You’ve almost certainly seen or heard of Skaus. First at the Baltic Market, then at Dockleaf – and not forgetting the BBC’s My Million-Pound Menu. This Scandinavian-themed travelling restaurant has now started a residency in Hus, based in Capital & Centric’s Tempest building on Tithebarn Street.
The building Skaus currently calls home is a modernist concrete effort that was derelict for years: now it’s a multifunctional space with a daytime hangout in Hus, a rooftop bar and lots of airy co-working in between the foliage.
Skaus fits in perfectly. In Swedish parlance the ambiance might be described as lagom – balanced, simple, halfway between less and more (more or less). Hus boasts greenery, polished concrete and coloured strip lights. If you wanted to create a space that would Scandinavian food, this might be it.
And what food it is. Hasselback potatoes (football fans might be amused to know they’re referred to as Jimmy Floyds…) have reinvented chips forever, homemade pickles, cures and ferments to test the gamut of your taste buds. A meaty gravadlax cured with beetroot to give it a deep pink glow and accompanied by homemade pickles, rye bread and horseradish creme fraiche. Or smoked haddock & cheddar cakes, pickled cucumber and remoulade.
It’s simple food, but it’s prepared expertly. It’s different – and it’s our favourite food in Liverpool right now.
Behind Skaus are Dan Cameron and Josh Lundon, two Liverpool lads who started the restaurant as a pop-up in 2017. Both had previously worked in Free State Kitchen, where Dan worked front-of-house and Josh ran the kitchen – a Nordic-themed restaurant wasn’t, perhaps, the most obvious career move…
We asked Dan about Skaus’ new residency at Hus, My Million-Pound Menu and why the Scandinavian menu may not be as unfamiliar to Scousers as they might think.
Tell us about the food at Skaus
Since we set up we’ve always made a real effort to do our own pickling and fermenting in-house: we have a house sauerkraut and we have dill pickles, pickled beets. Every dish has got that element of “Smoked; pickled; cured” – it’s like the strapline of the company. The fact that Scandinavian food has become more popular means we can afford to play around with it more and experiment with it.
The scouse in the bread bowl that we did at the Baltic Market has maybe been our best-known dish – its reputation follows us everywhere. The Swedish meatballs is our best-seller most weeks, but since we’ve been on My Million-Pound Menu where we featured the “fish-and-chips” (cured cod loin, smoked hollandaise and hasselback chips) that’s become our best-seller.
Has selling the concept of Scandinavian food has been a bit of a challenge?
For us, Scandi food is a little bit of a slow-burner – it’s at an entry-stage of the food market.
It has been a bit of a challenge but I think the fact that we have a staff now and we’re on our third residency is evidence that people are buying into more. Initially it was difficult because there was no-one else doing it but the more we’ve been doing it – probably helped by making our menu a little more accessible – has really helped.
Our version of the Swedish meatballs, which people probably know from Ikea, and the scouse in the bread bowl are conceptually relevant to us and they’re all accessible to the people coming in who are interested to see what we do.
Were the residencies important in allowing you to introduce this food to Liverpool?
Residencies give you an opportunity to do a bit of market research and test your menus out. We did the Baltic Market with the food hall and then we’ve had a few different formats in terms of the venues. We’ve done the casual stuff and the formal stuff and now have a balance of both.
The fact that Scandinavian food has become more popular means we can afford to play around with it more and experiment with it.
Josh has worked really hard on the menus over that time and through the residencies we’ve found a good balance of the food we want to do. It’s been tough trying to find that balance with Scandinavian food as it’s quite new to the food market in Liverpool and even the north of England in general.
Has My Million-Pound Menu helped?
With the Skaus food being Scandinavian that’s obviously a little more niche and on a show like My Million-Pound Menu they’re more interested in the numbers side of things. But feedback we got on the food and concept was amazing.
The people we spoke to on My Million-Pound Menu are big-hitters in the hospitality industry and they were buzzing off the food, they loved us too. They said we were very credible people, which was a big compliment, especially as we’re not from a big-business background.
We took a lot of positives from it and a lot more bookings have been coming through at Hus since the episode aired. We’ve got an opportunity to launch our website too, which will increase bookings even more so it’s strength-to-strength for us at the moment.
Where did ‘Skaus’ come from?
Skaus is an abbreviation of the original terminology – lapskaus, a meat and vegetable stew. A lot of people don’t realise scouse – and the etymology – originally comes from Norway. Every country in the world seems to have their own version of it – it’s like Irish stew and goulash.
With the trading relationships between Liverpool and the Baltic countries, they brought over a lot of their heritage with them. In Liverpool we adapted scouse and adopted it as our own.
We’re currently in the process of looking around for a place of our own – given our own environment we definitely feel we can evolve the menu. That’s the natural step forward for us – to grow the menu more and have those distinctive lunch and dinner splits.
Where else do you eat in the city?
I like going to Bakchich on Bold Street. It has a very casual atmosphere. I really want to get to Roski and The Art School, which I think of as more ‘occasion’ restaurants.
We owe a lot to Free State Kitchen. They gave us a lot of training and gave Josh the opportunity to run the kitchen. Running a Scandi restaurant was a bit of a jump for us from what they do at Free State Kitchen but that experience was pivotal for us. It still makes the best burger in the city too!
Skaus at Hus