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Shopping

A foodie guide to Järna, Gnesta and beyond

When we moved to Gnesta from Scotland some eight years ago, the food scene was limited to a couple of cinnamon-bun-and-filter-coffee cafés, a handful of bad pizzerias and a basic bakery. Tråkig.

Since then, Gnesta - and nearby Järna's - foodie offerings have exploded to include craft beer brewed by a Dutchman, vegan cakes and pastries baked by an Englishwoman, White Guide-listed restaurants and cafés, game and goats, biodynamic vegetable growing, artisan producers and much more.

Hop on the fast train from Stockholm Central and you can be experiencing the delights of Sörmland in less time than it takes to queue at Flippin' Burgers.

Järna

sKåPMat Squeeze onto a table at this tiny gem of a restaurant, order a glass of natural wine, their home-brewed mead or a local craft beer by Den Bryggande Holländaren and share a few dishes from the simple clipboard menu. David and the crew work their magic on whatever local produce is peaking that day. Friendly, unpretentious and always, always delicious.

Photo credit: Maria Printz

Järna Bageri I realise this is a controversial opinion to hold in Sweden, but men (and women) cannot live on cinnamon buns alone. At this outstanding bakery, the baking repertoire extends to flakey almond croissants, pretzels, seasonal pastries and even savoury delights like leek and fresh goat cheese-filled puff pastries.

Åsgatan 2 Once you've done your bread shopping next door, stop by this café for a healthy-ish fika. The coffee (from Oaxen kafferosteri) is the best in the area and the rawfood Bounty and Snickers bars will convert you from crappy confectionary forever.

De Vilda Sell moose, wild boar, venison and other kinds of game galore, along with other locally-sourced, humanely raised meat. If you still eat meat, places like this feel like the only ok place to buy it. If, like me, you used to have a thing for dodgy Peperami sausages, their ölkorv beer sausage is a must.

Saltå Kvarn It's easy to get seduced by their colourful retro packaging but that's ok because the products are top-notch and all organic too. Bulk-buy sacks of their flour and pasta and have a fika by the river.

Also well worth a visit: Taxinge Krog, one of Sweden's most sustainable restaurants, Skillebyholm for their organic lunch restaurant and biodynamically grown vegetables and check out Under Tallarna, an inspiring collectively-run urban garden where they hold courses, study visits and occasional foodie events.

Gnesta

Vår Lokal Allas Kafé I got seriously lucky when this vegetarian café opened up in the same building as my office last year. Originally a co-working space and event venue in the former hotel building opposite the train station, it now also includes a café run by the very talented Daniel Israelsson, who used to be the chef at Bio Rio before moving to Gnesta. If you're lucky you'll also find heavenly vegan cakes, cookies and pastries by @grondundermat on site.

Öster Malma If you're a carnivore in need of a fix, head down to Öster Malma castle, the headquarters of the Swedish Hunting Society, where they serve a great value daily lunch buffet. As you'd expect, game - from their own butchery - features heavily and, if you've got a heart of stone, you can go and visit the cousins of the moose and deer you've just eaten in the wildlife enclosure after your meal.

Gnesta strand is another reliable option. They serve a lunch buffet on Mondays-Fridays with meat, fish and veg options and salads and an à la carte menu on Friday and Saturday evenings from their pretty location overlooking Lake Frösjön.

Beyond

Sörbro Gård goat farm Drop by the little 'farmshop' (basically a fridge in a shed) at this goat farm near Vårdinge and buy their own goat cheese, goat meat from the freezer, fresh eggs and veg in season. If you're lucky, you might be alllowed into the barn alongside to have a cuddle with the ridiculously cute goats.

Sund Nergården I've written about them before and I'll write about them again. Johan and Niklas, quite possibly the nicest hosts you'll ever meet, have created a mini paradise next to Lake Sillen and this adults-only hideaway beats all other accommodation in the area hands-down. If you're not staying in one of their charming rooms or glamping tents, you can still book for dinner on Friday or Saturday evenings. Johan is a sommelier and, even if you're clueless about wine like me, you'll always find something delicious in your glass.

 

By friends for friends: feel-good Christmas shopping

Just to be clear, I'm no Scrooge. I'm crazy about Christmas and gaily embrace a mishmash selection of all my favourite British and Swedish traditions: candlelit Lucia services, the smell of warm glögg, mince pies with boozy butter, turkey and stuffing (more on the controversial topic of Swedish v. British Christmas food another time), watching Elf for the 87th time, making wonky gingerbread houses, fresh snow and frozen lakes - bring it all on. I am full of the spirit (does Baileys count as spirits?) But one thing that brings out my inner Grinch more and more each year is Christmas shopping.

The thought of all the pointless tat bought and chucked away makes me want to hide in a silent retreat until January, so this year (*friends and family spoiler alert*) I've decided only to buy handmade presents from people I know and like. Handily, there are plenty of creative souls in my area making beautiful things that I (hint) - and hopefully my loved ones - would love to receive. Here are just a few:

Anyone who's been specially good this year should add one of Lina's glorious hand-dyed organic silk kaftans to their Christmas list. She used to live with us so I've seen first-hand how much work goes into creating each kaftan, kimono, poncho and scarf she makes. Each one is hand-dyed using natural dyes such as avocado, raspberry, coffee, rust and rose petals and they're true works of art.

Sonja has a pottery workshop and studio in the old engine sheds in Gnesta and makes throwing beautiful pots look ridiculously easy which, having taken a couple of her evening classes, I can tell you it most definitely isn't.

Karolina of Kajsys hand-makes all her own skin care products using organic oils and other ingredients. My brand-new baby nephew will be getting a big jar of "Snällkräm" with jojoba oil and beeswax, and I'm hoping her "Skäggolja" beard oil with apricot kernal oil and rosemary is going to transform Joe's facial hair vibe from Mr Twist to Mr Clooney.

My old school friend Molly was always the best at art in our year and she's gone on to create a successful business making her own design block-printed textiles, wallpapers and other very lovely products.

Jules walked into a North London playground and my life fourteen years ago when our two eldest boys were just babies. She somehow combines being a highly successful art director with being wonderfully scatty, a single mother to two boys and running her new art advisory service. You can hire her to transform a blank wall into a tasteful and personal gallery wall or just buy one of the hand-picked prints and paintings from her online gallery (the black and white photographic print on the left is by my extremely talented husband, Joe Maclay)

Last year was the first year since moving to Sweden that we had a turkey for Christmas lunch (our first year here we killed and ate one of the neighbour's geese by mistake, but that's another story) and finding a higher welfare bird in this country was no mean feat.

Mission Happy Turkey involved a long search and a random handover rendezvous with a lorry driver in a petrol station car park off the E4. This year, I've sourced the festive (pasture-raised, organically fed and on-site slaughtered) bird from friends who run a permaculture farm in Värmland and make monthly deliveries to Stockholm and Järna.

I've just realised pretty much all these businesses are run by women; not intentional - I'm just lucky enough to know a lot of amazing, inspiring, creative women and I'd rather support them than add more money to the likes of Jeff Bezos' bulging coffers any day.

Stockholm's second-hand clothes shops: treasure hunting for grown-ups

A few years ago I came to the somewhat disturbing (but ultimately liberating) conclusion that I didn't enjoy clothes shopping any more. Shopping for new clothes I didn't really need in big, soulless highstreet shops with questionable environmental and ethical practices made me feel guilty and sad and all empty inside. At the same time, I love clothes and like to try to look not too obviously like a shagged-out, middle-aged country bumpkin when I leave the farm. So what to do?

Second-hand clothes shopping! Buying from charity, vintage and second-hand clothes shops is a total win/win solution, for the following reasons:

  • Remember that feeling as a child when you used to dig your hand down into a lucky dip and come up with a really great toy? Second-hand clothes shopping is treasure hunting for grown-ups.
  • You can afford much better - even designer - clothes. Thought Balenciaga boots or a Maje knit were out of your price range? Not if you spot them in a charity shop.
  • Vintage and/or designer clothes are generally much better made than new ones, with higher quality materials (just compare the look and feel of old velvet with new) and timeless design so they'll last even longer.
  • If you buy clothes you really don't need at a charity shop, you can justify it by thinking of it as donating money to charity with a free outfit thrown in.
  • The world now consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year. You can feel extremely smug and pleased with yourself knowing you haven't contributed to the huge environmental cost of fast fashion.
  • Clothes are pre worn-in for you. According to my mother (who knows about such things), the 12th Duke of Bedford used to get his butler to wear his suits in for him for a year and what's good enough for a crusty old English aristo is good enough for me.

Balenciaga bargains - 250 SEK from Emmaus

The only downside (or possibly upside, depending on how much you enjoy shopping) is that in order to find the real gems you need to scour the shops fairly regularly. Every few months I do a tour of my favourite Stockholm charity, second-hand and vintage shops and it goes a little something like this:

  • First, to Arkivet, handily located close to the Thatsup offices. They hand-select the clothes, bags and shoes they sell on commission so they're all top-notch quality, with lots of chichi Scandi brands like Acne and Rodebjer. You pay probably around 50-70% less than if you'd bought new.

  • Over to Slussen and the Emmaus Stockholm charity shop just off Götgatan. The flowery-roofed flight of stairs of the smaller side store leads you down to a treasure trove of garmentary delights - this is where they sell their edited vintage and designer things. I don't usually have the patience or energy to sift through the clothes in the huge main store but the children's section is fab.

  • Along Hornsgatan, checking out the various charity shops including Myrorna Hornsgatan and Stadsmissionen.
  • Finish at Judits Second Hand. Probably a good thing this is the last stop as it's also the most exclusive/expensive but it always has a beautifully-edited selection. I've found some real gems such as this & Other Stories skirt (which I tried on new in their store about a year previously and then found waiting for me at Judits, pre-loved and half the price - second-hand shopping is full of serendiptious moments like that):

Check out this Thatsup guide for more fab second-hand shops: Where to find Stockholm's best vintage and second-hand shops.

Happy treasure hunting!