In late November last year, Y and I finally concluded the year completing some new destinations in our bucket list of places to visit. It was a Nordic centric trip with gal pals – GS and AL, centering around visiting cities from Stockholm to Tromso, Norway and Iceland – the latter 2 places to catch some Northern Lights if we were lucky enough, and to just enjoy the larger than life, breathtaking views that these 2 countries were so well known for.
Enjoying the short daylight in Stockholm on the way to Grand Hotel.
This first post of our exciting 2 week long Nordic trip, started in Stockholm after a whirlwind stop in London to catch up with old friends. Stockholm is the capital and also the largest city of Sweden with 2.1 million inhabitants, according to their tourism site. Somehow, we weren’t really keen on doing the scenic spots here like visiting the famous warship Vasa or visiting the Royal Palace, but rather decided just to enjoy the city, by walking around and of course with food as our focus. We stayed at the boutique hotel – Nobis Hotel, a great location in the heart of Stockholm to explore the city on foot and anywhere we wanted to go was just a short taxi ride away.
Nobis Hotel – looks like a cute gingerbread house.
Getting ready to explore the town, taking a rest in Nobis Hotel lobby.
Stockholm in recent years has finally been more recognised on the culinary map, and they do deserve it by the few restaurants I had the privilege to dine at. Even when speaking with the manager at 2 Michelin-Star Oaxen Krog, he laughingly mentioned that Stockholm’s restaurants have always seemed to be overshadowed by their bigger ‘brother’ – in Copenhagen with the likes of Noma and Geranium becoming one of Europe’s hottest culinary destinations. ‘New Nordic Cuisine’ is the buzzword heard frequently in describing the Swedish culinary scene – effectively, it’s really showcasing their Scandinavian culinary traditions in an innovative approach, with a lot of focus on locally produced, and foraged ingredients. Here’s my few favourites worth trying.
Matbaren Located in Grand Hotel, Sodra Blasieholmshamnen 6, Stockholm,111 48, Sweden Tel: +46 8 679 35 84. Reservations a must although they usually reserve a few seats for walk ins, can book online.
For our first lunch in Stockholm, we visited Matbaren, a slightly more casual concept by Mathias Dalgren located just next to the 2 Michelin-Star fine dining restaurant named after the chef himself. I just didn’t feel like overall stuff formal dining food, and this seemed a good way to start our way eating through the few that I had booked for the 3 nights in Stockholm. The restaurant has a modern bistro feel, and we were seated by the bar in front of the kitchen, which I prefer to see where the action is. The dishes here are designed based on the seasonal fresh produce daily and can change depending on what’s available. I decided to order 2 dishes followed by a dessert. Generally, I don’t like beetroot but I love the taste in Europe as it’s especially sweet, and doing a pork well ain’t easy, and both dishes didn’t disappoint. The meal averaged probably around S$100 a person but for such quality and compared to its sister restaurant bigger price tag, the price here for the food was decent.
- The salt-baked beetroots – truffle, jerusalem artichoke, aged cheese (265 SEK)
- Pork belly from Nibble Farm – apple, red cabbage, ginger (255 SEK)
- Dessert used pineapple as a focus (oops forgot the name here)
Having my main course (top), and my favourite fruit in a dessert (below).
Agrikultur Roslagsgatan 43, 113 54 Stockholm, Sweden Tel: +46 8 15 02 02
Having read quite a few reviews that this is one of the new rising stars on the culinary scene – helmed by Rising star and Chef of the Year 2014 Filip Fastén (formerly of restaurant Frantzén, which was closed for good when I was there!), it piqued my interest to check out this cosy 24 seat restaurant, plus it might be the closest thing to trying out what Frantzen did when it was still opened. The interiors were as I expected with dim lighting and nice personal service from the staff. The menu daily is a 5 course menu (including what they call snacks to start off) at 655 SEK. Dishes centre around what is foraged and sourced daily from local dairies, farms, ranches, and forests.
The starters were simple but exceptionally good – white truffle with potato chips and a black pudding inspired item. The artichoke, my favourite vegetable, was done beautifully and I loved the deer meat, our main course which was super tender served with some local berries and the most tender onions. The meal ended with the dessert – served in 2 ways, we had the raspberry cake that came in a giant cast iron pan, served with some ice cream on the side. They also served us the traditional Swedish raspberry cookies known as Hallongrottor which was just yums and set a really high bar for these biscuits, which was not easy to find anything similar to that in the cafes I went to unfortunately. We spent 3215 SEK for 3 ladies and a bear which included a red wine that cost 1250 SEK.
Interiors of Agrikultur
Enjoying some fine deer meat. <Sorry Bambi>
Raspberry cake and Raspberry biscuits. Yummy!
Ekstedt Humlegårdsgatan 17, 114 46 Stockholm, Sweden, Tel: +46 8 611 12 10. Reservations a must.
On our second night in Stockholm, we visited another much lauded acclaimed restaurant and the key one that I couldn’t wait to try. Chef cum restaurant owner – Niklas Ekstedt takes on a different approach here to the whole Nordic or Swedish cuisine movement. It’s all about the FIRE here. The focus in this 1 Michelin-star restaurant is everything is cooked over a live fire – we are talking about going back to basics using just charcoal and smoke and not the modernised gas stoves in our homes. Their philosophy is by exposing the food to heat, smoke, it can create new interesting flavours and an unexpected gastronomical experience for guests. Ekstedt has a cookbook released under the same name with recipes that apparently one can do at home, but I rather just try the food here as a start, lest my paws get burnt in the process, heh heh. They offer a choice of 6 courses at 1090 SEK or 4 courses at 890 SEK, a no brainer – of course we went for the 6-course.
The restaurant and an into to what Ekstedt is all about.
The menu was really interesting and brought us through a nice mix from seafood to meats. The original menu featured a lamb which some of us don’t eat, so they replaced it with a pike perch which was pretty scrumptious. My all time favourite dish here had to be the sweetbreads which I think is the best one I have tried in my life to date!
We started with a moose and mushroom and lingen berries sautéed in hot iron pot with crackers, the hot pot was served to the table, after which it was cooked on the spot and we were meant to quickly smother this lovely mixture on the crackers and eat it. It was my first time eating moose, which was pretty tender and didn’t taste gamey at all. The menu followed after
1. Charcoal grilled Lobster with tomato and kohirabi – this was served on a stick with consomme
2. Oyster with melted beef fat and seared, served with apple – this was an additional nice surprise dish from the kitchen
3. Dried and smoked reindeer, and grated on top were smallish pink dots with baked leek and vendace roe, served with charcoal cream. This was my first time also trying out vendace roe, which I researched is a local Northern Swedish delicacy, their own kind of caviar produced from the fish Vendace. The flavours here were quite unexpected and interesting.
4. Sweetbreads cooked over charcoal – seriously I would come back to eat this in a heartbeat!
5. Juniper smoked turbot with butter foam and chanterelles, with potato and bottarga on side
6. From the fire- pike perch with goats cheese served with winter truffle from Tuscany and grilled vegetables
7. Dessert – buttermilk crepes cooked flambé on the table, and served on the side with pine ice cream and apple. I felt like I was almost eating a Christmas tree, the smell and taste of pine in the ice cream was quite original.
8. Donuts with cloudberries stuffing- this was a yummy bonus which was just lovely. Cloudberries is another local Swedish berry.
Bye Ekstedt, one of my most memorable meals in Stockholm by far.
Oaxen Krog Beckholmsvägen 26, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden, Tel: +46 8 551 531 05. Reservations a must, can book on their website.
This 2 Michelin star restaurant (since 2015 had the 2nd star) located by the waterside, has a lovely idyllic location, and it houses their fine dining Oaxen Krog as well as the more laidback bistro Oaxen Slip, founded by Magnus Ek (chef and owner) with his wife. The interiors of the ‘fine dining’ is nothing stuffy at all, tables are spaced out and nicely complemented with contemporary interiors, with that touch of Scandi in the furniture choices. From our table, we could see from a distance the open kitchen, where interesting dishes will be fired up for us to try.
Our 10 course menu and the interiors.
When in doubt, order a Barolo.
Our first course of Reindeer and Vendace roe served on crisps – so beautiful!
I read before that at Oaxen Krog, they pay alot of attention to ensuring all ingredients are ethically sourced and farmed and the quality is never compromised, and the produce shone through their natural flavours with the modern cooking techniques adopted. I wouldn’t have thought of eating reindeer and vendace roe in a mouthful together for instance – something that surprised me for the first dish. The first half of the menu featured lighter dishes, but comprising of interesting combinations and flavours, and while we approached into the 2nd half of the course, the crowd favourite meats and fish such as turbot, quail, and pork appeared and they were done so beautifully. It was nice how they balanced the 10 course menu in this way, but still I was super stuffed by the time desserts arrived. The presentation of the dishes were also top notch and it’s a waste if I exclude any of them, so enjoy the images below. My favourite by far was definitely the quail and Linderod pork, and I loved their choc truffles box served after dessert, served in a beautiful box complete with a menu on the different chocolates in it. It was a nice take home gift to end the meal. Enjoy the beautiful food images in the slideshow below.
Me and Owner/Chef Magnus Ek!
In addition to these more formal dining restaurants, I also had the chance to eat a pretty kickass Swedish meatball located in the Old Town of Stockholm, thanks to a Chinese girl we met in Acne boutique. It always helps to speak to locals especially when checking out super local casual food. We arrived at Stockholm Gastabud (Österlånggatan 7, 111 31 Stockholm, Sweden, Tel: +46 8 21 99 21) after a long day of walking around the streets of Gamla Stan / Old Town which is quite charming. It looks like a simple casual restaurant that may be the last place I would even expect to serve Swedish meatballs, and they lived up, it’s like how can anyone eat the ones from Ikea after having these ones. They are super large, the sauce was delicious, the meatballs had a nice texture and bite to it, perfect for a ‘tea time snack’ and escape from the cold.
Walking around the streets of Gamla Stam near Gastabud
Giant and delicious Swedish meatballs at Gastabud.
For a pre-dinner or after dinner drink, I have to highly highly recommend this super cool bar – Pharmarium (Stortorget 7 111 29 Stockholm, Tel:+46 (0) 8 20 08 10) located also in the Old Town – which we visited after our Swedish meatballs, since there wasn’t much to see by then at 6 pm. The concept of the bar is inspired by Swedish’s first pharmacy which was open in 1575 to the public in this same area. The interiors almost resemble some kind of cool intoxicating 18th century medicinal hall cum opium den. The walls are adorned with wall to wall medicine cabinets, framed flowers in liquor bottles and more. It’s got just the right mix of quirkiness which I love, and the menu is quite special as well beautiful printed graphics for every cocktail and food item in their menu. Their bloody Mary is a signature which one of the gals ordered, while I went for something called Tonka Tonic which was a gin based with blueberries – both my loves but erm tasted a bit more like cough mixture! A tip is to make a reservation if you have a big group as it seems especially crowded during pre dinner on a weekday, the downside to us being here was we waited around 30 mins for our drink to come since only one mixologist was making everything.
One of their accolades on the wall
Beautiful graphics in the menu
Flowers in the wall
My cocktail which ended up tasting a bit like a cough mixture, LOL.
From dinners, drinks to coffee and breakfast which I will end off this post with. I read so much about the cafe culture in Stockholm, but honestly I was a tad disappointed with the standards of the coffee, and I realised after drinking through some places, I think they general like the coffee pretty light and rather acidic, as compared to the well roasted, robust yet smooth flavours I am used to with Australian coffee. And the quintessential Stockholm breakfasts may not be something I realised I could eat daily. They can be rather sweet with their type of local pastries, and eggs didn’t seem to feature so often. Anyhow here’s some of the better ones of the lot, if you need a perk me up in the morning.
Kaffeverket Snickarbacken 7, 111 39 Stockholm, Sweden (Open from 10.30 am)
I would recommend to come to this place more to hang out as it’s got a great ambience, and has a gallery shop attached to it. The breakfast options were not so healthy, and pastries, and breads featured heavily. The cinnamon dusted cream cheese toast was pretty happening though, including the calories that came with it.
Inside Kaffeverket, pretty cool cafe
Gallery shop in Kaffeverket
I had to move seat after realising the small picturesque table wasn’t going to fit all the food I ordered.
Another super great local place that our concierge at Nobis Hotel recommended for breakfast was at Cafe Saturnus (Eriksbergsgatan 6, Tel: +46 8 611 77 00), where he said had pretty good cinnamon rolls – yes it’s a must to try in Stockholm, it’s a national pastry. Plus the coffee here was the best we’ve had in the entire 3 days we were in Stockholm.
My breakfast spread at Cafe Saturnus.
When you get tired of the Swedish style of breakfasts like us and you are craving for pancakes, eggs benedict, you gotta try Greasy Spoon (Tjärhovsgatan 19, 116 28 Stockholm, Sweden, Tel: +46 72 264 20 97, Walk ins only, no reservations), serving just typical American style type of breakfasts that I rather have. We had the french toast, blueberry pancakes (fairly decent), smoked salmon eggs benedict, and the chipotle braised pork and cornbread for our late breakfast, which was just so satisfying! The coffee here though can be improved.
My breakfast spread at Greasy Spoon.
In our quest to constantly search for some decent coffee in Stockholm, we heard that Johan & Nystrom (Swedenborgsgatan 7) is probably as good as it gets. Their store in South Stockholm, near Old Town, is a cafe, training room, coffee and tea bar. Although the coffee was still rather light for me, but I do like the cosy corners they have created in the shop space, and was definitely a perfect place to while away the time on a really cold day in Stockholm.
At Johan & Nystrom
So in a nutshell, I am glad I ticked off Stockholm from my list as even though there’s definitely an interesting culinary food scene, I didn’t feel the city was as pretty as it’s other sister countries like Copenhagen or offered as much in terms of sights that appealed to me. I am glad I got to eat at some of these yummy restaurants as I don’t think I will be returning anytime soon for sure!
My Christmas tree shot at Grand Hotel.
Sunset in Stockholm