A month ago, the annual “restaurant week” was celebrated in Borås, and one day, the daily poll on the website of Borås Tidning asked the question, “Is Borås a restaurant city?” These are ambitious concepts: “restaurant week” and “restaurant city.” Many readers seemed to think that Borås wasn’t really a restaurant city at all, and today’s entry on my blog gives an example of why this may be so.
I should begin by saying that some culinary change for the better has definitely happened in these parts. If you search the archives of my blog you’ll see that this development is, to put it mildly, massively overdue.
But let’s just make a quick tour: a few years ago, for instance, a fine Indian restaurant, Masala Kitchen, established itself on Yxhammarsgatan. It is part of a small chain (the three other branches are in Gothenburg), but their food has the stamp of an individual kitchen nevertheless and is quite enjoyable in its diversity; the service is friendly and personal and the restaurant is clean and pleasant.
Directly opposite Masala Kitchen, a small Italian trattoria with the optimistic name Viva La Focaccia has opened, and to judge by their number of lunch guests, they are doing rather well. Unsurprisingly for an Italian trattoria (but a small sensation for Borås), their pasta sauces have straightforward no-nonsense Italianate taste profiles, the pasta itself is hot and firm and the coffee agrees pretty well with what you would get in similar places in Italy.
The new cheese and salumi shop that has moved into the premises of what used to be an utterly useless sweets store is also exciting: Cassise at Österlånggatan 40. Cassise is impressively well-stocked with a large variety of international specialty cheeses and with a wide range of meat products. Who would ever have thought that the 66,000 inhabitants of this city would get access to good-quality Italian pancetta or lardo?
We were even happier — and this is what I wanted to write about — when da Matteo, a well-established high-end coffee importer, roaster and seller from Gothenburg, opened a nice, roomy new café/restaurant in Borås. On a good day, with one of the better (among their overall excellent) baristas at the controls, da Matteo’s coffee can be the best coffee you’re likely ever to drink (and I’m saying: anywhere).
So, all of a sudden, Borås has easy access to some of the best coffee in the world, in a place that also fulfills all possible requirements for a nice café-workspace: free wifi, a variety of tables, no excessive noise or obnoxiously loud music, and a central location (what I’m going for is outlined in this post, in case you’re wondering). The interior of da Matteo Borås is perhaps a little rough around the edges, but what needs to be clean is clean — the restrooms, for example (compare that with Gothenburg’s first-ever-Matteo in Viktoriapassagen, and you’ll appreciate the difference). And if we weren’t trying to cut down on the carbs, I might start raving about their bakery products. The service is nice and friendly.
This is how da Matteo in Borås looked a few weeks ago:
Our new routine has been to go there on Friday afternoons and do our work there. It has been a fabulous way to beat January and February, which otherwise can only be survived in these parts by not getting out of bed.
Does Borås deserve such luxury? Obviously not. The terrible news is, da Matteo in Borås will close on 17 April 2014. Why?
I’m of two minds here. Part of me wants to be all like, ‘Borås is not ready.’ The distance between the coffee I found the first time I walked into an office in this unassuming city in 1991, and what da Matteo has to offer today is too great: perhaps people don’t recognize it as the same product. So one part of me wants to write that, in order to get this city of coffee newbies to understand, appreciate, and pay for what happens at places like da Matteo, we need at least three generational shifts, and something like a local collective DNA makeover or two. At this point, I want to write, Borås does not deserve da Matteo, and it is right that they go away.
The other side of my brain wants to analyze what has really been going on here. The first problem with a statement like “Borås doesn’t deserve good coffee” is that, as far as I could see, da Matteo Borås wasn’t even doing so badly. On many days, there were pretty long queues in the restaurant, and people were not only waiting for a sip-and-go experience, they were eating lunch, doing whatever one does with one’s baby, chatting, surfing the internet (as said: free wifi) and ordering more coffee and croissants – all things one would expect to happen in a newfangled and pleasant high-end café.
There is another problem with “Borås doesn’t deserve da Matteo.” It likely is more or less exactly what the owners of da Matteo, safely tucked away in Gothenburg (second largest Swedish city and fifth largest in the Nordic countries), were thinking when they announced to a dismayed local staff that they decided to give up on them. Why, then, did anyone try to open a café of this kind in Borås at all? Gothenburg houses two universities, has a vibrant geek and hipster scene, and coffee consumption in the center of town is backed up by an army of upscale office people who clearly are prepared to cave in to their coffee craving at any time of day. To expect anything like this from sleepy Borås, with just one college and far fewer downtown offices is silly: if one lacks the patience to give the people of Borås a chance, well, it’s perhaps better to stay away. We might just as well say that da Matteo isn’t ready for Borås. Be that as it may — we’re pretty sad over here.
How the news about closing da Matteo Borås has spread nobody knows, because the fact was not advertised, but something has changed — during the last few weeks there have been fewer visitors. And that’s not how it should be: the coffee, the service, none of this has changed. Why not show some solidarity with the staff, who didn’t want all this to happen either? If you’re in Borås, try them out, for now they’re still there!
And just as an afterthought: if you’re ever in Göteborg, and you want coffee, I mean some coffee that is really spectacular, why not try Viktors Kaffe at Geijersgatan 7, just around the corner from Götaplatsen (their Facebook link is here)…