, can relate to this scenario).
We then take to aimlessly walking around the restaurants, hoping something exciting would manifest itself. And that’s when we stumble across KuPP. The Husband skims the menu for a few seconds while I hang back, pretty sure this is another boring steak/burger place. I am surprised when he turns to me with a meaningful smile. ‘You will love this,’ he declares. I lean in and somewhere I see the word Nordic. I am sold. The fjords might not be mine to devour anytime soon so imma take what I can get.
Frankly, I was surprised to find a Nordic-inspired restaurant in Southampton. A Google search reveals that there are only three KuPPs in the UK, one in London and the other in Exeter. Only two months old in So’ton, the owners clearly have ambitious plans to make it in this English city with a prime location and 484sqm of space in the West Quay Shopping Centre. The minimalist but classy Scandi aesthetic is unmissable and I can almost feel the joy of hygge hugging me.
I have had a serious crush on Scandinavia for as long as I can remember. My fascination began with the famous crime novels this region has gifted to the world. Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo are my most favourite authors of all time. In 2014, I was lucky enough to visit the Danish cities of Aarhus and Copenhagen, a trip that further validated my fascination. I absolutely LOVE the quirky worded Danish language, my favourite word being ‘Arbejdsglæde’ which translates to ‘happiness at work’.
Happiness at work might be an elusive notion in the UK, but not in the happiest nation in the world. Having attended a week long training at a Danish company, I got to witness a workplace atmosphere that thrived with satisfied employees. Work seemed to be a happy part of life. In 2016, some Swedish companies decided to shift to 6-hour work days, further reflecting the Scandinavian attitude towards achieving the perfect work-life balance. For those seeking for a thrill outside the workplace, Scandinavia offers the mystery of the Northern Lights, a phenomenon that deserves its own fandom and takes Number 1 spot on my must-do-before-I-die list. Norway’s rotten fish delicacy might not be a turn-on for the world but me, I hail from a ‘fishy’ background. The risqué stories do not deter the shutki loving, fishbone-picking, adventurous Bengali foodie in me!
I guess it was no accident then that we ended up going for the Fiske Smörgåsbord (is it just me who gets excited with the funny ös and ås?). Fiske means fish while Smörgåsbord, according to Wikipedia, is ‘a type of Scandinavian meal, originating in Sweden, served buffet-style with multiple hot and cold dishes of various foods.’
As the waiter walks in with our smörgåsbord, the Husband and I throw each other congratulatory smiles. We self-score ourselves 100/100. The colourful platter came laden with a fancy assortment of fresh fish and veggies that looked right out of my dream. Deets: Beetroot cured Norwegian Gravlax (raw salmon cured in salt, sugar and cracked dill pepper for 24 hours), Skagen prawns, oak and apple wood house smoked mackerel and trout . A supporting cast of roast beetroot and potato salad added even more colour and character to the stellar dish, along with a side of pickled vegetables and a three ingredient coffee-mustard-dill sauce. We mopped up the multi-flavoured juices with freshly baked rye bread and crispbread. It was a smorgasmic experience.
KuPP is a Time Out recommended restaurant for London’s best Scandinavian food. What is missing from that list is Ole & Steen, a happy discovery I made earlier this year. Their achingly delicious cinnamon buns made me cry tears of joy, bringing back fresh memories of my Denmark days. I could eat cinnamon buns every day of my life and still not be bored. Give me Ole & Steen variety and I will be your best friend forever, albeit a very, very fat one.
KuPP is a mark of the promising future of the Southampton food scene. With Scandi food in the neighbourhood, and ships from the fjords docking in my doorstep, how much longer can I resist my Norwegian calling? I hope that auspicious day arrives soon. 2018, I am looking at ya!