By the Christmas tree in Tjolöholms Billiard Room.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, W Rose, CM Cordeiro, Sweden 2014
It was a long, quiet walk up from among the large barns and horse carriage sheds where the guests parking lot was located, up the gravelled carriage way. With the rain and winds of Swedish west coast autumn, the weather felt as much Tudor as what greeted us up ahead the road, the Tjolöholm Slott. Except now, the short bushes around the garden were decked in the prettiest of Christmas lights, casting a dancing play of gold shadows on the building’s facade.
Up at the manor were two entrances. A front garden entrance, and a back garden / seafront facing entrance. Guests this evening were to enter through the doors facing the seafront, and for that, you needed to go around the manor. As we rounded the left corner to make a soon right, we were greeted with the view of the back garden, and framed as backdrop, the dark hues of a dramatic silvery sea.
Captured by the sight of rain on stone walls and of the sea, I couldn’t help but stop to stare at what in summer looked a lush landscape of flowers in all sorts of colours. Tonight, the entire sea was the rare colour of rain in tinsel. Glistening with occasional flashes of white, the sea looked a winter solstice greeting from Neptune himself.
It was the light sound of laughter indoors and the warm gold of candlelight through the windows that pulled my attention away from the waters.
Stepping through the door, I felt a thick cloak of warm go about my shoulders as the butler greeted us. Immediately to the left was the coat room where you could choose to switch to your indoor shoes for the dinner, and to the right was the Billiard Room where a glögg fest was already ongoing. Smiles were all around as people stood in loose groups and chatted, lifting small glasses of spiced liquid burgundy to their lips.
Farther in from the Billiard Room was the main hall that contained the largest Christmas tree of the manor, dripping delicately in white and gold tinsel. Just beside the tree, a pianist filled the high arched room with classic yuletide compositions. Seeing that there were children in the hallway, he delighted in entertaining them with more lively, staccato numbers such as Rudolf the red nosed reindeer and Santa Clause is coming to town. Then there were tunes played that I had heard only for the first time this year. Compositions so mellow that in the course of the evening, made me stop in the middle of filling my plate, to stand and listen till the last notes were played.
In the main hall also stood the spread of the Christmas buffet. The table decoration and dishes were so very neatly arranged, and one that, looking from left aisle to right aisle, left nothing lacking for guests.
We were well looked after from the moment we stepped in through the private garden entrance, facing the sea.
We were kindly told that there were 67 dishes to sample in the usual 7 different plates of a Swedish Christmas table sitting approximately divided into herring, seafood, cold cut meat dishes, warm dishes, cheese and fruits, coffee and a variety of desserts, all interspersed generously with the chef’s own blend of spice infused alcohol – schnapps – drinks and all ideally rounded off with a glass of premier brand vintage Cognac.
To that extent, the sitting at Tjöloholm is one of the more considerate in Sweden, offering their guests rooms for an overnight stay, where guests are also invited to exploring the expansive manor grounds the next morning to work up some space for a lavish breakfast.
As a perfect way to round off the evening, a group tour of the manor was given to guests who wished to learn more about the lives Mr and Mrs James Fredrik Dickson who had commissioned the manor at the end of the 1800s. The tour of the manor could be done with drink in hand.
From the prettily garlanded carriage way and the long quiet walk, to the dramatic view that greeted us on the seafront side, even before I had entered the manor, I knew – this was exactly the calm and festive Christmas dinner experience I had wanted to round off this year. Most likely it will slso be the perfect way to round off the next, and the next.
To readers and visitors to this blog, here’s wishing You, a warm, cozy Christmas and the happiest of New Years to come!
The beginnings of A Silent Night.
A beautiful sight to behold come winter solstice. The carriage way to Tjöloholms slott was garlanded in a string of tiny lights. The branches of the birches swaying in what are usually autumn winds along the Swedish west coast. Not another soul in the walking even at the hour of the dinner sitting made all this seem as a time warp.
The lit fire in the massive fireplace in the great hall, added to the welcoming atmosphere.
The entire evening the hall was filled with Christmas classics from the Grand Piano, and some compositions that I had heard only for the first time this year.
Chef de cuisine, Jerker Andersson, has been laying Christmas tables for Tjöloholms slott in the past five years. He overlooks 67 dishes for the 7 Swedish Christmas plates that guests are invited to sample through the evening. Every plate, every accompanying condiment and facilitating utensil, was arranged with painstaking detail. The buffet table at any one time throughout the dinner sitting, looked as neat and as untouched as when you first stepped in.
Outdoors, a dramatic silver sea, indoors, a warm log fire.
Lutfisk. A very old fashioned, traditional Swedish dish based on sun dried fish, very special and hard to describe if you don’t know it. Can be stored for years in its hard as wood dried form. Served and prepared here the best I have ever seen. One more of the chef’s many marvels.
We were well looked after, from the moment we stepped in through the seafront facing door.
Photo by Will Rose, at www.rosesjolander.com.
What makes Christmas, living, and what makes living, Christmas.
Photo by Will Rose, at www.rosesjolander.com.