IKEA – the Swedish Mecca of do-it-yourself furniture, a labyrinth of showrooms and shelves, and home to restaurants that attract hundreds of customers a day.
Scandinavian food, in general, can be an acquired taste. For instance, fermented herring is still a staple in that area of Europe.
But if you dared open a tin of fermented herring here – you might be cast out from your immediate vicinity.
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Thankfully IKEA doesn’t serve this Scandinavian delicacy, otherwise, I’d be straight back out that revolving door.
But I wasn’t here to peruse their endless list of homeware goods, I was here for their in-house restaurant.
IKEA’s restaurant is very much reminiscent of a cafeteria, where you pick up your tray and queue for slightly longer than is necessary.
With a healthy amount on the menu, you’ll find light lunches to suit every appetite.
From prawn and egg sandwiches to fish and chips, to their iconic Swedish meatballs – IKEA provides no fuss, simple and easily digestible meals.
And sometimes customers won’t even come to IKEA just for a mooch, they’ll come with the specific intention of chowing down on their meatballs – Trust me, my friend does it.
Personally, I wasn’t bowled over by the menu choices, but they’re not known for extravagant food.
I like to think that the reason their food is simple is that if they can execute it well, they’re doing the right thing.
They don’t need deconstructed desserts or uber-expensive cuts of meat to produce good quality food.
So off I scuttled into the line, surrounded by families. Yes, IKEA during the summer holidays seemed to be a haven for parents with young children.
The majority of the restaurant was occupied by families, so I did stick out like a sore thumb. But no one cared.
I’ve had their original Swedish meatballs before as a child, and since meat is no longer my bag, I look for their alternative.
The first thing I spotted was their suitably named Plantballs, so my decision was made very easily.
Since having them, I’ve tried to identify what exactly the Plantballs are made from as it didn’t say on their menu in store, nor on their website. For all I knew, I could’ve probably been eating meat – But IKEA wouldn’t do that to me, would they?
You get eight Plantballs served with either mash potatoes or chips, peas, IKEA’s version of “gravy” – and I’m using that term very loosely – and lingonberry jam.
I wasn’t actually offered the jam, but I’m glad because I don’t understand how anyone can think that it’s okay to put jam with a main meal.
Anyway, I was swiftly handed my lunch and off I went to try the food.
At first glance, the meal looked very beige, with the only colour-popping being the bright green peas.
The mash potato was essentially flavoured with lashings of butter – I wondered if that was because they were trying to hide the fact that the potato was tasteless.
Having served onto my plate with an ice cream scoop, I was brought back to primary school memories and the food they served at lunch.
Actually, if anything, this entire meal reminded me of the school dinners that were served at my primary school – and I haven’t been at primary school in a long time.
I was transported back to the year 2002 and sat on a stool that was connected to the school hall’s fold-up lunch tables.
Are they just serving school dinners at IKEA and passing it off as their gourmet food? Surely not.
As I made my way through the meal, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t a school dinner I was eating – because if I’m honest, it tasted almost identical.
The Plantball’s were alright, just extremely similar to any non-meat meatballs you can buy at the supermarket.
The “gravy” I had previously mentioned was just this liquidy beigey-brown puddle that was just nondescript.
Lacking in flavour, was a bit on the thin side for my liking, and just all-around underwhelming.
But maybe I’m expecting too much?
I was left wanting more in the flavour department, because for me everything was just a little bit lacklustre – and that’s me putting it kindly.
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If you’re after something plain and simple, IKEA’s your place.
If you’re wanting nostalgic flashbacks to primary school dinners, IKEA’s will be your time machine.
Sadly the food hasn’t evolved since the early 2000s.
Sorry IKEA, but I think you should stick to furniture…
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