18th November 2015
Words: Killian Fox
Photographs: Dan Dennison
Robin, replying a few hours later, was enthusiastic but suggested we narrow our focus to the northern part of Gothenburg that overlaps with the island of Hisingen – i.e. the Llama Lloyd neighbourhood. This area, he explained, also contains his favourite music venue in the city, Truckstop Alaska, which serves “excellent vegan food” and hosts heavy metal bands from around the world. Our tour, kicking off at Llama Lloyd and leading us through a variety of local bars, would culminate at Truckstop to watch an American doom metal act called Pallbearer. Vegan food and doom metal – how could we refuse?
A week later, on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, we arrived at Robin’s café just as he was packing up for the day. “Most people who start a place like this have been baristas for 10 years,” he said. “I knew nothing about specialty coffee.” For the past eight years, he’s worked as a driver for disabled people in the neighbourhood. He had to take a crash course in brewing from local coffee roaster Per Nordby before opening his own place. Llama Lloyd was originally intended to be a music café but has morphed into a bike-friendly coffee shop – you get a discount if you arrive on two wheels.
Before we embark with Robin on the borrowed bikes parked outside, he tells us that this part of the city “has always had a bad rep – this is where all the harbours were. This area’s still dodgy-ish and the rents are still cheap but it’s being gentrified very quickly now.” There’s clear evidence of this on our trip – three out of the five bars we visit are newly opened – but we still get a strong sense of the grungy charm that drew Robin to Hisingen in the first place.
Our first stop, a short cycle from Llama Lloyd, is a low-lit bar serving straightforward American fare (burgers and fries, milkshakes) and a good range of beers. It is brand-new, only been open a week according to Robin, but already has a nice lived-in feel (concrete walls, graffiti, hard rock playing over the sound system).
The owner Stefan used to run a vegan hangout nearby. “He can always create an atmosphere somehow,” says Robin. “He’s a nice person himself, walks around and talks to customers – he’s a good guy.” Stefan materialises soon after and, true to his reputation, he greets us warmly and has a quick chat with our host.
We sit outside by the canal, enjoying the fine weather and planning out the evening ahead over a couple of beers. Just as we’re about to depart for bar number two, our Gannet colleagues Adam and Yousef join us for the tour (lacking wheels, they’ll tag along on foot or by taxi).
What we had: Brooklyn East IPA on draft for us. A bottle of Spaten Pils for Robin. Country fries. Complimentary popcorn.
Kvilletorget 20, 417 04 Göteborg, Sweden; +46 70 922 45 53, www.barleys.se
No bikes are needed to convey us to the second bar as it’s just across the canal, so we leave them locked up and proceed on foot. Ölstugan is also very new – it has been open a mere three weeks when we visit. Part of a citywide chain of bars known for their wide selection of craft beers, this branch occupies a big old beer hall with black wooden beams and a vaulted ceiling. Food-wise they serve what Robin describe as husmanskost – typical Swedish countryside grub such as meatballs and potatoes (though we spot a furtive quinoa salad on the blackboard menu).
We order beers and sit outside on benches amid a crowd of exuberant midweek drinkers making the most of Sweden’s all-too-brief summer. Robin’s friend Otto, whose bikes we are using, joins us, swelling our number to six.
What we had: Glasses of Wisby Pils, Melleruds and Lazy Ass.
What we talked about: The Somalian stimulant qat, also known as khat or miraa. Deliberately not learning to drive. Couchsurfing, which Robin keenly advocates. The Drunken Brewers Cup, in which baristas prepare coffee while under the influence.
417 01, Herkulesgatan 3A, 417 01 Göteborg, Sweden; +46 31 16 56 16, www.olstugan.se
After raucous Ölstugan, this very appealing little bar, a short walk (or very short bike ride) away, is a welcome respite. Robin has been frequenting this place for years and we can see why: it’s intimate, nicely lit, simply furnished, unassuming but full of character – a perfect neighbourhood bar.
We pause outside to inspect a pale-blue 50s Cadillac Coupe de Ville with tail fins, which is promptly driven away by a couple of old rockers emerging from the bar. Then we go inside for what Otto refers to as a “galopp” – a half-pint of beer designed to be consumed swiftly before you gallop off to your next appointment.
What we had: Glasses of Eriksberg Karaktär and Brooklyn Summer Ale. Beef carpaccio.
What we talked about: Swedish muscle car culture. Mussel poisoning. Tattoos. Ice fishing.
417 01, Herkulesgatan 7, 417 01 Göteborg, Sweden; +46 31 22 15 08, www.tildaskrog.se
Now the bikes start coming in handy as the next bar, Cuckoo’s Nest, is a couple of kilometres away. Robin has included it in the tour for the sake of variety: it’s on the first floor of the Radisson hotel (opened 2013) with an outside deck overlooking the river that divides Hisingen from the city centre. Despite the contrast with the other stops on our itinerary, this place is worth a visit for the eccentric design if nothing else – mismatching furniture, industrial-traditional juxtapositions and lots of incongruous features (three design firms worked on the hotel and it shows). The view from the deck is impressive too: we enjoy a couple of beers as the light fades and an amazing full moon appears over Gothenburg.
What we had: Pints of Galaxy wheat ale, Melleruds and Sleepy Bulldog SPA.
What we talked about: Sleep apps. Morning rituals. Northern Irish politics. Coffee. The nifty Llama Lloyd logo designed by a member of the band Psapp. The saying “Hårda bud i Mellerud”, which roughly translates as “It’s a hard life in Mellerud” (a locality in the west of Sweden) and is quoted by Robin and Otto each time they receive a pint of Melleruds beer.
Radisson Blu Riverside Hotel, Lindholmspiren 4 417 56 Gothenburg Sweden; +46 31 383 40 30, www.cuckoosnest.se/en
The climax of our Hisingen tour: Robin’s favourite venue in the city and our chance to explore the fertile common ground between death metal and veganism. The night’s main attraction, Pallbearer, a doom metal quartet from Arkansas, are already in full flow when we arrive, but we’re distracted by the frankly astonishing décor and the general ambiance, which is good-natured despite all the terrifying iconography: vivid images of death and hellfire, a five-pointed star made out of human bones, a freaky human-spider sculpture and a very Nordic-noir painting of an abandoned Volvo at dusk.
Wimps that we are, we weather Pallbearer’s crunching guitars for just a couple of minutes before slipping outside to the large concrete yard at the back of the venue, scurrying back in a couple of times to stock up on beer and very delicious vegan offerings.
What we had: Cans of Tuborg all round and surprisingly good falafels.
What we talked about: At this point, as we grow faint from lack of meat, excess of beer and the pervasive drone of American doom metal, written and mental records of our conversation get a little sketchy.
Karlavagnsgatan 13, 417 56 Göteborg, Sweden; www.truckstopalaska.se