Christmas smorgasbord @ Madsen London

There’s something to be said about Scandi food. And no, I’m not going to wax lyrical about the actual food because Lord knows I’m not the brightest foodie in the house, but seriously, those Scandinavians, are they tall and hot or what?

I mean, look at them. And then look at me. Oh you don’t see me? Sorry lower your gaze about two feet and oh there! There I am, three feet from the ground.

What is it that they feed these guys so they are super tall, super hot and super… well I don’t know if they’re all super smart but for arguments’ sake, let’s say they’re also super smart. Whatever it is they eat, I want some because I’m sure, I’m really sure, that at 30, I’m still growing, right?

Because I can’t be this short my whole life right? Right….?!


Whatever. I figure that if I let myself loose on a Scandinavian smorgasbord buffet, I would have some semblance of a chance to grow an inch or two right there on the spot.

And if I don’t? Well, it still tastes pretty darn good… and with that excuse safely tucked under my arm, I headed off to Madsen last Saturday evening, ready for a Scandi assault.

Madsen Restaurant, located a stone’s throw from South Kensington tube station, is reputedly one of the better and more traditional places for Scandi cuisine. There’s also my favourite Scandinavian Kitchen, but that’s a lunch-snack-open-sandwich-coffee type of deli and in a whole different ball game to Madsen.

But who am I do discriminate? I will happily love them both with all of my gluttonous heart.

So anyway, Saturday night, smorgasbord. The victims? Me, the tweat-up crew and my Scandi (well ok Finnish but that’s Scandi enough) boyfriend who blends in perfectly with the other tall gorgeous people. I want to hate him so bad but I’m just totally chuffed that he’s my boyfriend, albeit that he’s about five heads taller than me.

Having already studied the menu in detail, we knew to expect some herring and a bunch of meat. And while there was a lot more than just herring and meat, those were probably the dishes that stole the meal – for better or worse.

freshly baked dark rye bread; white herring; Christmas herring with capers; curry salad with apple

We started with a serve of freshly baked dark rye bread, which is a totally Scandi thing. I don’t think I appreciate the supposedness awesomeness of rye bread because I pretty much smother the thing with butter and lick it off. I repeat this until the bread is wet and limp and then I casually drop it under the table.

Ok fine, I don’t do that. But I also don’t love it. I’m.. indifferent.

With the rye bread came two serves of herring ~ a white herring which was light, tangy and not overtly fishy (I liked this one best), and a Christmas herring which I thought was much more fishy-pungent. Why was it Christmas? I don’t know? Maybe because it was served with green capers and red onions? Ha ha ho ho ho.

The most delicious dish of the starters was actually bizarre ~ a curry salad with apples and from what we could gather, peas.  Tossed in a tangy mayonnaise and dusted with curry powder, it had the right amount of spice and kick, while reminding me of an oldie but goodie, the potato salad. Win.

When we were finally done with starters, the lovely Madsen staff unleashed us on the smorgasbord buffet and hello, this is where the real eating begins.

pork loin with crackling & caramelised potatoes; glazed Christmas ham with kale cabbage; “Janssons Frestelse” a Swedish creamy potato and anchovy gratin

I’m not going to list out the full menu, because there were just so. many. things. available, but I’ll highlight my favourites. Take a look upwards, there you go: pork loin with cracking & caramelised potaotes, glazed Christmas ham (which totally reminded me of char siu), and a creamy potato bake with anchovy gratin.

I’m pretty sure that in heaven, they eat pork every day and not only that, their pork has an endless supply of crackle. My interest in pork (and crackle) was mild to say the least until this year, when suddenly it seems to have started to consume my epicurean consciousness. Be it Launceston Place or a fellow blogger’s market stall or even some god awful places, all I want to eat is pork.

So anyway, I ate the pork. A lot of it. And thank you to a certain friend who chivalrously brought me more crackle 🙂

The glazed  ham and Janssons Frestelse (Swedish creamy potato with anchovy gratin) were also top of my hit list for the night. Really, the glazed ham was like one ginormous char siu so you couldn’t go wrong there and the creamy potato bake, laced with the mildest delicious hint of anchovy… mmm... I could have easily eaten the whole tray.

smoed salmon & chive roll; chef's pork liver pate; prawns & lemon; traditional pan-fried herring

There was a bunch of other stuff on the menu, some of which I loved (chef’s pork liver pâté for instance was rich, creamy, flavoursome and delish) and some which I would happily never eat again. Strangely one of those was the pan-fried herring which you’d think would be like little bits of fried fish – yum – right? But no, it was marinaded in something which did not agree with my palate, but hey, I never did pretend to have a sophisticated palate.

By dessert time, we were all sufficiently stuffed, me from the pork and everyone else from a whole selection of Scandi deliciousness. We nibbled on grapes and oranges, and Mark and I finished off with a Ris à l’amande (rice pudding) with warm cherry sauce. No photos. We were too full to take photos.

brie cheese with grapes & oranges

The verdict? I can honestly say I know diddly squat about Scandi cuisine and can’t comment. Well, I can, but it would be my usual standard of dribble, only it would also be inaccurate.

The boyfriend, however, was utterly impressed. I think he said something about not expecting it to be traditional but it was in fact so traditional he hadn’t had a meal like that outside of Finland in years. Now if that’s not a good verdict, I don’t know what is.

ps. I’m still short. I’m not blonde. And well, my mum thinks I’m smart.

Madsen Restaurant
20 Old Brompton Road
South Kensington, SW7 3DL
0207 225 2772

Madsen on Urbanspoon

16 Thoughts on “Madsen’s Scandi smorgasbord: a pork, a ham and a piglet

  1. It’s interesting that Madsen used anchovies in their Janssens Temptation, as traditionally, they use pickled sprats which are, apparently, called ansjovis in Swedish – which might explain why more people use anchovies.

    I’ve heard you can get pickled sprats from Scandinavian Kitchen, though.

  2. Mmmm Catty, delicious looking food. I’m going to Scandi Kitchen tomorrow. Hooray!

  3. Yes, we are super smart as well.

  4. Lizzie: I have zero food prowess so I’ll believe everything you said 🙂 either way I’m sure it all tastes pretty good!

    Sarah: oh i LOVE Scandi Kitchen! Yay!

    Louise: LOL I was going to forward you this post and yes, you are tall and hot and super smart 😛

  5. Oh, must check out Madsen! I missed their meatball madness too. High praise from your Scandi-ish boyfriend! 🙂

    Thanks for the link and hope you enjoyed the pork. Lining up tomorrows batch now.

  6. @catty and hollowlegs – They didn’t taste nice regardless of sprats.

  7. Sounds and looks yum Catty! Can’t wait to try it out. PS: Loved your ps =)

  8. Niamh: I missed their meatball madness too! I wish I was there. Good luck with the pork at your market stall today and I hope it’s not too cold for you!

    tehbus: oh humbug. They were nice!

    Mowie: Hehe, the saddest part of all was my ps! 🙂

  9. Oh my goodness, all look so delicious… Don’t you just love the holiday season? Casseroles and soft, warm dishes.

  10. That all looks delicious, especially the pork crackling!! Yum yum yum

    xox Sarah

  11. Eric Kim: and holiday season is a great excuse to eat 😀

    Sarah: i LOVE pork! love love loveeee…

  12. So where’s this buffet? Went to Madsens and got a REALLY meagre brunch menu – cream cheese spread on a PLATE (no bread) with some smoked salmon and a wisp of lettuce on top. Three tiny waffles with a 50p blob of cream, a glass of yogurt with a few nuts and some tooth breaking raisins, a glass of ordinary orange juice and a small coffee. Over £12 for this and it really was like dolls food. Other people were having quite nice (but small looking) portions. I had planned to take guests here but definitely won’t do it now, they would think I was mean.

    I don’t want to be nasty about this place, but it was half empty (and so were we) and I just wonder how it can have changed so much, you wrote your review only about a month ago. My partner, who is very lean and doesn’t eat much, came home and made himself some toast after visiting there. Please explain!!

  13. Hi Jenny,

    Wow I’m sorry to hear that you had such a terrible (and hungry) time! The buffet was a Christmas buffet and not on the usual menu ~ I haven’t actually been to Madsen for a regular meal (dinner or brunch) but was planning to. Sorry again to hear – I hope if you do return, that it turns out better!

    Thanks for posting the comment though, it’s always good to hear all kinds of feedback.

  14. Hi Jenny and Catty,

    Firstly, thank you to Catty for the nice review of our buffet.
    Jenny – I am sorry to hear that you were not happy with your brunch experience at Madsen. As Catty points out then we have the buffet on for special occassions such as Christmas, Easter, Mother’s day etc.
    I can see that our Brunch menu sizes seem a little out of touch with the rest of the menu. The reason is that we wanted to let people mix and match the lunch and brunch menu (e.g. also with our smushi/open sandwiches). We have however, found that people seem to go for either the lunch or brunch and we are currently reviewing the brunch menu to be larger sizes that are in line with the warm dishes on the lunch menu.
    I hope this explains some of your queries and I am sorry to hear that you were not satisfied with the experience.
    Kind Regards,

  15. thanks for the response Charlotte!

  16. hey Catty – just went to Madsen on Saturday, so was keen to see how my experience compared with yours. Didn’t have the smorgasbord, but…

    …I must say, I loved it. Had onion-marinated herring, then gourmet meatballs. All fantastic. Already want to go back and try other stuff from their menu. Hope they put the Janssen’s Temptation on again, and will certainly be up for the smorgasbord.

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