This is the fifth in a series of posts covering a Shellfish Journey to West Sweden on which I was very kindly invited by the West Sweden Tourist Board and Visit Sweden, together with five other food bloggers. Part 1 covered Villa Sjotorp and a mussel safari from Lysekil; Part 2 covered a seafood buffet at Cafe Ferdinand in Lyskil; and Part 3 covered South Koster Island and lunch at Koster Garden; and Part 4 covered a lobster safari and lobster dinner at Sydkoster Hotel Ekenäs. An album containing all my shellfish journey photos is available on Flickr.
It felt as if the last strains of last night’s rock band had only just died away when my alarm clock went off and it was time to get up again. But fortified by the gorgeous sunrise and a hearty candlelit breakfast (yes, really!) at the Hotel Ekenäs, I felt ready to face the day. From the hotel we walked down to the harbour again where we were met by the charming Karlsson brothers Per and Lars who together run Everts Sjöbod, the company taking us on our oyster experience for the day. “The sea might be a bit rough for the first bit of our trip”, warned Per, with a twinkle in his blue eyes. But the sight of their sleek modern boat and their calm, relaxed demeanour, placated even the most nervous passengers. We set off in the golden early morning sun, sailing at first on nearly flat waters and marvelling at the local method of building house foundations which seems to consist of balancing your house on a series of pointy stone piles! As we approached the open stretch of rougher water, they cranked up the 375hp engine and the boat shot off like a greyhound, bouncing over swells and showering us with the occasional spray of seawater as we sat in the back, gripping any hand hold we could find and shrieking with laughter as if we were on some sort of natural roller coaster. It was the best way I could possibly imagine to start the day. We slowed down to pass through tiny fishing villages where the jetties were festooned with nets, then sped up again as we crossed open water and even managed to see a seal lollling on a rock in the early morning sun. After about 45 minutes, we arrived in Grebbestad at the Everts Sjöbod boathouse.
Photo courtesy of Su-Lin
Forget whatever you think you know about boathouses. The gorgeous Everts Sjöbod timber boathouse is just gorgeous and unlike any other boathouse I have visited. Built out of wood in the 1800s, it is cosy and inviting in a shabby-chic way. The downstairs area is filled with marina paraphernalia that includes buoys, coils of rope, crab-pots… and oyster-opening trophies. The dining area upstairs offers gorgeous sea views from the dining tables via a floor-to-ceiling window and comfy sofas for lounging near the welll-stocked bar. It’s the kind of place that instantly made me feel peaceful and relaxed, as if I could write the Great Blogging Novel if only I were left alone here for a few months ;). To warm up after our valiant ocean crossing (!) we were offered coffee and a dense slab of apple cake to fortify us for the oyster tasting.
Photo courtesy of Su-Lin
Photo courtesy of Su-Lin
I am not a stranger fresh oysters – I have spent many happy hours at the Knysna Oyster Company in Knysna where the oysters you order are picked freshly from their cultivated oyster beds and shucked for you on site But I have to say I have never yet seen oysters being harvested like I did at the Everts Sjöbod boathouse. Per grabbed an implement that looked like something my DIY-addicted father might have put together in his heyday: kind of a cross between a garden rake and a net for scooping leaves out of a swimming pool. The handle was extra long… because it was actually two handles securely taped together with insulatio ntape (as i said – my father would have been proud!). Per marched outside with this, submerged it into the water directly below the boathouse jetty, and scooped around in the sand – just like one would scoop for leaves at the bottom of a swimming pool. When he brought the net back to the surface it was full: some seaweed, some stones, some broken shells… but also three or four large oysters! Apparently there is a natural oyster bed below the boathouse jetty. Who knew? (And how did my life take such wrong turns that I have not ended up living above my own oyster bed?!) Subsequent scoops also brought up a huge purple starfish, the smallest spider crab in the world (think daddy longlegs-size), and a number of baby oysters not much larger than a 50p coin, which Per threw back to grow some more. In less than 10 minutes he had amassed about 15 oysters (mostly native with one or two Pacific oysters) and we were ready to learn about opening them. Apart from taking tourists like ourselves on seafood safaris, Per and Lars are also champion oyster-openers who have won competitions for opening a set number of oysters in record time, and to a high standard. What better teacher could you wish for? Per made it all look easy as he gently slid the oyster knife between the two halves f the shell and effortlessly flicked it open, but as a few of us found out, it’s not as easy as it looks! Still, the effort is worth it: washed down with local porter beer, the flavour of the native Grebbestad oysters positively sparkled with the taste of the ocean. And you’ll never try fresher oysters anywhere.
Fortified by our snack of frech oysters, we were ready for more adventure. When the Karlsson brothers heard that we had not caught a single lobster on yesterday’s lobster safari, they offered to take us out to their lobster pots to see if we could find any, and to see a little more of the gorgeous Bohuslan coastline. When we realised that we had to put on survival suits again, there was some hesitation – but not only did they have suits in smaller sizes than ENORMOUS (which seemed to be the standard!), their suits were also soft and clean with no hint of fishiness. We took to sea in Tuffa, their beautiful vintage wooden 8.7 meter, 4.5 ton fishing vessel, designed by legendary Swedish boat builder Gösta Johansson and originally entered into commercial service in 1952. They have restored the boat to a very high standard and everything positively gleams. Although the wind was icy, the day was clear and bobbing up and down on the sparkly sea was absolutely delightful. Per explained how they bait the rope lobster cages with seafood which attracts the lobsters and lower them on rope down to the seabed. Once the lobsters crawl into the rope funnel to get at the food, they can’t get out and lobstermen simply haul the pots up onto the boat and take the lobsters. Of course, you don’t know until you get the pot into the boat whether there is a lobster in it, so there is a great sense of anticipation as each pot is hauled up. Our first pot of the day yielded two huge crabs and the second one contained a strapping lobster!
Back at the boathouse later, we were actually quite sad to have to take off our warm survival suits. “I could sit at home and watch TV in this!” was one of the comments – it would certainyly cut down on heating bills! While we were getting changed, another astonishing seafood buffet appeared in the upstairs room and, once again ravenous from all the sea air, we set to work amost immediately (and with gusto!). There were the customary Swedish crispbreads and more outstanding fresh bread; a selection of wonderful cheese (again with the cheese and seafood!); dips and dill shrimps in a creamy sauce, plus a huge bowl each of crabs and crayfish (what I would normally call langoustines), all washed down with local Grebbestad lager. Soon, the only sound you could hear was the cracking of crustacean carapaces, satisfied sighs and “mmmmmmms”, and the occasional squeal as somebody did themselves a lobster-related injury with a stubborn claw. The crab meat was indescribably sweet and quite possibly beat the crayfish to be my favourite taste of the day. It was about as close to paradise as you can imagine. All too soon after that, our airport transport arrived and we had to leave the table in a hurry – the shellfish massacre aftermath was quite spectacular and I hope Per and Lars did not have too much of a struggle cleaning up after us!
As I mentioned, our oyster experience was done by Everts Sjöbod. During an oyster safari for 690 SEK per person you have the chance to learn how to open an oyster and then enjoy together with Grebbestad’s own porter (1,5 – 2 hours), which I think is good value, considering how tremendously personable your hosts are and how thoroughly enjoyable the entire experience is. They also do lobster safaris for 850SEK per person. Do be sure to look at their website – the seagull graphics are simply gorgeous!
457 95 Grebbestad
Tel: Lars Karlsson: +46 (0)70 6725208
Tel: Per Karlsson: +46 (0)70 6856363
Tel: Boathouse: +46 (0)525 14242
All posts in my West Sweden series:
- Villa Sjotorp and a mussel safari in Lysekil, West Sweden
- Café Ferdinand seafood buffet and Strandflickorna Hotel, West Sweden
- South Koster island and lunch at Koster garden
- Lobster safari and lobster dinner at Sydkoster Hotel Ekenäs
- An oyster experience with Everts Sjöbod in Grebbestad
DISCLOSURE: We travelled to Sweden and enjoyed our Shellfish Journey as guests of the West Sweden Tourism Board and Visit Sweden
Flights from Heathrow to Gothenburg fares incl taxes and charges on SAS (http://www.sas.se) start from £63 one way or £103 return
Please also visit West Sweden Tourism’s:
- Website: www.westsweden.com
- Information about the Shellfish Journey: www.westsweden.com/shellfishjourney
- Facebook page: www.facebook.com/westsweden
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/westswedentb
- Blog: www.explorewestsweden.com
Please also visit Visit Sweden’s:
- Website: www.visitsweden.com
- Facebook page: www.facebook.com/visitsweden
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/Sweden