Think Nordic cuisine in Singapore and chances are, only a handful of names will surface. So it was with great anticipation when Hemlig swung open its doors and we got a chance to have a taste of their take on Scandinavian food and drink.
Its owner Knut Randhem, perhaps already known for being the co-founder of Fung Kee Hotdogs, describes Hemlig as a place where grandma’s food is being served by the grandson – we assume the grandson being him.
The word ‘Hemlig’ itself in Scandinavia means ‘secret’ as well as ‘homely and cosy’, and it delivers on those expectations with its menu of down-to-earth, heart-on-the-sleeve dishes.
Items like the Skagen (S$24), a dish of plump cold water shrimps tossed in dill, lemon, and creme fraiche, and served with a side of sourdough, offers that addictive snacking quality (I’ll just have one more shrimp..) and is great to start with.
Or get something familiar first to whet the appetite. Their Gravlax (S$22) is a house-cured Norwegian salmon with dill, mustard sauce, and lemon, and is as classic as they come.
You can’t go wrong with the Homemade Meatballs (S$28). Knut makes it from scratch using a mix of pork and beef, and serves it with lingonberries, pickles, and a beef jus reduction. We highly recommend it.
Though a controversial one for this part of the world, our favourite has got to be the Gubbrora (S$18). This dish of pickled herring with sour cream, chives, eggs, and potatoes served on rye bread isn’t as fishy as one might think, and packs so much flavour into each bite.
With so much going on, you’ll still want a drink to wash it all down with. Luckily at Hemlig, their bar programme is as well thought out as the food. It is also one of the few places in town where you can get a good range of Scandinavian spirits.
Get the Kanon 37 for a Nordic twist on the French 75 using aquavit as a base rather than gin, giving it a more herbal spice note compared to the classic. The bubbly yet spirited nature of the drink gives it oomph and a refreshing quality at the same time, that’s great when enjoyed with food.
We also like the Svinesund, once again a take on a classic (this time the Negroni) but with aquavit as the main spirit. However, a special sherry cask aged aquavit is used here, and this lends a much-welcomed buttery oakiness and added complexity to the cocktail.
Seasoned tipplers need look no further than the Olandsbron for something more expressive and stiff. This take on the Old Fashioned makes good use of Swedish distillery Mackmyra’s peated whisky, and doubles down on the smoky tones by serving it in a bell jar filled with even more smoke.
All cocktails at Hemlig are priced at a reasonable – for this day and age – S$24, so you won’t be breaking the bank like you would at many other cocktail joints these days.
With this wholesome and accessible offering of Nordic cuisine and spirits, we find Hemlig an easy spot to advocate for. After all, how often do you get a Swedish chef-bartender-owner deciding to open a cosy Scandinavian venue like this?
We know we can count on Hemlig to give us a taste of that ‘hygge’ lifestyle we so desire in this part of the world, and we simply can’t wait to see what else they have in store.
Hemlig is located at 57 Neil Road, Singapore 088893.
About the Author
Dannon Har is the Managing Editor of Spill. Discovering his innate gift for drinking only at a ripe age, he spares no time trying to find more delicious drops to imbibe during his time on Earth. When he’s not minding every detail at Spill, he spends his time concocting luscious libations and sharing them with folks that visit his home bar.