Stedsans in the Woods was founded on a rooftop in Østerbro in the northern part of Copenhagen. It was as a restaurant placed smack dab in the middle of the rooftop kitchen gardens owned by 50 families, and was then known as Stedsans Østergro. In 2017, the couple behind Stedsans; Mette Helbak and Flemming Schiøtt Hansen, decided to go further in pact with nature and to make their concept even more sustainable. They launched a Kickstarter event to raise funds in order to buy a part of land in Halland in Sweden by the shores of lake Halla.
Stedsans is a Danish word describing the ability to find your way, or knowing your way quite literally. In the Stedsans name there’s the underlying meaning of finding your way to the restaurant but also finding your way to a more sustainable way of running a business.
The founding pillar of the off-the-grid restaurant is Permaculture, or Permanent Agriculture. The principles behind Permaculture were made in the mid-’70s by the two Australian ecologists – Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, based on three foundational ethics:
- Care of the Earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply.
- Care of people: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
- Return of the surplus: to those two goals. If there is extra of something, use it – either to help people or help the Earth. Never waste it.
Going across the border from Denmark and into the vast woods of Sweden is a great adventure. We arrive at the parking area and follow the cairns down to the little boathouse with an outdoor hot tub and a sauna floating on the lake, and here we have to check-in and we’re assigned a cabin in the woods.
The cabin is our room for the visit, and it is made by the Stedsans team. It has a big window facing the woods away from the path. It also has no electricity and no heating and we are a bit anxious about how we will manage the night, but it feels cosy with a big bed and a magnificent view. There’s no private shower, but close to the boathouse there’s an outdoor shower with heated lake water. The compost toilet is just a few meters from the cabin. It doesn’t use water, it builds up topsoil in contrast to modern toilets, that yearly flush out 10.000 litres of clean drinking water per person. Water that needs to be cleaned afterwards.
In the afternoon we go for an afternoon walk, exploring the area and later we take a nap in the cabin. We meet with other guests for an apple cider, kombucha and freshly pulled radishes. We’e about 30 guests – quite like in a dining room of a fine dining restaurant; the only difference is that we are in the middle of the Swedish forest. We will dine together, sleep in cosy cabins and then meet again for breakfast in the morning.
The dining room is in a big tent next to the lake with several large acrylic windows and in front is the outdoor kitchen. Flemming gives his welcome speech; telling the story of the restaurant and the dream that he and Helle had – to inspire people to get closer to nature and look better after the planet, and how we can use the resources of the Earth, more consciously.
The menu is Happytarian, meaning that everything we are served has been happy until it is prepared for us to eat. The kitchen is with no electricity and no running water. The food is cooked over an open fire, and the water is brought by the staff, from the lake.
The most beautiful fish from the lake is cooked, covered in embers. We move slowly into the dining room, where acrylic windows are dividing the tables for us in order to keep up with the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. It is difficult to talk with the person across you, so we decide to quickly remove it (with considerable care of course), to make conversations over the dinner possible.
The dinner is based on sustainable farming either done on the premises, or from neighbourhood farms and local dairy. Everything is so fresh that there are only a few minutes from when it is taken from the ground until it arrives at the dinner plate. We are served five courses with fresh vegetables, fish, a little piece of meat and all the natural wine we can drink, with the alcohol-free alternative for those who prefer this option.
We went to bed quite late and it was freezing, so we convinced the waiters to let us bring the outdoor rubber water bottles to bed. They got refilled with new warm water from the fireplace (we used the same bottles to keep us warm during the dinner).
The night was cold, and we had to stay close in bed and were extremely grateful for the rubber water bottles. The early morning visit to the toilet would have been a bit more comfortable with some lighting, but we managed with a bit of improvisation.
The breakfast and the guided tour were both captivating and inspiring – as the dinner.
We would suggest you book your stay from end of May or beginning of June in order to ensure that the weather is just a tiny bit warmer. Remember to bring your best forest wardrobe – this is fine dining in nature on its own terms.