Almost all of our preferences and aversions to flavour are learned and we find out by experience what we like and dislike.
Humans are born with a liking for sweetness and we have an innate dislike for bitterness, but beyond these our reaction to smell and taste is moulded by our social upbringing, food availability and personal associations with pleasurable or painful moments. However, we can learn to like new flavours, such as coffee and vegemite.
Similarly, the term “Stockholm Syndrome” describes the behaviour of kidnap victims who, over time, adapt and become sympathetic to their captors. It is an evolutionary mechanism for people who are abducted by other tribes.
Stockholm Syndrome Café Bar specialises in Swedish/Australian cuisine. Located in what used to be Ciao Baby, the décor is sort of “captive basement” – exposed brick walls, pressed metal ceilings, naked light bulbs and a range of mismatching furniture. It is quite noisy, being on the main road, but the atmosphere is busy and service friendly, although a bit slow.
The food is an interesting range of Scandinavian flavours – gravalax, Swedish meatballs, potato casserole and lots of cabbage. For entrée we shared Meat Filled Cabbage Rolls with lingonberries on a bacon and pea mash ($10) which were tasty but a little bland. For mains I had the Beef Steak with Chilli Cabbage ($23.50) which was well cooked but the cabbage and accompanying bacon sauce was overly puréed. The Crispy Grilled Salmon with Saffron Sauce ($21) was well cooked and full of flavour but the two large spinach and cheese ravioli served with it were doughy and tough.
The Princess Slice with lingonberry sorbet ($10.50) was a little too sweet for my taste whilst the Blueberry Pancakes ($8) were served with an overpowering almond ice cream and a slightly strange basil pesto.
The food at Stockholm Syndrome is different but interesting and generally well cooked, although some of the flavour matches are odd and many of the sides are overly puréed leaving little texture. The food is simple with reasonable prices and an acceptable wine list, as well as Swedish ciders and beer.
It may take a couple of visits to really appreciate the traditional Scandinavian flavours – but if you go enough, you may (like Patty Hearst, the publishing heiress kidnapped in 1974) adapt, be converted and want to stay with them!