One of my nephew Kai’s fondest memories of growing up is going to IKEA with his mum and eating the meatballs.

I know what he means. It’s the highlight of any visit to IKEA for me too.

So you can imagine my delight when I got to visit the IKEA Museum in Ålmhult on my recent trip to Sweden and meet the team of chefs knocking up a new range of meatballs that flatpack shoppers around the world will be tucking into very soon.

The state-of-the-art kitchen is part of the restaurant attached to the museum.

The museum is set in the very first IKEA store, opened way back in 1958.

The building, like the company, was ahead of its time.

It’s a bright white modernist concrete structure that rests on huge V-shaped pillars.

It looks as strikingly futuristic as it did when it opened nearly 70 years ago.

Meatball menu (Peter Moore)
IKEA Museum (Peter Moore)

The classic IKEA meatballs were developed by well-known Swedish chef Severin Sjöstedt in 1985. 

The recipe is as closely guarded a secret as the eleven herbs and spices used by KFC. Today the focus is on creating plant-based versions that taste the same but only have 4% of the carbon footprint of the traditional meatball.

I ordered a serving of the traditional meatballs with mashed potato, peas, gravy and a dash of lingenberry sauce on the side. 

Pontus Johansson, a sales leader and my guide for the day, suggested I should try the new meatballs they were developing – chicken, plant and veggie.

Two of each were put in the three small bowls by one of the chefs who was helping to develop them.

The restaurant at the IKEA Museum (Peter Moore)

The traditional meatballs were disconcertingly fresh and tender, without the slight rubbery resistance that I was used to with IKEA meatballs back home. 

The new variants were OK too, but as a confirmed carnivore I won’t be switching any time soon.

As I carried my plate back to the tray return station – a feature of every IKEA cafeteria, it seems –  I asked Pontus about something that has been bugging me for a while now.

Why did IKEA restaurants stop selling Princess Cake?

loved the IKEA version of this most Swedish of cakes. The sponge was light and fluffy. The cream was perfectly aerated. And the lime green marzipan thin and malleable and not at all sickly.

Why get rid of it?

Pontus shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t know. 

Then, on noticing my profound disappointment, he did a very Swedish thing. 

He suggested I start a petition.

I’ll let you know when it’s live on Change.org.

Only meatballs (Peter Moore)
Meatball wall at the IKEA Museum (Peter Moore)

Main image: Meatballs at the IKEA Museum (Peter Moore)