This March, Linda Karlsson and her husband Rasmus Persson faced a dilemma: Karlsson’s parents showed up at their front door. The couple live in Ransäter, Sweden, and although Sweden has been in the news for having laxer policies than the strict lockdowns implemented by many countries to slow the spread of COVID-19, Karlsson and Persson fully intended to follow the recommendations issued by the government.

“When they decided to come to our new house and pay a visit without telling us beforehand,” Karlsson says, “we refused to let them come inside.” Her parents are both over 70, which places them among those at high risk for coronavirus. So Karlsson and Persson instead placed a table in the meadow outside their home and served them food through their window.

As the couple watched Karlsson’s parents enjoy their meal, they decided this was something others might like to try: dining in their meadow without safety concerns. For Karlsson and Persson, that meant opening a restaurant for one—just one table and one chair, completely contact-free.

That idea is now a restaurant set to open on May 10. The name, Bord för En, translates to “Table for One.” From opening day until August, the couple, who live at home with their daughter, will designate one of their two kitchens for the restaurant. (The house having two kitchens had always made it seem perfect for that purpose.) Reservations are available from 10 a.m. to 10:45 p.m., but only one person can book per day. That special guest can choose a three-course breakfast, lunch, or dinner, served in a picnic basket sent down a rope with the help of an old bicycle wheel.

The family during BC times (before coronavirus).
The family during BC times (before coronavirus).

The menu, which is the same regardless of time of day, is completely vegetarian, which reflects the lifestyle choices of Karlsson and Persson, who only eat meat occasionally when it is locally sourced and humanely raised. The menu also reflects the culinary background of Persson, who is stepping back into the restaurant world after 10 years in broadcast journalism. A radio show host, he is the alumnus of a culinary school in Gothenburg and a former professional chef who worked for Leif Mannerström, an acclaimed restaurateur and pioneer in Swedish cuisine.

“We can’t travel, but to me, food has always been a travel in a sense. It’s been a way for me to mentally transport myself to different places, “ Persson says. “What I wanted to do with this menu was to have my own little travel agency, and have every part of the menu be a very specific memory for me, of a place where I’ve had that flavor or that certain dish.”

As a nod to the flavors Persson experienced when he trained as a chef on the west coast of Sweden, the first course is råraka, or Swedish-style hash browns with smetana (a type of sour cream) and vegan kelp caviar. Inspired by his year working in Barcelona restaurants, the main course is a sweet corn croquette with browned hazelnut butter, yellow carrot-ginger purée, and ash made from serpent root (also known as Spanish salsify). The final course is his adult take on a childhood summer treat: blueberries soaked in gin, served in iced buttermilk and topped with crushed sugar and viola flowers. The sugar, Persson hopes, will come from beets grown in their garden.

Each course will be paired with a non-alcoholic beverage curated by Persson’s childhood friend, Joel Söderbäck, an owner of several high-end bars in Stockholm, including Tjoget, one of the World’s 50 Best Bars in 2019. Between courses, the guest can place used plates inside a bucket next to the table and ring a bell for the next dish.

Persson added gin to this classic children's treat.
Persson added gin to this classic children’s treat.

At the end of the meal, guests can pay any amount they choose. “We like to adjust to the situation that people have found themselves in,” Karlsson says, alluding to lost loved ones, lost jobs, and mental-health struggles caused by COVID-19. “There shouldn’t be a price tag that is too high for anyone to enjoy this.”

Bord för En is the only restaurant in Ransäter and possibly the first, according to Persson, who grew up there. The couple has received a warm reception from the small town and garnered wide interest. They’ve received reservations from all around Sweden and even Japan.

Although it’s unclear when those Japanese diners will be able to travel to Sweden, Karlsson thinks there’s a place for one-person meals even when the threat of the virus is gone. “To really honor the company of one, I think that this restaurant is a good choice for people to just get to know themselves better,” Karlsson says. She and Persson don’t plan on adding any more tables to Bord för En in the future.

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