Hours of yumminess. Can it be too much? No, not in the company of Adam and Albin, who finally get to show off their cooking skills in their first real restaurant. We capitulate the moment a caramelised langoustine with a thin film of jowl meat from an Iberico pig arrives. Under the sea creature there are nice pieces of ginger-scented Iberico cheek, sprinkles of crispy potatoes and a layer of cool cucumber slices. Irresistibly beautiful and delicious. Umami meets meatiness, crunch and crispiness. The two super chefs Adam Dahlberg and Albin Wessman have transformed their “food studio” into an intimate restaurant with a homey feeling where plants, mirrored walls and spotlights create a nice atmosphere – along with cool music streaming from the speakers. The small entrance space contains a bar and closet. The communal table is a holdover from the past but the romantic corner table is new. Our gastronomic delight is at its highest when we dig into the dish that became most popular on White Guide’s instagram last year: a black ceramic dish filled with butter-yellow mashed potatoes that melt in your mouth, which you then mix with bright green chive cream, pale yellow sour cream and a dollop of orange bleak roe from Kalix with grated nutmeg. How can you go wrong with such a super combo? A fatty and tangy savagnin from Domaine Marne Blanches in French Jura heightens the flavours even more. There are no set wine pairings, but rather a discriminating wine list and a wine fridge from which many fun bottles emerge. The concept is that guests buy five servings at a fixed price; you start off with few snacks and select the rest from the menu. This is a good way to begin: a delicious mouthful of chestnut chips with chestnut cream and Brillat-Savarin cheese under a thin slice of raw mushroom. Subtle. An utterly beautiful plate comes next, comprised of thin slices of crudités in different colours – light green, light yellow, pink and white – which cover a piece of crab and French cream with cold-smoked oil. The next dish is a contrast, a hand-cut beef tartare in shades of brown that is no beauty. But – oh, what flavours when the white truffles mix with the egg yolk and toasted almonds in a deep broth made from roast beef! The wine is equally magical, a red Roncevie from Domaine Arnaud in Burgundy. It works well, even with a whole-roasted pigeon with sweetbreads, three different kinds of roasted cabbage and fennel cream. The irony flesh is balanced by the cream and contrasts with the sweetbreads’ caramelised notes. A lovely riesling spätlese from Weingut Vollenweider leads us to dessert. And who can resist a fresh bergamot sorbet with juicy blackberries paired with meringue topping and a powder of wine-red blackberries and green sencha tea? It is addicting, like most everything at Adam/Albin.
Few people in Sweden’s restaurant industry are as freely controversial as John Jureskog. Not just because he played Robespierre in the meat revolution Stockholm underwent a decade ago, but also because he still insists on the virtues of meat at a time when bloody steaks are as modern as fax machines. That’s nothing compared to the shock that swept through the masses of root vegetable hipsters, organic food freaks and sourdough disciples when Jureskog stepped down into fast food Hades and developed three gourmet burgers for McDonalds last year. Still, Jureskog is relentless in his mission. And total salvation is what you get at his meat temple on Kungsholmen. The entrance is like stepping into a horror movie. Heavy carcasses hang on shiny hooks in the huge glass fridge. Tiled walls have the right slaughterhouse vibe. The bizarre ham tree gives you the heebie-jeebies. The approach is brilliant and AG is one of Stockholm’s hottest and sexiest restaurants. The first course is a difficult choice between, say, air-dried Wagyu, lightly smoked bacon or pork pâté with pata negra, Parmesan cheese and pickled vegetables. The main courses are just as direct in their articulation. Some more complex dishes are available but one does best by ordering from the cuts in the fridge: Rib-eye, T-bone, club steak, porterhouse. The sides are classic, like béarnaise with fries or potatoes au gratin. Jureskog likes to go for the meat hot and hard and this lovingly harsh treatment of the excellent raw ingredients results in pieces so heavenly good that we ignore the facts about meat’s carbon footprint and instead let the sin become part of the spice.
You should treat yourself to a dinner menu at the always-packed hipster hole-in-the-wall all the way down on Roslagsgatan. Agrikultur has certainly found its home in the flavours, and the food is delicious, as it only can be from cooking on low heat and with lots of love. For there are happy cooks in this kitchen, and it’s not just a marketing ploy – it shows in the atmosphere. Sure, it can feel a little pretentious when Philip Fastén comes lugging in their firewood for the stove, but the grin on his face is far from affected. The presentations could easily be described as “heaps of food” – but who cares when it tastes this good? Like the comforting broth of over-night-roasted cabbage that kicks off the meal. It is poured from a chipped enamel coffee pot over a potato foam and Gotland truffles. What more could you ask for on a cold November night? The trout dish closely resembles a salad with raw, tender kale and smashed potatoes. “I’m going to splash some sauce over it”, says the chef as he swirls a delightful liaison sauce over the top, flecked with popping trout roe. For wine recommendations beyond "What do you like?" you must practically pester the staff, and this is where the relaxed philosophy goes a little overboard, because it’s difficult to judge from the menu what flavours might be hiding in the dishes. Like the umami-intense moose shank with caramelised beets, goat's cheese, black currants and a generous sauce. It’s only this good when, in Chef Fastén’s own words, “you have stopped making food to impress people”. Hats off to that.
There is a high ceiling at Aloë – both literally and when it comes to flavour. Few restaurants in Sweden take you on such a breathtaking journey through flavours and combinations from different food cultures. The chefs/owners Daniel Höglander and Niclas Jönsson tug and tease out flavours in order to develop new sensations for the palate. Their concept is that nothing should be taken as a given. One evening might be inspired by Asian flavours, another by North African – or some other cuisine that attracted exploration. But seasonal produce is always the foundation. The old grocery store in the suburb of Älvsjö is attracting more and more and more foodies – and they get a lot of inspiration for their money. Especially if they sit at the green marble counter overlooking the concentrated assemblage taking place in the kitchen. Four evenings a week they offer a fixed menu full of surprises. The professional service staff usher out large wooden serving trays. The Galician cockles are a big hit, intermingled with octopus arms under a grilled slice of lemon butter surrounded by light green parsley butter sauce. The minerality of the Portuguese Vale da Capucha wine enhance the experience. Sommelier Per Larsson’s wine selection is consistently spot on and the European-dominant wine list impressive. Aloë is behind one of the year’s most beautiful dishes: three quickly seared langoustines from Fjällbacka, passion fruit, crisps of arborio rice, Parmesan cheese and yogurt alongside an emulsion of smoked egg yolk and another of sambal badjak. After an intense kick-start of flavours, like a miso-flavoured crab with cardamom leaves, comes a soft Junmai sake as an in-between beverage to calm the over-stimulated senses. Then, pheasant heart on a satay skewer and grilled skin, and after that a lark: under a black blanket of amontillado sherry gelée hides a thin slice of steak stuffed with Parmesan cream in a parsley broth and, on the side, a dollop of roe. A syrah from McLaren Vale in Australia amplifies the refined umami and fatty acids. The chefs’ ambitions are high in each dish – like a dessert of fried apple ice cream, vanilla custard sauce flavoured with Jerusalem artichoke and yet another unexpected condiment: a dollop of barely frozen coriander cream attractively decorated with lemon verbena and crispy bread. They sure are having fun in the kitchen. Or, to quote Höglander: “We have to do something to keep the diners from falling asleep”!
Artipelag combines art and architecture, and the food is just as beautiful. The pines sway welcomingly when we arrive, and the waters of Baggensfjärden seem to stand up and wave. The dining room is modern and pared down. The maître d’ is jovial; he greets us with warmth and a boisterous laugh. It’s nice here, far out in the archipelago. The salad made from pickled celeriac, portabello, Jerusalem artichokes and farm eggs is candy to the eye, as well as for the palate. Greens from Artipelag’s roof are chopped up in the salad. More nature is served up during a casual yet exquisite outdoor barbecue buffet on summer weekends. It takes place at Bådan’s, the somewhat simpler restaurant on the ground floor. Late in the fall we eat bleak roe with nicely carved vegetables. The fish that follows comes at a price, but falls apart so nicely in sheer layers that we want to applaud. We conclude with a raspberry bavaroise and supernaturally good chocolate.
The upper level of this small, two-story restaurant, with its chequered floor and high bar tables is now a relaxed wine bar. B.A.R belongs to the natural wine school, Malmö’s current wine craze, and serves both classic Italian as well as wines in new, funky bottles with cocky labels. All are well matched by a knowledgeable and very friendly staff. Downstairs the ceiling height is low, carpet pads the bare tiles and the lights hang down, creating a warm glow over the tables along the walls. Here you sit a bit isolated, along with your party, which seems to help diners relax a bit more. The atmosphere is pleasant and easy-going. For some years now B.A.R has been looking for its identity in what nature offers nearby, and they seem to have found it now. The head chef’s carefully prepared food includes a lot of greens and berries, fermented, preserved and pickled, along with seasonal game. Among the starters a perfect, creamy poached egg with fried chanterelles distinguishes itself, along with lukewarm arugula, small pieces of bright pickled lemon, and a nice potato cream flavoured with sweet fermented garlic. With a mushroom broth poured over it to bind it all together, it becomes a pure umami dream. Even wild duck with intense rowanberries is appealing, while sloe berry ice cream with chervil dressing and buckwheat crisp would have been better suited to breakfast. The menu is short but whatever you choose, it’s sure to take your taste buds on an eventful journey through the countryside of Skåne.
The gang behind Babette has really become comfortable in their own skin and the little neighbourhood restaurant has become a popular watering hole for regulars, families with children and visitors from far away. The feeling of entering someone's private living room is accentuated by the cordial reception and broad smiles among the staff. Here there are no stiff pretensions, high-flown clichés, or lectures, but just good food, great wines, and an atmosphere that makes everyone feel welcome. Frida Hansson, who most recently comes from Eriks Wine Bar, is the latest sommelier addition at Babette and she guides us with an experienced hand among the restaurant's treats. The rustic wild duck terrine with pickled onions and a big slice of sourdough bread is washed down with a well-chosen glass of red and the combo is, as promised, very good. Even the fresh leafy green salad with a perfectly creamy egg, crunchy and salty pancetta, crispy beans and sour cream disappears in a flash down the hatch. One cannot come to Babette without trying one of the venue's famous pizzas. The legacy of the former pizzeria (yes, that was what was in the room before) has been refined and developed and today they serve some of the city’s most delicious pizzas. Smoked beef, soft-baked figs, Parmesan and spicy tomato sauce sounds as good as it is.
During the daytime tiny Bar Centro serves coffee. In the evenings, food and natural wines. The room is actually a bit too crowded, the tiled walls cold and the chairs somewhat harsh. But the cosiness factor is high regardless. On one glass wall stands the cheese menu, sloppily written with the associated numbers and a map so one can see where the goodies come from. We order the four-course dinner with the accompanying wine pairings. The place was previously run by the acclaimed duo, Tomas Reivinger and David Lilja Lundin, who have since left on a Stockholm adventure. Oskar Ahlvin and Harry Wong, who worked here even then, have now taken over. What a stroke of luck! The service is simple, honest, and smart, and so is the food. The quickly seared gem lettuce with oyster sauce and toasted almonds makes the strongest impression. “If I could just eat one dish for the rest of my life it would be this”, cries the head of our table with his mouth full of crisp lettuce and buttery, sea-flavoured sauce. We ask for the recipe for the sauce and receive it. Thanks, Chef Harry! The baked onion with teriyaki sauce and homemade fake truffle is fun. Sure, mushrooms, almonds, black sesame seeds and butter tastes kind of like truffles. Oskar delivers one wine after another and they all happily dance with the dishes. The 1998 aged riesling from Mosel is wonderful with our miso parfait and pear compote. There are no “wet basement” or oxidized notes here (as some wine experts warn when it comes to natural wines). Imagine being able to enjoy such an imaginative and honest, well-made meal on an ordinary Thursday evening.
When a place has been hot for as long as Bastard has, it’s not unlikely that the autopilot might kick on now and then. If that has happened here, no one is the wiser. Instead the ingredients, atmosphere, service, and guests have resounded in beautiful harmony for almost eight years, and very, very seldom sounds a false note. In the beginning the restaurant was known for odd cuts of meat, for the pig figurines scattered all over the place, and the plank with delicious charcuterie that’s a permanent fixture on the menu. But Bastard’s best-kept secret is that this meat restaurant, which eventually toned down the more visceral elements, often shines brightest when it comes to the vegetables. Vegetables now constitute two, three, no, four dishes on the menu and they are so good that they steal the show from a pig’s cheek. Take the beautiful, pickled orange coils of pumpkin, for example, with watercress and roasted pumpkin seeds on an herby bed, or the umami-packed cold Gruyère tart. Naturally, we drink wine with all this, which the skilful waiter matches with precision. The desserts are another of Bastard’s trump cards, where one usually finds ice cream, like one made of brown butter with rosemary, caramel, and toasted hazelnuts – so good it makes you melt. The environment and atmosphere is something special here, especially in summer in the Wes Anderson-like inner courtyard by the giant wood-burning oven where Malmö’s tastiest pizzas are baked.
Light charcoal and grays. Wood and wool. The interior got a redesign in 2015 and breathes Scandinavian. It plays well with the New Nordic cooking that Niclas Yngvesson and Gustav Knutsson have become known for. If restaurants were measured in dog years, Bhoga would be about 35 by now and in its prime, and that would explain the maturity, self-assurance, creativity and courage that characterise the experience. Everything they touch gets turned and twisted around, tried and tested, and all with a rare sense of calm and confidence. Diners can choose the menu of five courses, or expand it to seven or nine, all beautifully presented on rough, elegant ceramics. The initial brown-buttery pumpkin tartlet and corresponding pumpkin broth with a vinegar note makes you forget the squash’s sugary-sweet Halloween associations. A fino sherry is a nice pairing, but so is the recommended Bellini cocktail, which has been delicately showered in absinthe. A scallop comes with an unusual and lovely seared exterior and rests in a buttery Ingrid Marie apple broth seasoned with thyme. Those who like the plant kingdom are in luck, for they use animals more like a seasoning here. One example is the perfectly round disc of celeriac confidently seared and topped with yogurt and crushed crunchy chicken skin – but it’s the fresh tarragon leaves that add to the simultaneous feeling of over-indulgence and elegance. So lovely! The mushroom dish is a bit like Bhoga personified: a porcini cream forms a luxurious cushion for the fungi of the year, the king oyster mushroom, lightly pan-fried, flanked by opposition in the form of crunchy buckwheat and raw mushroom slices. Beside it lies a pool of emulsified cream ale, topped with rose hip powder. The contrasts are sublime – in texture, flavour and appearance. It’s hard to say what we like most, the idea or the taste. On the whole, everything related to beer here is done well, from the selection to the matching, to the knowledge and enthusiasm. Those who choose the beer pairings get a journey through time and space. The wines are natural and biodynamic. Thoughtful non-alcoholic pairings are also available. A Muscovy duck (a native Swedish breed) attractively plated on a cream of fermented cherries is the only real meat dish. It comes with a flurry of zealously groomed Brussels sprout leaves and on the side, a crispy rye bun with a hint of fermented garlic. It’s the evening’s hit combo. Then comes cheese and wine. A smooth cream of Anno 1225 cheese from Almnäs topped with a ruffle of grated chervil makes the taste buds turn somersaults with a 13-year-old auslese riesling. The tempo is high without ever feeling stressed. The service is relaxed and charming. Each serving is beautiful and balanced. We get our Ethiopian coffee served in wine glasses, and why not? At Bhoga, anything goes.
In the simple, low-profile building located in a sculpture park a few kilometres outside Umeå, Peter Stenmark and Jacob Markström have created a unique gathering place among the artwork, pines and birches. A favourite of Umeå residents, it brings together families with children, older couples, girlfriends and colleagues, who are all met by the experienced and confident staff. Self-confidence is at its peak in the kitchen, but without being snobby or exaggerated. Year after year this charming restaurant continues to deliver well-prepared and stylish dishes. The menu changes more and more often and is completely seasonally based, and sometimes experimental – though blackened Fröya salmon with tart apples, sharp horseradish and smoked sour cream is not the most successful combo. The house-stuffed duck and truffle sausage, on the other hand, has just the right amount of truffle and it’s our clear favourite together with the foie gras sauce and a buttery purée of almond potatoes. The menus are mostly composted of French and rustic Norrland dishes, and the portions are seriously sized. When it comes to the beverages there is an equally careful selection and the service staff happily suggest beer from some of the region’s microbreweries.
We ascend the stairs to the inconspicuous villa on the outskirts of Pildammsparken full of expectations. In the gold-shimmering entrance stands an energised group of young men and women prepared to make a night of it. “Good evening, welcome”. (Everything is in English here.) We get no menu; we cannot know what is being served. “Are you nervous?” The show can begin. It is a five-course tasting menu (that’s no secret), but the star of the kitchen, Chef Titti Qvarnström will ensure that there are at least ten trips to the table, and all at a furious pace. The amuse-bouches are brilliant, like a divine oyster in its foam, which we recognise; raw, grated cauliflower; scallop accompanied by tangy dabs of yuzu and seaweed; and watercress with sea buckthorn berries. On the latter, a pitch black bread – black with blood? No. Octopus? No. It is activated carbon! Small, nice, dark pink pieces of game? It is the heart of the deer. A 2011 merlot from Blaxsta contributes with a note of berries and flowers. But what is the cute little mini-burger made out of? Taste it! Otherwise you will not know that it is bull testicle. A blue-blooded piece of... bird? It is wild duck, with tart apple cream, cubes of rutabaga and turnip, along with pieces of the thigh in flavourful autumnal alliance with black trumpet and parasol mushrooms. A small, elegant pan-seared potato and pistachio dumpling with nice pieces of bacon becomes the evening’s most memorable dessert. Then Bloom’s famous tube containing a chartreuse mixture of ginger and green tea arrives, overflowing with smoke from the dried ice, and waiting to be downed. Dazed, we head out into the park, full of hindsight.
The dining room must be one of the most beautiful in Sweden, still in its original condition, created by Ferdinand Boberg, the architect of the NK department store. Crystal chandeliers, wood-panelled walls in light birch. Its low-key luxury and glamor is conducive to extravagant lunches. If you are lucky and get a window seat the view over Kungsträdgården and off toward the water is breathtaking. The staff consist of the kind of hospitality professionals who know whether or not it’s appropriate to fit in a little joke. In the kitchen, it’s Bjorn Frantzén who sets the tone, from a superb shrimp salad served on a marble tray to the rustic favourite that many flock here for: homemade blood pudding doused with both cognac and port wine. A little pan with gratinated scallops makes a masterful introduction, perfectly cooked with luscious truffle cream and a hint of Parmesan cheese, watercress and chives. Small, delicate croutons add crunch and it’s topped with plenty of finely sliced truffles. A glass of petit chablis is the finishing touch. After that comes tender, juicy pieces of seared country chicken and crispy skin in a smooth tarragon velouté with bright small gems of corn, beans, savoy cabbage and soft, pressed almond potatoes. The dill for the cured salmon is clipped with scissors over the plate and the lemon half is thoughtfully wrapped in gauze to prevent the seeds from falling out. Then a finish that brings a tear to the eye: caramel tart with poached pears baked inside, topped by an almond milk sorbet. The desserts are a hallmark here and presented accordingly, on a trolley.
Bord 13 was originally conceived as the casual dining side of B.A.R – but the division has never been spot on, and the food here has always been too good for the narrow concept of a wine bar. Now instead the mother restaurant has been bistro-fied (à la carte) and Bord 13 has gone fine dining (menu only) – a wise decision, because the innovative, flavourful, and natural food cooked here is fully capable of fighting it out at the top of Malmö’s restaurant range. The service is quick and friendly, without unnecessary flourishes and, above all, they are well versed in what is served on the plate and in the glass. We begin with Sylvain Bock’s Trou Blanc – funky, unfiltered and wonderfully versatile. It works with the small “eyes” of bone marrow fat, red beets and dark chocolate, as well as with the lamb tartare with small crunchy flakes of chicken skin, encompassing both the elderflower cream and the pickled rose petals. Like all wines here it is produced with minimal intervention from the winemaker. Pontus Elofsson (formerly of Noma and now a natural wine importer) and his predilection for natural processes is evident in the extensive selection. In fact, Bord 13 is one of the best places in Sweden to explore this wine category. The same philosophy also encompasses the kitchen, where neither red-listed fish nor medicated mammals shall cross the threshold. So it is with a clear conscience that we take a little more of the bright green pig fat with accompanying pork sprinkles served with the dark bread made with wheat from the island of Öland and Danish porter. The next dish could be called a seasonal hit with its nutty, raw-planed chestnuts and beurre blanc, baked kohlrabi, pine needles and saithe powder. And the matching juice made from pressed apples with lemon thyme is spot on. It is a low-intensity dish, filled with interesting textures, in which every mouthful contains a new dimension. The contrast could not be greater with the wild duck that follows. It is intense, bloody, and dramatic with sweetness from carrot, acidity from the plums and dried blueberries, crispiness from the fried kale and deeply flavoured with black garlic. The Valencia wine from the Bodegas Cueva fits like a glove. We calm our nerves with a fluffed curdled cream with salty caramel sauce, cacao nibs, pine oil and rosemary – a delicate encounter between the classic and New Nordic dessert traditions that provides both an interesting gastronomic experience and (not least) soothes the sweet tooth. Bord 13 presents modern cuisine at a masterful level – complex but at the same time as nakedly clean as the room it's served in.
For more than 30 years Karin Fransson and her husband Owe have been running this inn on Öland, she at the pots and he standing ready with a highlighter pen at his podium to check off the evening’s guests. Mrs. Fransson’s kitchen is sophisticatedly elegant, with its own high profile. She has made a name for herself – close to the status of international legend – by using exciting local flowers, leaves and herbs, popularizing the use of everything from marigolds to oysterleaf. Now it seems as if “the herb queen of the island” has turned up her technique ambitions (perhaps because of the star that landed on the place in 2016), somewhat overshadowing the focus on local ingredients. We are served sourdough bread with liquorice, and butter whipped with white balsamic, and goat's cheese cream topped with lovage. Not a lot of Öland there. Late summer has always been the best season to enjoy Borgholm’s gastronomy, when it’s based around beets, summer chanterelles, lamb, sweetbreads and always strawberries and of course, seasonings from their own herb garden. The lamb now comes from the mainland, though the waiter does not know exactly where. Sometimes it can be nice not have to hear where each plant had its root or in which pasture the lamb fell silent, but we wish the staff were more knowledgeable, or ready and willing to return with an answer when they are not. The elevated technical level and the eagerness to modernize many components and structures do not always hit their mark. Sure, the steamed turbot works with elderflower-perfumed green pea sauce and lesser calamint, even if it comes with “pacotized” yoghurt and lemon-flavoured snow. But a slow-braised veal tongue with fried sweetbreads topped by “street food onion rings” and red onions, raspberries, caperberries and oxalis flowers scattered around the plate simply does not come together, and is hardly helped by “red beet” in five consistencies. Rather, one of the tasting menu’s best dishes is a wonderfully simple radish, thinly sliced and served in brown butter with a sourdough cracker on the side. With eager anticipation we look forward to the wine tasting dinners that Owe Fransson mentions he is thinking about starting so that visitors get a chance to taste the many treats on their wine list, including a particularly impressive Pomerol section.
Make your way around Kjell Engman’s blue glass bar at Kosta Boda Art Hotel and slip in through an inconspicuous door. A half flight down reigns Chef Edin Dzemat, White Guide’s Rising Star of the Year in 2014, and the winner of Sweden’s chef competition TV show in 2016. Compared to the hotel’s main restaurant, the notes here are muted wood and dark metals. The flirtation with the glassworks’ history is apparent. With this cosy environment as a framework Edin Dzemat’s dishes function as small works of art, carefully conceived, down to the smallest crust and crisp. In fact, Dzemat himself stands out in the dining room, adding final touches to each plate. The menu is constructed in the spirit of the times, around small plates. Two to three should be enough, depending on what you order. When Dzemat worked at Linnéa in Gothenburg he developed a signature dish (named White Guide’s Dish of the Year in 2014), and you can also get it here: pan-fried lobster with iced lingonberries and brown butter sauce. Beautiful as a painting, the lobster’s sweetness and soft sauce are broken by tangy lingonberries. “39° char” is a subtle taste sensation in small format, with grilled asparagus as rustic buttresses. Those who yearn for something more substantial can delve into the perfectly pink venison with cream of porcini mushrooms and tangy ramson capers. A blackened salmon is more modest, made good by a light crust of toasted rye bread. Beef tartare is served spread out on the plate with minimally chopped crunchy potato sticks on top. From the cellar, which is now integrated into the dining room, you can order a number of wines by the glass. The service follows the diners’ pace responsively, although there is some imbalance in the level of knowledge.
Like at its sister restaurant Babette in Vasastan that opened in 2015, the atmosphere at Café Nizza is characterised by the well-renowned ownership team. The carefree attitude, down-played food arrangements and relaxed but knowledgeable wine service is understandable when you know that their previous experience comes from star restaurants like Frantzén and Fäviken where the work in the strictly formatted dining rooms is rigorous and prescribed. And if, like Café Nizza, you plan to be open from noon to midnight all week long, you have to be able to relax. The wine selection is refreshingly different, partly because one of the restaurateurs runs a wine import company with a niche portfolio, partly because the gang’s collective years at the aforementioned restaurants has given them a network that extends to the most obscure producers and importers. Here the dishes change every lunch and dinner, but are served on the same round, toned-down, white porcelain. The offerings at lunch have been a little uneven. Sometimes sad, sometimes sleepy. But the evenings are already proving that the place suits their Södermalm clientele to a T. Especially when the extra leaves go into the round wooden table in the middle of the tiled dining room floor to accommodate a large party. Then this place could just as easily pass for a noisy neighbourhood restaurant in Paris.
You might not know it, but not so long ago, Luma used to make light bulbs here by the docks. Now, when you cross the threshold into the remodelled factory, a completely different production is underway. On the wall in the entrance to the sparsely decorated but warm and cosy restaurant venue, you can see how the process of brewing beer works. In this building they make a number of excellent beers, as well as some creative fare. The delicious small clams have been boiled in their own Keller Bier, a malty pale lager, which was a singularly good idea. There are long tables for groups of spirited colleagues out for happy hour, and small tables for two. A brilliant beef tartare is beautifully presented with dabs of porcini cream, rings of pickled onions and crispy-crackly malt. The fried red shrimp enters on a rustic wooden board with a round dollop of mayo, spiced with Mexican Tajín. The burger is rightly a favourite, made with chuck steak, brisket, and marrow, and served with perfect fries. But can you drink beer with dessert? In a place where the focus is on beer, apple strudel fits like a glove. They serve it with hazelnut ice cream and a glass of Primus Lux, the first beer that was produced here. The strong, dark ale fits splendidly with the apple. The ever-present service staff do everything to make you comfortable and give you a little beer knowledge along with something good to eat.
Norrbotten constitutes a quarter of Sweden and supplies a fantastic larder, filled with unique and pure ingredients from the mountains, the forests and the pristine rivers. And there are, of course, many restaurants that endeavour to create their own variations on reindeer, elk, grouse, caviar, char, cloudberries and more. But not everyone succeeds in refining and developing these genuine ingredients and innovating the experience on the plates throughout the whole meal. A lot of places serve good, well prepared food, but it tends to taste quite similar. There are exceptions, however, and they sparkle like the flaming northern lights. Like CG’s in Luleå, where they have taken steps to cement the place as one of northern Sweden’s sharpest and most creative restaurants. Here those authentic and pure flavours are in the centre. The sauces are balanced and served in small pitchers next to the perfectly prepared venison and Arctic char fillets, which have been touched with the exact amount of salt and spices to bring out the genuine flavours and coax forth sighs of culinary happiness. The plaice is one of the most beautifully composed dishes we’ve seen in a long time. Finish off with the cheese board from the heavenly kingdom of happy cows and a couple of sweet dessert wines. Everyone feels taken care of at CG, which makes them return to the welcoming warmth again and again.
We’re pretty sure that the general health of the Swedish populace would improve if doctors could prescribe visits to Daniel Berlin. The experience has been fine-tuned even more this year and, without sacrificing the friendly and familiar hospitality, they have sneaked in several small attractive service elements. The outdoor pause, for example, has been expanded to a small buffet around fire baskets and kerosene lamps where the cooks feed us small flavour-packed Brussels sprouts from a stalk just taken out of the garden and sweet chestnut pancakes with leeks and ramson capers. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. After the welcome at the farm by the Berlin clan, Sweden’s most service-minded restaurant manager Ellinor Lindblom kicks off the show at 18:30 sharp. Come on time, because everyone eats in the same sitting. The cavalcade of snacks is brilliant, with a mix of new and old hits. The thin wafer with wildfowl liver mousse and its subtle cinnamon dusting is still one of the yummiest things that has been served in Swedish restaurant history. But there are also new favourites like “the lobster sandwich” topped with dried umami-intense lobster bullion; the little tribute to Skåne in the form of a yeasted pancake with vinegar pork and an icy, fast-melting disk of frozen horseradish cream; and the bright green sorbet egg made from frozen Aroma apples and wild sorrel. The bread serving proves that Berlin’s crew knows when to make things complicated and when to respect simplicity. The bowls contain goat and cow’s milk butter from Vilhelmsdal. No more, no less. But what butter! We could live for a week on that butter and the plump, honey-sweet, four-grain bread. The traditional homage to the artist of the season (Lena Nilsson with underwater-inspired art) is a composition of raw shrimp, tangled seaweed, beets, and pressed rhubarb, eerily well balanced with an intense seafood sweetness, with dill oil to bind the dish together. The charcoal-grilled celeriac with its broth made from Prästost cheese is still here, but returning visitors get a variation in which the same root vegetable is served as a beautiful mille-feuille with opal plums, and smoked wild boar jus. The cod is prepared to iridescent perfection and served with a slightly smoky, frothy butter sauce, onion, and apple. Simple. Obvious. Intelligent. And terribly good. After the break, there’s laughter and fraternization (how often do you get to talk with your fellow diners at top restaurants?), and the wild duck comes in. Heart, breast, fillet, and fried tongue. It comes with a few dabs of slightly different sauces, but they feel almost superfluous once we sink our teeth into the bird. Berlin has mastered game like no one else. The meat is cooked with extreme precision in order to maximise the bird’s deep, muted, iron flavours. The desserts are worth a chapter of their own. First a lukewarm cream of Amandine potatoes is paired with a tart chokeberry sorbet and ground elder oil. An unlikely smash hit. Less unpredictable, but oh-so-irresistible is the combo of ice cream, salty meringue and rosemary caramel. Then it’s off to mother Berlin’s greenhouse where the Kenyan coffee beans are first pressed with the Aero Press and then served with a thin tuile of local bean-to-bar chocolate – just as acidic and intense as the coffee. The second cup is much milder, V60-brewed with the same beans – ingenious. It is served with a nourishing and comforting, warm rosehip soup and ice cream poetically flavoured with whitebeam buds.
A nondescript wooden door with no sign makes Derelict’s entrance blend into the badly worn neighbourhood. But once you’ve rung the plastic doorbell and have been let in, the exposed bricks, hexagonal floor tiles and warm lighting make you feel warmly welcome. A cheerful waiter with slightly baggy jeans presents the concept along with handwritten menus listing the evening’s ingredients. There are three options: a short one with mostly vegetables; a long one with meat, fish and seafood; and a really long one with over fifteen dishes. A chewy taste sensation in the form of beets with charred skins opens the meal. Next we get bread on a stick, a smoked and grilled oyster in its shell with fermented gooseberries, and baked cauliflower soup with pieces of pickled cauliflower. A rather dry elderberry lemonade and Uno, a forward Spanish white wine, make good company. The fennel bonanza is one of the evening’s highlights, showcasing the vegetable in different forms – raw planed, in ice cream, as fronds, puréed, poached and fried. The following three dishes revolve around lobster: tartare, fried claw with broth, and butter-basted with horseradish. They are so flavourful and buttery that the glass of riesling from Zind-Humbrecht is needed just to break it up. The waiter frequently presents the origin of the ingredients in detail: “Mouflon sheep from DeVilda, shot by Micke”. The mutton is served with red currants and a Jerusalem artichoke trio in the form of purée, potato chips, and baked nuggets. Sweet pieces of venison, also from Järna, come with puréed parsnips and water lingonberries to brighten things up. Derelict is one of the hardest restaurants to book a table at not just because it’s hip, but because it is also a carefully crafted, albeit somewhat uneven, dining experience.
No, Chef Mikael Einarsson did not shoot the Sormland deer, not this time anyway. But hunt he does, out of interest in food and perhaps even to maintain respect for animals and the raw ingredients. Even though there is also a completely vegetarian menu, it is the meat that takes center stage, or rather, the animal. They serve one at a time here, every few weeks. And what animals! Cow from Rafna farm, Linderöd pig from Halla farm, deer from Äleby farm, and Ockelbo chicken. To mention a few. The kitchen’s focus also comes through in the interior details – meat scales as a coat rack, taxidermied animals and antlers on the walls, and butchering diagrams on the tables. There are a lot of textiles and a lot of ornamentation and all of it together creates a fun, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. The knowledgeable and sympathetic staff reinforce the homey feeling and the meal with their apt wine recommendations. Already the mouthwatering little smoked venison sausage that comes with lemon and egg foam and dried venison on the bottom of the plate speaks to the solid craftsmanship, especially as we know how difficult it is to make sausage from game. The broth made from the legs lends itself to an umami-fueled dish that has almost everything one could ask for – flank steak confit, suet-fried steak, a trio of cabbage and truffle! The seared tenderloin is the star of the show with thin slices of baked celeriac shaped almost like flowers, pickled rowanberries, fried kale and Comté-baked egg yolk. And there’s “Quiet chair” on the menu: what’s that? Well, it means that you can choose to have the staff keep quiet about the food and allow you to eat in peace. It costs nothing. We like that.
It is with nervousness that we approach Dryck och Mat, which has moved one notch to the left in the same building as before (the grand station building). Uppsala’s smallest and most charming restaurant has gone from 16 seats to 60. Will the charm and personality remain? We are greeted by jazz and candlelight among the simple wooden tables. A sigh of relief comes after the starter – a surprisingly flavourful rutabaga cream with bleak roe and root vegetable chips. We sit back, listen, taste, and learn a thing or two, and so the evening proceeds. At Dryck the beverages are the starting point for the menu and the food is composed around them. What is new is that you can now choose between a three-course and a five-course fixed menu and there is also an à la carte. Each glass comes with a detailed description, often spiced with little anecdotes that make the concept easy to grasp. The food is simple but with notable finesse. A hefty grill note underscores the scallops with pomegranate dressing. The moose rib-eye that hides under a serious heap of grated truffle is unfathomably tender and the sides of beetroot and cranberry sauce balance each other perfectly. With this we are served a giant croquette filled with black salsify and yogurt that makes you wonder why croquettes are not included in the daily diet. After the last bite of carrot and apple ice cream that’s served with a sponge cake dipped in raspberry sauce, we conclude that everything is as usual – and we are pretty happy about that.
Hay-fired, char-grilled, cabinet-smoked, flamed, blackened and baked in smouldering embers – yes, almost everything here is defined by how it met the fire. Ekstedt’s high-profile restaurant offers sparkling entertainment, especially if you sit at the communal table closest to the kitchen with its blazing hearth. There, with heat-flushed cheeks, you can watch the young head chef Rodrigo Perez use a special iron to melt a fat cap over the fire so the hot droplets fall down, kissing away all the innocence from some oysters that are served like ultra-elegant offerings in their shells. It was a dramatic step for Perez to go from Esperanto’s silk-gloved tweezer gastronomy to Ektedt’s brutal blast furnace mitts, and initially it felt a bit unsteady. But now Perez has found his groove somewhere in between and his self-assured execution is pitch-perfect. Restaurateur Ekstedt himself contributes to the strong character of the place, both through his celebrity presence in the dining room and his Jämtland roots, which come through both in the atmosphere and the cooking. The meal starts with a Norrlandic taco: finely diced venison topside browned in an red-hot cast iron bowl on the table served with pickled forest berries in a warmed flatbread. After a juicy coal-fired lobster in its broth and on a skewer, it’s time for more venison, dried and grated in an airy heap and served with birch coal cream and bleak roe from Kalix that you get to dig out of a charred leek. Blackened bits of hay-fired sweetbreads are so tender they melt in your mouth. The dish gets refreshing acidity from fresh sauerkraut, elegantly enhanced with sorrel, in great contrast to a cream of fermented garlic, the colour, texture and flavour of which is reminiscent of chocolate. The zander has been baked skin-side down on a bed of embers. The crispy skin with large burn flecks makes the dish, and the crunchy theme continues with snow peas and chanterelles. A wild duck cooked over a birch fire comes in two servings, bleeding breast in its jus with grilled heart salad and a thigh to pick up at the exposed bone and eat with your hands. Rolled in sweet crumbs of Jerusalem artichoke and elderflower, the next dish looks like a Magnum ice cream treat. The desserts are the establishment’s weak side. Quince is a vapid fruit which neither wood-oven baking, saffron ice cream nor a fierce herb granité can bring to life. The wine matches are brave, whether you order the pairings or enjoy a bottle with a few dishes. An Italian grenache, with elegant smoky notes, works as excellently as expected, with everything from pike to sweetbreads to a farm pig. Even the beer selection is faithful to the concept with full-bodied beers that support with fire and smoke.
Outside there’s a discreet sign and a golden doorbell. Igi Vidal, who also runs Bloom in the Park, has decorated the old house with wall panels and antique, carved furniture. It feels stately and private, the service is omnipresent and the atmosphere low-key. There’s no music, because here it’s all about the conversation, the drinks, and the food. The tables are few, there is a bar area where the house serves gin with homemade tonic and upstairs you can choose a wine that you fetch yourself and pay for when you go. The tasting menu is eaten (unless otherwise agreed) at a community table together with other guests. But first champagne, served on sofas in the salon with dainty hors d’oeuvres like oysters with tonic tapioca and neat, grassy flavours. The charismatic and talkative restaurateur makes sure the guests all introduce themselves to each other, getting the evening’s discussion underway. Here Chef Julia Hansson, who for years trained under Titti Qvarnström's wing, has started on her own journey and takes us through the land of Sagrantinia with a little beef tartare, pickled mustard seeds and quail egg, served under the lid of a jewellery box, and wild boar (which she might have hunted herself but which comes from a local hunter). The dishes are aesthetically delicate, like cottage cheese ice cream and fennel on a mirror of divine caramel sauce, which immediately affixes to our collective food memory. Each dish is also well matched by Vladan Jakesevic, who picks his own favourites from the wine cellar. On some evenings the restaurant is open until two in the morning, in which case the conversation continues into the wee hours in the salon beside the beautiful digestif cabinet.
At a safe distance above the locks, building excavators and bulldozers currently hacking up Slussen, Gondolen remains impervious. The restaurant, which has over 80 years of history, was reborn by Erik Lallerstedt in 1994 and still caters to a motley crew of families celebrating birthdays, curious tourists and couples in love. It is dressy, popular and booked solid. The flow of guests and different seatings is as smooth as it is well organized. Gondolen is a factory, where the large kitchen produces a democratic restaurant experience practically on an assembly line. The efficiency is impressive. Anyone who harbors a fascination for industrial processes should sit in the tiled kitchen area where the industriousness at the stoves and ovens serves as entertainment. It’s a bit more official and ceremonial in the dining room overlooking the Old Town and Skeppsholmen. Butter and cream are the lubricant in Gondolen’s culinary machinery and, consequently, it runs thick and heavy on the plates. The kitchen handles most things with flying colours, but we do not come here to be confronted with new flavours or techniques. The lobster soup with seared scallop and artichoke is a smooth and piquant introduction. The tartare of blackened veal with cabbage and thyme cream is a heavy foreshadowing of what is to come. Main dishes like baked rainbow trout with pork belly, apple and lobster mayonnaise and whole-roasted veal tenderloin with port wine sauce and lingonberries reinforce Gondolen’s status as one of the city’s heavy- weights.
Sayan Isaksson and his kitchen staff continue to hone their finely tuned poetic gastronomy, which so credibly blends the best of the Nordics and Japan in a generous yet restrained performance that engages all the senses. On a staggeringly high technical level Isaksson is the master of small expressions, which is evident in the initial parade of nine amuse-bouches. A quail egg in an eggcup made of salt is marbled in black vinegar, and the umami volume increases a half-notch when you dip it into a speckled mushroom mayonnaise (see cover photo). In this era of umami shock it is gratifying to find an example of the fifth taste sensation’s entire lovely register. Nowhere else can you eat with your eyes like this. Brittle tubes of dried black garlic on a bed of charred garlic peel are mesmerizing and, with a hidden filling of freshly picked greens, it is as much an exercise in texture as taste, where soft and chewy meet fresh and crunchy. This clear focus on textures is the big revelatory experience of the year. A little taco boat of cod skin contains a raw shrimp with an almost sticky-sweet creaminess on a bed of airy shrimp mousse with a bite of acidity. The first bread presentation is a crispy branch of seaweed with small paper-thin leaves and house-made nori – a calligraphic sculpture. That Isaksson recreates his entire menu (the six-course is a compressed version of the ten-course) between seasons is impressive. A few signature elements naturally stay on, like the origami flower of dried milk skin, now with crab inside, which is presented tableside in a small smoke-filled cloche. Most dishes include a small flourish at the table, and the whole dining show has found a new confidence that balances deftly between the formal and the informal, underscored by the fact that the sommeliers now glide around in long-sleeved, black cotton sweaters. A semi-transparent screen partitions off the Imouto sushi enclave in the far corner, and the slightly subdued hustle from there no longer collides as it did initially with the dining room, which develops its own light and murmur with a little help from what head sommelier Sören Polonius pours in our glasses. Polonius has now managed to build up the cellar with proper top picks, often six unique bottles from one legend and a unique case from another, and the wine menu refuses to take a supporting role in the big picture – for better or worse. This applies in particular to the “Coravin” section, three glasses of unique old-timers that you can get as part of your wine pairings “at the daily price”. The risk is of course that a wine with over 50 years behind it, like the red ’67 from the Cotes du Jura, does not have enough fruit to cope, in this case with one of the winter menu’s highlights – a shiny disc of beef marrow doused in a high-octane bouillon of oxtail and roasted cauliflower and topped with a spoonful of fresh Carelian caviar. Here Isaksson shows that he has also mastered the flavours in the heavier register without losing his unique musicality. He hits every note with the Linderöd pig, whose seared loin is hiding, along with a clam cream, under a slim circle of crème fraîche strewn with hazelnuts and delicate pieces of puffed pork rind. Never before has pig been served with such finesse. A quail from Norrby Säteri shows that the house takes advantage of the bird from beak to tail. The breast is served with “a study in white onion”, an artistic arrangement where a jus, cut with the fat from the quail and scented with poppy and mustard seeds, is poured over the heart and liver from the bird. On the side, the thigh to gnaw upon. For dessert, delights from the vegetable kingdom are a surprise: it is not every day one gets a fresh beetroot caramel and brown bean tartlet.
“This aligoté is only available here and at Septime in Paris”, says Niklas Ödman, the house sommelier, as he pours the 2014 Alexandra Couvreur to accompany the Icelandic langoustine, seared rare with a liaison sauce and pickled Muscat pumpkin. With these words he has aptly positioned Ett Hem as elitist; the exclusive micro-hotel has indeed achieved the status of international icon. The dinner service is primarily for the guests staying in their 12 rooms, but if they have extra seats they open them up to non-residents. All tables are communal – in the kitchen, library or orangery – which enables the city’s most interesting mix of diners with unique possibilities to establish contacts in a relaxed, familial setting. On an informal bench in the kitchen you can study the chef’s feats at the Molteni stove. Up to forty guests can order the same menu, which can make things a bit hectic for their three chefs, Martin Brag, Johan Sundén and Leo Frodell. This is evident in the somewhat rough, almost messy presentations, though they reflect Ett Hem’s philosophy of presenting a lot of big flavours and textures in richly assembled compositions. Under a frothy almond milk hides a tartare of seared halibut with Kalix bleak roe, lovage, toasted almonds, and a nutty foam made from Rossa, a washed rind cheese from Oviken. Add to that both fried and raw, planed Jerusalem artichokes and generous amounts of grated winter truffles. Yum. Crispy fried breast of Swedish duck is served with a cinnamon-cured thigh, semi-dried beets, toasted hazelnuts and watercress – powerful flavours that require a mature Barolo in the glass.
It begins with a drink list called “Drinks and Roostertails”, a joke followed by the name of the first drink: “Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven”. They offer a lot of entertainment here, which is probably why Far i Hatten reigns in the People’s Park. The restaurant’s name has been around since the park’s inception in 1894. The old pavilion has been spruced up but retains a certain charming patina. In the summer the place attracts people to the large outdoor terrace. Far i Hatten has otherwise profiled itself as having an idiosyncratic kitchen and a beverage range that suits the hipster crowd from nearby Möllevångstorget. There’s a lot of green, natural and organic. The baked carrot with sea buckthorn, marigolds and cream with rye crisp is tangy, crunchy and caramelly with natural wine from La Grapperie in Loire that’s mushroomy and fragrant with berries. Sommelier Jonas Letelier pilots with a sure hand through the dishes and drinks. A Beaujolais from Fleurie is in total symbiosis with one of their autumnal plates – a pumpkin with pumpkin cream, Danish cream cheese and roasted pumpkin seeds. A “Kinder Surprise” of flavours. There are two menus – the vegetarian “green” and the “red” with a hint of meat. The green one beckons with a real beauty, a variation on kohlrabi with Skåne pears, chervil and chestnut crisp. Fresh goodness, enhanced by an improbably tasty orange wine from Friuli. The red menu offers, among other things, a delicious tartare of Skåne lamb with caviar, sea coral and trumpet chanterelles. Rich umami notes of forest, lake and sea. The tempo of the servings is high and the flavours are exciting.
Fina Fisken really delivers. Diners can be sure to get well-prepared food made with the finest ingredients. As often as possible, the “new owners” (they’ve been new for 10 years now) see to it that the ingredients come from fishermen, farmers and other producers in the immediate vicinity. Everything is taken care of in the best way. The portions are generous and very nicely presented. The seasonings raise the culinary experience, and the condiments and vegetables are beautiful accompaniments. The menu has shrunk somewhat, but is varied seasonally to take advantage of what the season offers. Everyone from visiting foreigners to children can get a taste of Scandinavian specialties and international cuisine. The memory of a chanterelle soup with sweetbreads and sliced truffle followed by a plaice in red wine lingers long. And their classics are also memorable, like fried herring with mashed potatoes. The service alone is worth a tribute. Fast, knowledgeable and accommodating without applying pressure. And it makes the meal experience feel personal even though the garden and the dining rooms are full of people. In the evening Trädgårdsbaren is Trosa’s watering hole. In the comfortable lounge sofas under the sky they serve dishes from a simple bar menu, and exciting drinks, such as five different flavours of G&T and a variety of champagnes. A bakery with take-away options has further increased our options. But check the opening hours and book a table, as sometimes you can be unlucky and find it closed for a special theme.
The premises have been freshened up, the gold details seem to glisten a little more than before, and the atmosphere seems to crackle on those evenings that Bifångst is open. (Bifångst is a small restaurant inside Fiskekrogen that offers a specially composed menu to 15 guests.) Otherwise, most things are the same at Fiskekrogen, this temple consecrated to the delicacies of the sea. After all, Lars Ahlström has steered the ship for two decades now, and at this point he is wise enough not to change too much in their winning concept: really well prepared dishes using the finest fish and the freshest seafood the west coast can offer. In addition to the popular seafood buffet served on Fridays and Saturdays, the classics are the biggest attractions. Smooth lobster bisque with lobster mousseline; hearty turbot with horseradish and beets; and not least, Ahlström’s codfish balls served with caviar sauce, can make anyone nostalgic. The desire to innovate at Bifångst, which means “Bycatch” (think caviar with pig’s blood and burnt cream) does infect some of the dishes at Fiskekrogen, like those under the title “Together” in the menu, which includes mini dishes, and the intent is that you should eat many of them and preferably share with your party. Crab salad with jalapeno miso, pears and salsify is a few steps too far from the kitchen’s comfort zone and doesn’t play at all, while the tartare of fine bonito is quite excellent in the company of bleak roe and cherry vinegar. The voluminous wine list has a bias towards the classic and is especially crazy about Burgundy. The clientele consists of mainly of business diners and large groups.
If the food at Fotografiska weren’t so full to the brim of personality and soul, we would be tempted to think that the place was dreamed up by an advanced think tank with the task of condensing all of the current food trends into a single format. But thanks to the confident flavours and the focus on ingredients, the concept of “medium-sized plant dishes”, with clear ambitions for zero food waste, feels anything but contrived. And this year, the service staff have also stepped up and contribute to the experience, something that has previously been a bit uneven up here in the beautiful space with spectacular views over Stockholm. Four dishes per person are recommended – and don’t worry whether or not plants alone will satisfy you. A few “sides” in the form of meat or fish are a great way to take the animal protein out of focus while maintaining a little lifeline to a more traditional restaurant meal – but it is hard to imagine that guests will miss the meat after four vegetable dishes. The best is the delicious little tagliatelle made from beetroot and sea spaghetti algae topped with a Sanda egg yolk, Parmesan cheese and liquoricey tarragon. Hmm, no black pepper? We have just enough time to wonder, before the first sip of the amphora-aged natural wine, a blend of cabernet sauvignon and trepat, hits our tongues and gives the dish the peppery smack it screams for. A baked onion, lovingly burnt around the edges, is pepped up by truffles and rich mushroom cream – and gets textural juxtaposition from fried Jerusalem artichoke. A delicious slow-baked carrot plays the lead role in a composition with coriander seed, almond potato purée and basil and still we don’t miss the meat. But when the perfectly baked char and small, intensely flavoured wild venison tenderloin makes its entrance our hearts are gladdened – for the subtle display of craft in letting fine ingredients speak for themselves. Sea buckthorn and carrot we have seen before. Or so we thought. Then we are floored by the dessert, an ice cream made from boiled cocoa bean husks (“it’s white but tastes dark”, the waitress aptly notes) paired with almost raw carrot coins, crushed meringue, cacao nibs, super sour and piquant sea buckthorn berries and something as fun as a meadowsweet granité. The dessert is built as much on texture as taste – it is chewy, creamy and crunchy across the board – and unlike many one-dimensionally sweet desserts, it is interesting to the last bite.
Åre, is that the alpine resort near Fäviken? Yes, Magnus Nilsson’s cult restaurant has become a global destination, not just for initiated foodies but also for an increasingly broader audience. And indeed, the show is unique: a big dining experience that, in its radically local focus, is just as exotic for Stockholmers as for Koreans, and with a set design that supports it in every way. The landscape dotted with red timber houses and the Åreskutan ski slope in the background is most dazzling in winter, even if there is a paucity of fresh local greens on the table, though Nilsson and his crew are adept at procuring frost-kissed treasures from the snowdrifts. Like the garden’s last Brussels sprouts, whose outer leaves have such highly developed sweetness that they are simply steamed, plated stylishly around a hefty dollop of Carelian caviar. The summer’s rich offerings are naturally stored through various conservation tricks that once kept people alive over the dark season but today have the primary task of entertaining the taste buds with lively acids and deep, complex umami. The guests gather in the hall at seven o’clock on the dot for drinks, snacks and a chat beside the crackling fire. The special house beverage this year is a Negroni made from pickled rowanberries on their sprig, adding both bitterness and muffled yeasty notes. Tasty tidbits from the kitchen are served at breakneck pace, and all with a small presentation, some by Nilsson himself. Sometimes it’s needed: what is this tjesmus served with fermented crowberries with the broth of smoke-dried reindeer meat? Ah, Jämtlandic curd. It gets a little crazy sometimes. Under a cap of fermented hazelnut hides a mini tartare of cow’s heart, though it is presented as moose heart by the waiter before Nilsson cuts him off, “It’s too late in the season for moose!” The big hit among the snacks is, as always, bird liver custard. With its cloak of malted cabbage it’s better than any foie gras with its broad and deep umami sweetness. Yes, everything is as it should be at Fäviken, which is both a strength and a weakness. Nilsson will always have a place as one of the great innovators in Swedish gastronomy, but ongoing renewal is not at the top of the agenda. Obviously some dishes deserve a place in eternity, and perhaps diners might even become angry if they did not get the iconic scallop “in the shell from the fire” or for that matter the mighty, juicy king crab leg with its “almost burnt cream”. A 2010 Meursault 1er Cru Les Poruzots by Colin-Morey can handle a number of dishes with its pure acidity, restrained fruit and long minerality – until sommelier Anders Forssell breaks in with an amontillado to go with a sourdough pancake with chopped seaweed and meat butter, one of this year’s newcomers. Other impressive newbies include a spruce-steamed piece of cod loin with glassy pickles and buttery coins of Jerusalem artichoke; a 60-year-old ocean quahog in beer vinegar; a blackened apple with a dollop of milk that’s inoculated with white mould, a fresh Brie de Fäviken – one of many homages to the old dairy school once housed here. But the one that made us happiest is the pork chop, first presented as a complete rack before being served with the pig’s shiny fat cap, a piece of pie from its liver and a single accessory: a large wafer of fermented, roasted and finely ground lupine. Nilsson has made something of a mission out of gastronomizing this industrious legume and we get to test its distinctive flavours in another dish, too, a tofu-like gratin with flowers and seeds – plus a fermented stalk, an exclamation point in umami. Then it’s back down to the hearth for sweets, a fireworks display of light entertainment, where the highlight is always the burning marrow pudding, this year accompanied by frozen milk. Anyone who needs to numb the oral cavity after all these umami excesses can do it with the house’s snuff made from home-grown tobacco.
Extra-dry hipster champagne sets the tone with steely acidity, nuances of wet seashells, herb gardens and a tantalising aftertaste. This is to wash down the butter-brushed flatbread made from barley flour, and an ethereal pâté made from porcini and paper-thin slices of smoked celeriac. We get to fold them ourselves into soft mini tacos, like a Friday night supper for hobbits. It’s a low-key statement, an incarnation from an imaginary peasant’s kitchen in a country similar to ours, but a little prettier. A dinner at Gastrologik is a slow build-up in flavours and expressions that should be assessed as a whole once each piece of the puzzle has been laid. The base note is a little shy, like a reflection of the restaurateur duo Jacob Holmström and Anton Bjuhr. The setting and the service staff, too, have a quiet, warm quality that shines through though on the surface they may seem austere and a bit chilly. But that could be said about Scandinavia, when it’s at its best. Here New Nordic cuisine is celebrated without it feeling like a straitjacket. The season and the ingredients are at the centre. This of course leads to rather different experiences depending on the time of year you eat here. Unforgettable from last summer: a risotto made from asparagus, in which even the grains were made out of the shoot and all those flavours were distilled into a new and higher definition of asparagus. Winter requires a few more accessories, and sometimes these take the upper hand, like when the scallop from Hitra, despite its sweetness and size, is overpowered by browned yeast, fermented garlic and drops of cider vinegar. The seafood surges onward, with monkfish liver and pickled gooseberries on crispy chicken skin. Bright green circles of Savoy kale folded into half-moons over plump cockles are so tremblingly springy that they explode in your mouth. Sea and pasture are amplified by lovage leaves, samphire, and butter made from an Icelandic algae that tastes like truffles. Honey-brushed, flaky cod with sloe berry-poached onion petals, with spruce shoots and dabs of burnt cream complete the theme. Crowd-pleasing mini tagliatelle-like spelt semolina hides a creamy quail egg “from Karolina” with Gotland truffles. It marries with a juicy pinot noir-based Rully wine. The same wine lends itself at least as well to a variation on guinea fowl with thigh, heart and liver in the company of flowering quince, apple and a rich cabbage broth that’s all thrown into the same bowl. A small jewel box with sparkling flavours contains the meal’s crescendo, a midwinter saga about summer’s slaughter and harvest. It contains all those metallic notes of cool Nordic cuisine: water lingonberry, briny elderberries and garlicky pickled ramson buds against the primal and sensual iron sweetness of a dense blood cream. In this case the non-alcoholic blueberry juice works even better than the trendy red wine from Sicilian Arianna Occhipinti. Two goat’s cheeses from Löfsta – aged, finely grated, and fresh – on a hefty pancake made out of maple peas. It’s blunt and too much of a good thing, and of course absolutely wonderful. It is with the dessert trio that Gastrologik hammers home the message that New Nordic is not passé. This year’s dessert is made of caramel from whey with celery-scented beach angelica and a coarse rhubarb mead granité. The caramel sticks to the palate and we want to keep it there. More intellectual and hard to love is the smoked ice cream with resin marmalade and a canopy of spruce shoots and lichen. The apple dessert forms a cloud of raw milk ice cream that rests on a crispy bed of roasted apple pieces and yet another caramel, from tart rowanberries. Elegant sweets made out of propolis, bee pollen, sloe berries, lovage, beets and malt, are flanked by a coffee selection and an entire archive of house-dried herbs that you blend yourself for infusion. It’s a menu that begins really well and just gets better.
Gro has long since found its formula for success and now plays mainly safe bets. They serve two four-course menus at SEK 500, one for vegetarians and one for omnivores. Both are declarations of love to the seasons. Each plate is like a family photo album, where seasonal produce is displayed in various stages: roasted seeds, baby shoots, raw pieces, pickled paper-thin slices, poached and broken down into a smooth purée in the blender, and dried until chewy. Serving super-cute frozen baby grapes from the abbey in Vreta before dessert is a confident stroke of genius. At best it is certainly endearing to get to hang out with the different generations, but this can sometimes feel a little predictable in the vegetarian menu. Even better is when Gro abandons the formula and simplifies to really blunt minimalism, like when a hearty slow-cooked lamb neck is accompanied by both raw and baked beets. The pitch-perfect wine choices add their own distinct voice to the meal. Unlike many other restaurants, Gro’s wine pairings are very affordable and a nice introduction to the world of natural wines. When a variation on Jerusalem artichokes, both puréed and raw, with apples and dark-roasted hazelnuts meets a delightful, elegantly oxidized sauvignon blanc from Alexandre Bain, the taste buds start spinning. The crowd consists of quiet-voiced food purists. The service succeeds in creating warmth and a presence in the uningratiating and brutally stripped down tiny, white room where naked bulbs hang on wires from the ceiling. Little Gro continues to be a higher alternative for locavores.
This inn could kick back in one of the armchairs in front of the crackling fire in the drawing room and step into the role of tourist trap. It could be content to rest on its laurels with nearly four centuries of history at this location by the picturesque square with old wooden houses and the mythical atmosphere that the incomparable Carl Jan Granqvist created here for decades. This, however, is not the case. The kitchen shows that it is still well worth a journey. The fancy silver cloches are still in use, but no longer lifted with the previous almost comical devoutness, which we appreciate. No, here the service is relaxed and professional, which is evident from the moment we arrive. The engaged and knowledgeable staff guide us through the meal, but above all through Bergslagen’s treasure trove, the wine cellar, and just that is worth a visit. The menu is regional and seasonal and there are two starters and two main dishes to choose from on the four-course menu. The mushroom terrine is a beautiful creation with alternating slices of king trumpet mushrooms, served with chanterelle cream, crispy mushroom flakes and a warm mushroom consommé poured over the dab of truffle butter to melt it down. It is also a courageous move to lift up the different fungal flavours instead of garnishing the plate with some more flattering detail. The spice-blackened steak from Närke is barely touched by fire, flavourful and tender, and it covers creamy, mashed almond potatoes spiked with Västerbotten cheese, salted celeriac and a crispy slice of rye bread. A very successful dish.
There is a criterion in the White Guide called “It’s in the walls". Rarely is this as apropos as at Gula Hönan (“The Yellow Hen”). Here the variegated wallpaper converses with the floorboards creating a narrative that sets the imagination reeling. At the beginning of the last century the stately guesthouse was owned by Annie Beutelrock-Krokstedt (what a name!). Annie, strong-minded and modern for her time, was not only one of the first women on the island to get a driver’s license – she was also sheriff in Ronehamn. Even today Annie’s strong spirit floats through these halls. And her reincarnation is very much alive in the garden plot. Surely the colourful Gotländic Anne-Marie Qwiberg is a soul sister with her almost-namesake. Passionate in her task, together with her family, to create a genuine gastronomic experience, she runs the motor at Gula Hönan – the garden. For should we seek the roots of these fairy-tale flavours we must first dig into the plots that surround the house. Anne-Marie’s son and head chef Marc Enderborg’s greatness lies his ability to deftly refine what is grown around the corner. It is also in the soil that our stay begins. The large menu opens with a tour of the kitchen garden. Anne-Marie nips buds, unearths roots and lets us taste shoots that will later become melodies in the symphonies Marc composes in the kitchen. In six years, the symbiosis between mother and son, soil and table, has become praiseworthy. The menu is congenially abrupt. First course: “Skin". A baked zander skin. Concentrated fishy saltiness. The taste buds stand at attention. Via a flavour bomb of potatoes with smoke and lumpfish roe, we are back at skin. “Milk skin. Turbot". On rocks from the beach a few delicious bites of turbot have been plated, wrapped in brittle leeks, dotted with anchovies, smeared with crown dill butter, and topped with fatty milk skin. In our glasses we receive an unexpected New Zealand sauvignon blanc from Momo, proudly served by the winemaker himself. What? Yes, it turns out that our waiter has actually just come from the other side of the earth where he helped create the wine. These things happen at Hönan. “Gotlandic beef. Star-tipped reindeer lichen”. A tartare of beef reverently rests in a little bed of lichen. Then comes a purifying garden salad, pretty as a midsummer bouquet. Dry-aged lamb from Stora Karlsö, Tuscan kale and kelp comes in a rich gravy. After that, a rabbit that has just been friskily munching clover on a neighbouring farm is now a little calmer on its root vegetable bed, and flanked by an unusually deep beaujolais. The Hen has rarely sung so tunefully.
Isn't that the poet Kristina Lugn? Oh yes, it’s Thursday, when the Swedish Academy has its dinner meeting upstairs. But this is no longer the only tradition celebrated at the cosy restaurant from the 1700s. There is also a huge legacy to uphold here. If you have been serving comfort food to Sweden’s cultural elite for almost 300 years, one should be wary of any overly daring creativity at the stoves. Serious traditionalists can be happy that Zorn’s meatballs are always on the menu – and always just as fantastic with smooth mashed potatoes and classic accompaniments. Freden’s plate of “house-hung” charcuterie is becoming almost as classic, and rightly so – they know how to stuff sausages here! The more elaborate dishes also keep to the classic, even though the accompaniments are occasionally less so. A really nice steak tartare comes with pumpkin, smoked mayonnaise and hazelnuts, while venison, in the form of both rib-eye and sausage, comes with baked carrot with a lot of root vegetable sweetness and a tart blackcurrant sauce. Well executed and finely balanced. The potato dumplings stuffed with mushrooms are rather tired, even though the lingonberries do their best to liven things up. But the atmosphere is great, and the small wooden tables at street level are practically made for intimate conversations – or lofty carousing about life and art. The professionally friendly and caring service staff performs their part well. Freden also gets a gold star for daily offering a special dinner before 6 o’clock, which includes a glass of wine, beer or non-alcoholic beverage for just SEK 215. Stuff like that delights not only poor artists’ souls.
The crispy-fried Hasselback potatoes with bleak roe and crème fraîche are seemingly simple, but seductively yummy. A mini waffle with chicken liver mousse and port wine-braised onions fills the mouth with distinct liver flavours and sweet scents. A glass of Billecart-Salmon champagne raises the luxury level. Yes, Galleriet at Görväln Slott is a place for decadence. The castle itself, just half an hour from Stockholm, is a different world in a bay of Lake Malaren. We proceed uphill and into the salons and lower our voices in reverence for the ancestors that have slept in this house since the 1600s. The menu with ten dishes is an entertaining read. Behind the unassuming title, “Potatoes – anchovies, bleak roe and sour cream”, hides one of the year’s most spectacular dishes. At the bottom of a heavy mortar we find potato cream and anchovy fillets hidden by a crispy rye bread cap, along with quark, bleak roe and fresh herbs. With the help of the pestle we crush the cap and mix up the dish. It’s fun and yummy. The kitchen here has a big imagination, evidenced by a red-green-white apparition in which turbot and clam-filled ravioli meet artichoke and diced tomato. The wine list is impressive and the selection is entertaining. A mineral Portuguese wine with Arinto grapes generates a lemony affection toward the octopus with radish and oysters. A deep, fruity white Burgundy punches up a festive seafood dish: lobster pieces, omelette cubes and gelée under a blanket of thin slices of raw mushrooms and Gruyère. A nice, tart Barolo makes itself at home with a charming dish of comfort food: lamb isterband sausage with beetroot pillows stuffed with pork and minced lamb. The beef tartare on a black ceramic plate with smoked salmon roe and Valencia almonds is topped by stylish pumpkin triangles filled with cloudberry cream. It’s eye candy on the plate with flavours that sing in your mouth. The wait staff, in grey T-shirts, sneak silently and smoothly around, exchanging dishes and filling our glasses with noble elegance.
In the entrance stands a large, worn carpenter’s bench, in contrast with the otherwise modernly furnished space. To the left is a spacious bar with cosy armchairs for a layover en route to your table. Or spend the whole evening at Spritbordet (“The spirits table”), where the bartenders tailor-make sets of drinks and dishes for groups of eight. To the right is the large open kitchen with a number of bookable seats at the bar where you can watch over the hardworking kitchen crew. The snacks consist of a miniature Parisian waffle with a dollop of chicken liver mousse and onions glazed in port wine; small Hasselback potatoes with caviar and sour cream; and Japanese omelette – tamago – with a piece of skrei, Västerbotten cheese and mayo mixed with relish. In the breadbasket we find steamed hot tuttul – thin bread that originated in near Lake Siljan - baked with pressed potatoes. It comes with a mini-pot of moist country pâté with a lot of character. The pork chop is slow-braised and tender, and includes such generous amounts of equally soft onions and butter that the fatty liquid drips between our fingers as we try to eat the dish taco-style. The dish described as “Almost raw herring with aquavit, böckling, potato croutons and caviar” might sound intimidating for those afraid of excessive “fishiness”, but is in fact a well-balanced experience with mild, fresh sea flavours and a pleasant little kick from the aquavit. Thinly sliced raw beef from Lövsta Kött outside Uppsala is served successfully with Jerusalem artichokes, Gruyère and intense, roasted hazelnuts. The whipped cream dessert called Änglamat is a sure winner with acerbic lingonberries, crumbled cookies, vanilla ice cream and sticky caramel sauce. The wine list is not too long, but contains a well-chosen assortment that leans towards the natural and organic. The kitchen was recently taken over by Stefan Ekengren – formerly of Görvälns Slott – so we expect even more from Hantverket in the future.
Much has happened in Sweden’s restaurant world since Pelle opened in the early 1990s. But while restaurant trends come and go, Pelle stands firmly in the kitchen and continues to lovingly transform high-quality local produce into tasty and stylishly plated Swedish comfort food. Whether you choose the dining room or the simpler bar, you’ll always find the place full. Even on a regular Wednesday there are diners of all ages – a young couple, a group of seniors, and a few celebratory groups of families or friends. The sparsely decorated dining room is pleasant and homey with its walls adorned with art for sale, hefty wooden tables, and candlelight. In recent years, Pelle has simplified his menu. There are few dishes to choose from and we recommend Pelle’s incredibly affordable four-course menu. We receive an excellent Swedish squid and oyster mushrooms paired with an equally excellent wine: a Faubel chardonnay. The chartreuse-coloured and wonderfully invigorating Tuscan kale soup with apple and anise caresses the taste buds. Hearty and tender veal cheek with oyster mushrooms has a hint of lovage that contrasts nicely against the sweetness of a carrot purée. It’s paired with a full-bodied and delightful Ripasso. The apple finale comes with the finest almond cream, enhanced by a sweet Monbazillac. “Like stuffing your nose in a jar of raisins”, says one guest about the French dessert wine. We are satisfied after a long evening and hope for continued artful cooking here for another quarter century.
We take the last steps down into José Cerda’s alternative universe and close the door. The city’s alarms are dampened, the sound of the trams passing the crest of the hill subside and expressive flamenco music begins on a sober, minimalist stage featuring dark woods and a gently rolling cloth ceiling in the Japanese style. A bamboo blind has been rolled up, and on the counter above the six illuminated dining stations, directly in everyone’s focal point, is the epicentre of the action – the massive cutting board. There is no doubt that the ingredients and the food play the lead roles here. With the first bite of a crisp, buttery Savoy cabbage leaf topped with soft, tangy cream, hay-smoked trout roe and lemon zest, everyday life ceases to exist. Then, when a rowdy nest of fried potatoes rustles apart in your mouth it releases yummy, intense flavours of chive emulsion, black and mighty fruity-sweet fermented garlic, air-cured luxury Spanish ham and pulverised sharp and tangy malt vinegar. Next, a beautiful forest-crazy combo of chartreuse-coloured raw mushrooms wafers that have been dipped in spinach and yuzu powder. Underneath them hides a mushroom cream, charred pine needles, Jerusalem artichoke and bleak roe from Kalix. The drama continues and José clarifies that he does not like leeks. Flames and sparks crackle in front of our eyes, and a minute later we are served a study in sweetened, mashed and steamed leeks – mastered and tamed into something familiar yet magically different. When mashed potatoes with crayfish and crayfish coral make an entrance we almost drown in a subdued flavour register of pure and deep umami. The first act is over and the silence settles, except there’s a whisper from one of the guests: What flavours! The following eight bites of sushi are just as memorable. Zander has been marinated in seven-year aged kombu kelp. The rice is handpicked from Nigata and mixed with both acclaimed Spanish sherry vinegar and Japanese sake, giving it a lovely, deep and mellow sweetness. Old mouldy wooden beams have given life to the three-year aged soy sauce and the fresh wasabi from England is grated on sharkskin. The octopus is epic, beautifully tender and buttery with a silky consistency. And a single bite of tender and meaty 30-day-old char that has been smoked with pine needles picked by picked Cerda himself is award-worthy. Finally, we glide into a sweet ending in which a brûléed pudding that tastes like tamago with caramelised sugar and scallop plays with our expectations and perceptions. The spectacle served here is an eclectic mix of Japanese, Spanish and Scandinavian – and the performance is deeply affecting.
You can hardly get more local than this. Restaurateur Stefan Söderholm presents the menu in a way that only a restaurateur who knows all his suppliers can. With arms waving right, left, up and down and, in the same breath, he presents the beer, the meat and where the milk comes from, and adds, “You should go there, it’s only a X kilometres in that direction”. Of course the closest source is their own vegetable plot, which also happens to be one of Sweden’s most beautiful castle gardens. Several times during our visit we see the head gardener Simon Irving in complete head gardener-castle-regalia chugging past on his green scooter equipped with a loading platform. It is amazing here all year round – but in summer it’s enchanting. The view from beneath the cherry trees is unbeatable, of beautiful, white Läckö Castle surrounded by rocky cliffs, and the boats out on Lake Vänern. The menu is not very long and it used to change more frequently, but it is carefully conceived and mostly dominated by vegetables. The salad soup crackled with cream and topped with Väner bleak roe is a classic, as is the beef tartare whose toppings vary with the seasons. Today’s version is gold-coloured, and comes with planed and summery, sweet-sour golden beets and dried, torn sections of chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms. The dishes are large, so you have to be careful with the generous basket of fried new potatoes that’s served with every main course – for you must save room for dessert, especially during berry season. Organic strawberries, and white and red wild strawberries, do not get any better than here.
Behind the three chefs dressed in white is a row of coat hooks left over from the time when the whole house was a theatre. But the show that goes on here today may be filled with even more artistry and craftsmanship. Imouto is an experience for all the senses where you and seven other guests sit in front row seats and experience a spectacle in almost 20 acts. You are served from the wooden shelf that surrounds the bar and constitutes all of Imouto. You are waited on from behind by an efficient and professional service staff. The beverages are expertly recommended – riesling, sake and Japanese beer are all quite right. From the first serving of Japanese snacks, pickled eggs and cream made from fermented garlic, you are ushered into Sayan Isaksson’s world of flavour. It continues with a sublime mini bowl of dried cod skins stuffed with monkfish liver and topped with seaweed meringue. With the next serving, a mini-bundle of dried soy milk skin with black roe and smoked crabmeat, the taste sensation is complete. And it mostly continues in this vein. Not least, the spectacular serving of langoustine in different contexts that is tonight’s showstopper. First, it is killed with a direct stab of the knife, and then the ultra-fresh meat is threaded onto sticks. In the final serving it lies seared on rice with red wine vinegar, browned beef tallow and smoked salt on top. Even if Sayan Isaksson disagrees, this is a signature dish. The display of nigiri pieces offers only the best seafood from Scandinavian waters: perch, zander, char, rainbow trout, octopus, eel, redfish, turbot, mackerel... The zander is the most impressive, only brushed with smoked soy; the farmed eel, flash-grilled; and the charcoal-grilled turbot served with white seaweed and ramson oil. The leftover fish heads from the zander and redfish are roasted while the next course is served. From cheeks and chin the meat is plucked, then mixed with innards from the langoustines into a refined blend served in a temaki cone with ramson oil and salmon roe. When a few delicious profiteroles stuffed with ice cream made from bean paste and caramel sauce are served, three hours have passed. All in a seamless performance where everyone leaves the premises smiling happily.
The white farmstead is a little hidden away but guests have been finding their way to Karlaby Kro for more than ten years, to enjoy their luxury weekend packages with romantic dinners and swim in the large, heated indoor pool. After a several-year slump during which owners Sophie and Pär Bonér sold the place in order to run a hotel in the U.S., they have now bought back their life’s work and everything is back to normal. In the foyer candlelight spreads a welcoming glow over broken-in leather sofas and, if it is slightly damp outside, the fireplace crackles in the corner. In the equally cosy dining room you sit comfortably on floral upholstered chairs and look out over the hotel garden’s greenery. A new chef has command over the pots and the creative dinner menus are worth a trip even for those who do not stay overnight. Here seasonal ingredients take the lead, which could mean a yummy amuse-bouche of lamb sausage and cheddar cheese cream followed by a perfectly seared foie gras with pumpkin cream, and a mini blood sausage with apple and hazelnut foam. Thyme-braised pointed cabbage and blackened leek might accompany main dishes like venison and wild duck, cod and halibut. Among the desserts you’ll find elderberry mousse with smooth Jerusalem artichoke ice cream and citrus notes from lemon curd that are hard to forget. The selected wines are a thoughtful mix of Old and New World, which means that the dessert wines come from a vineyard on Long Island as well as from a chateaux in southern Bordeaux.
The first thing almost every diner here does is adjust the ingeniously designed lamp above the table. If it’s raised, they might be talking business; if it’s lowered there may be romance in the air. Neither the lamps nor the venue has aged a bit since Valentine’s Day 2014 when Björn Persson’s Kock & Vin turned into the slightly more playful Koka. In spite of the initial modern impression, the light planks along the walls speak to our collective pastoral memory. To a certain extent the staff do, too, not least Persson himself who enjoys coming out into the dining room to check on the guests. And then there’s the food, which at first glance appears ultramodern. Upon closer examination we see it’s also a tribute to our common roots, like the potato, for example. The first thing to come out of this incredibly affordable tasting menu is a half Amandine potato, perfectly al dente, topped with sour cream that almost tastes like smoked herring, and grated, cured egg yolk on top of that. Raw, chopper oyster, plucked up with diving help from the Klemming brothers in Grebbestad, rests together with an oyster cream under thinly planed and grilled celeriac. The next dish is the same shade of beige – king trumpet mushrooms, looking like they have been passed through a paper shredder. But don’t get us wrong – the slim, blond strips, dusted with dried seaweed set a new standard for how a masterful dish can look – and taste. Another example is the decadent lobster and vinegary fennel in a light bath of clear and assertive lobster broth. Cauliflower, crab and beets form a kind of textural illusion, indistinguishable from one another were it not for their strong colours and flavours. This combination of visual minimalism and articulated flavours can also be found in the vegetarian dish of grilled pointed cabbage with buckwheat, tarragon and tapioca – and it’s just like Persson to reconnect to our cultural history by choosing to call it porridge. By the time we get to the cheese dish we are a little tired of the consistent visual impression (aka., “beautiful heaps”), although goat's cheese from Skattegården is a good match with salty caramel sauce and beautifully bleeding Icelandic red dulse algae crowned by frozen chokeberries. The frozen yogurt is topped with chicory fluff, and the dessert is confidently paired with an almost transparent Fioles Rosées Friandise from Huguenot-Tassin (Champagne’s response to lambrusco). Persson now imports wines from France, and some of what Koka offers is impossible to get elsewhere in Sweden. Though the staff have vigilantly refilled the flatware in the tray throughout the evening, now there is only a small soupspoon resting on the wine-splattered leather. The treat with the coffee, a small bark biscuit topped with juniper cream, neatly wraps up what is currently one of Sweden’s most modern gastronomic experiences.
If you turn off at the bend in Kräklingbo, just around the corner and opposite the church you’ll find Gotland’s best restaurant. As well as Gotland’s best alcoholic beverages. Ulrika Karlsson is the sun that Krakas Krog spins around and in addition to brilliant service and a dazzling smile she offers red-hot gastronomy. After more than a decade at Krakas she seems more energised than ever. There have been a few years of slightly restrained cooking, but now Krakas is once again springing to the front and running in the same heat with the other leaders in green gastronomy. This is evident even in Ulrika’s entertaining commentaries about the dishes: Krakas is more confident, more personal, more daring than ever. The featherweight, chlorophyll flavours have a bit more complexity now, accompanied by deftly portioned amounts of proteins from the sea and pasture. A dish like baked beet with lamb liver, yarrow and blueberry butter is flat-out ingenious, yes, even sexual – a word never before associated with Krakas. When the liver, marinated in its own fat, meets the blueberries, it revives something wild from deep inside, to which the beet adds its earthy sweetness. The matching 2013 La Guindalera Viña Almate tempranillo is perfectly at home with this orgy of flavours. Ulrika is a sommelier of the highest rank and her pairings often make the already delightful dishes even more praiseworthy. The steamed beans are nice, in mint and herb salt with cream of dried peas and fresh garlic, but they take flight in the company of a carefully selected Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc from 2014. Then Ulrika gets a feeling and she pulls out a Chassange-Montrachet 2011 that does not belong to the wine pairings, just because she can’t help herself and she loves wine and loves Burgundy and because she has never been as on fire as she is now and she knows it. The delightful beverage buttresses the roasted cauliflower and the juniper-cured cod with its grated roe, its grilled butter and its pickled juniper with pride. And it’s this pride that makes Krakas by far the best choice on the island right now. With the role that wine plays at Krakas, forget about driving afterwards and instead arrange one of the few rooms upstairs. Pity those poor souls who pass by the bend in the road, and miss out on this experience.
Köksbaren once again occupies a position on the forefront of Umeå’s restaurant scene. Year after year they continue tirelessly to perform at the highest level. Their success is a result of genuine and generous hospitality, timing from arrival to finish, and of course, excellent food. The kitchen aims for constant innovation and an appreciative clientele eagerly encourages the chefs. They take every opportunity to serve locally produced greens and exclusive fish – even if the deliveries are so small that they only last the weekend. If a complete three-course meal feels like a lot, why not share a plate of Spanish ham cured 18 months that melts in your mouth? Tonight’s “variation on pig” consists of a perfectly combined trio of slow-baked neck, sirloin and sausage. A potato and goat's cheese tartlet is served with an IPA from nearby Beer Studio. Caboom! Thanks to the creamed roasted corn with brown butter, sweet music emerges from the vegetarian dish of grilled pointed cabbage. A sweet Brännland’s ice cider fits perfectly as a conclusion, that is, if you opt to bypass the lemon and liquorice crème brûlée. The staff make sure that you get exactly what you want and without delay.
Spontaneously queuing in sleet and snow may have one advantage. Namely that, once inside, you have a shot at the best seats, at the bar, with full view into the kitchen. At 5 o’clock sharp the door opens and then – bam, they’re off! Yes, it’s an adrenaline-fueled gang here, five in the kitchen and three on the floor, all men, most with beards and several with cooking medals in their back pockets, and they’re in a particularly good mood. “How cool that you got the last seats. Welcome!” The motley public is warmly received. A roughly chopped horse tartare intermingled with thin slices of semi-dry pickled kumquats is nicely balanced with the chilli kick of a broth and foie gras mousse. One does not always get the visually beautifully along with the flavourful here; the lightness that meets the eye is sometimes contradicted by too much food on the stoneware plate. It can also get a bit fratty and (deliciously) indulgent. The salmon is cured and blackened, and the Swedish-Asian rendezvous comes with a real perk: gari with a rice paper sail askew. The foodie eating alone looks sick with longing at the iron pan with potato pancakes that rushes by with a cone of caviar on the side, which is among a handful of dishes only offered to parties of at least two. It is charming here, but it goes by too fast, sometimes so much so that they seem to lose their grip. The small, yuzu-sour kohlrabi package does its best but fails to liven up languishing pieces of char. And the sabayon with cherries might have had a few too many swigs of marsala. And then – bam! Time is up. Barely two hours have passed. We stagger slightly dazed out onto the street and watch others sit down on the chairs we just possessed. How nice it looks in there, where we would still really love to be.
In a hidden away spot in the centre of the city, behind an inconspicuous metal door, you’ll find a restaurant whose reputation has reached far and wide. In a story in a local paper from another town a good distance north, Linnéa & Peter has been presented as “Umeå’s best restaurant”, despite the distance of 140 km, and fierce competition from a very tight Umeå restaurant scene. In the crowded and pleasant dining room spontaneous conversation between tables is highly likely. The staff contribute greatly to the light-hearted mood by offering both relevant information and amusing anecdotes. The hospitality here is really in a class by itself. The menu has a strong local character and the staff gladly present the origin, preparation, and seasoning in depth. They also serve a very affordable prix fixe three-course Sunday dinner. The perfectly balanced seafood soup is a great start both in terms of portion size and its ability to awaken the taste buds. Three cuts from the pig form an interesting combination: shoulder, leg and secreto. The latter is a small muscle found in the throat, which is often not used in Sweden despite its status as a delicacy in Spain. The crispy oven-roasted sides are served in small cast-iron forms with each and every main. If you want to explore the kitchen’s specialties further, we recommend a seating at the chef’s table, where just about anything can happen. But no matter when you want to eat here, book a table in advance.
Do not let the casual, nondescript and cosy atmosphere fool you – Lux houses both artisan perfection and creative height. Season, origin and change have always been part of the Lux DNA, which is partly reflected in the current suffix “day by day”. Yes, each day there is a new bill of fare. In autumn a four-course menu honours not only the seasons, but also felled deer. The dinner subtly weaves a story based on the achievements of protagonists like Daniel, the hunter, and Niki, a forest-harvesting friend, who have made possible the kitchen’s refining of what we see on the plate. The ingredients are excellent and the processing sometimes brilliant, like the mushroom dashi with the venison shank, with its salty umami and deceptively transparent red broth, and the tartare of lightly smoked venison with mushrooms and moss. The latter is like agreeably stumbling through the woods, a gastronomic collage of autumn’s every scent with notes that force the amygdala to recall childhood memories of similar outings. When we get to tonight’s big main course, young venison with Gotland truffles, we reach meat overload. Not even the poor Gotland fungus can compel the gluttony to continue. The finish, a pear simmered in woodruff, is certainly not epic, but it is rescued by a good sauternes from tonight’s competent beverage pairings. The imprint of the entire experience is epic, and Niki and Hunter Dan have taken on the same status as legendary heroes in our urban folklore as Ulysses and Njal once did.
Just as a journey begins the moment you’ve booked it, with high expectations, an experience at Lyran begins once you call and secure a table. On social media they lists the day’s ingredients – though you do not know exactly what will be paired with what until you sit at the table. Spoiler alert: it’s done really well. Crispy Danish rye bread with lingonberries and herbs is a small bite off the edge of the forest. After that, a variation on a recurring house favourite – wafer-thin carpaccio of portobello with an emulsion of roasted poppy seeds and Scottish cheese aged 36 months. You fold the panels into a mini taco and slip it down in a flash. Then things get exciting – carrots poached in carrot juice, glazed with fermented carrot juice and garnished with sesame seeds, cumin and dill flowers is an original smash hit, regardless of whether or not this is accompanied by Norwegian king crab. Though it’s a fun and bold way to address the slightly tricky crustacean, and the wine embraces it without restraint. In this case, the match is almost flawless, even in colour: a glass of orange wine (except it’s white) from the Pyrenees producer Matassa draws toward acidity and crunch. Most the wines are natural, subtle rather than garish – and good. This also applies to the long line of homemade, pressed and fermented beverages, flavoured with the joy of discovery. One exception is Frank Cornelissen’s Contadino from Etna’s volcanic soils, which is more interesting than good. But if you should drink it with something, it is probably with this: tartare from a Swedish Red Polled cow resting under a blanket of beets along with sour cream, fermented elderberries and crispy buckwheat marinated in the cow’s browned fat. The smokiness and fat balance each other somewhat, but not entirely. The dishes are, with few exceptions, safer on their feet than a gymnast and the many house-made broths make us philosophize about whether that might be what separates a good kitchen from a fantastic one. It becomes interesting and original again when we are offered a glass of sweet hawthorn liqueur – in fact considerably sweeter than the only dessert, which is on the refreshing side: raw and intense blueberry sorbet under a blanket of fluffy cream, and a liquorice powder so light that it is mostly a sensation. Jorgen Lloyd and Melissa Gardarsdottir together with their team create, in all simplicity, an experience in multiple dimensions.
Grand Hôtel, S Blasieholmshamnen 6, 103 27 Stockholm
“No, no, you should not drink red wine with the flank steak tartare, it might turn metallic”. The waiter is so determined that you do not dare to order anything other than the suggested Trebbiano Trebbiano d'Abruzzo. And of course it glides very smoothly down with the macadamia nuts and the birch sap emulsion that bottoms the ceramic plate, which in and of itself is rather flavourless. A beautiful light oak paneling embraces Matbaren. The menu is lined with a nice, sprawling selection of dishes. How many should we get? “Get one at a time, there’s no rush, order when you’re hungry. This is endearing. Yes, the style here is relaxed, and it’s nice to be able to choose freely. Leaves, shoots and herbs from Ugglarp, for example. It may look like just a salad, but the diversity of beautiful leaves, mandolin-planed beets, carrots, delicate radish shoots and finely layered daikon is a recipe for happiness in chlorophyll. You dress it yourself; three bottles are placed on the table – olive and rapeseed oil and a chardonnay vinegar. The house-churned butter accompanying the flatbread has a vivifying air of maturity. Together with a fresh, orange, and slightly cloudy apple juice from Naess in Flen, the salad soars. So does the saithe, which is broiled like no saithe from Lofoten ever has been before. It is crispy and crunchy, with a sublime note of lemon, but is unfortunately pulled down by a heap of hazelnuts and broccoli that have slightly burnt notes. Maybe the new restaurant next door has made the kitchen here a little unfocused. The uncooked green dishes are generally best; a salad of red, mild endive comes with tiny orange pieces, crushed walnut and a soft goat's cheese cream. It’s really lovely. Randy Crawford’s Street Life is on the playlist and the clientele is on average about the same age – i.e., born around 1979. Both Stockholmers and travellers who have journeyed here from the countryside and abroad sit at the tastefully put together tables, and at the main bar. It’s quite cosy. Some diners are seated in front of the large windows, with the quay and the castle as a backdrop across the water, while some look into the open kitchen and talk to the staff, and still others have eyes mostly for each other. And they are all attended to by the throng of smiling and rapid waiters and waitresses, not all of who have had time to read up on the menu in the way we are used to here. No matter. That Matbaren endures makes us very happy.
From the seductive decor in bordello red, with bar, sofas, small tables and booths in an enchanting blend, this place is slick. We could be anywhere in the world, but this is Melker Andersson and Danyel Couet’s Östermalm, where the women like bubbles in their glasses and the men all have beards. The smart, minimalistic menu offers 15 “salty” dishes and six “sweet”, broadly embracing all of Asia. A sesame-sprinkled rack of lamb, Korean BBQ-style, comes with asparagus, broccoli and goat's cheese cream. It’s a home run. So, too, is the duck confit with ginger and Asian pear, though the spices sometimes knock over the other ingredients. The tuna with wasabi, yuzu-soy and Avruga caviar is also seriously yummy, one of our faves. Or does the initial lobster taco with a wasabi and avocado cream still take the prize? The drinks we choose are good, well matched, and doled out liberally. And so is the ending. What could it be? Our fleet-footed waiter proposes a combination of all the desserts, all seven, in a grand dessert. It is a beautiful performance with chocolate and plum, coconut with tapioca and fruit salad, mango with kaffir lime, and a spicy crème brûlée with apple and almond. But what about ice cream, ask the children. Done! And some sorbet for the adults, at the conclusion of a trip through Östermalm’s orient.
The gigantic windows facing Åsögatan give Nook a metropolitan feel that’s followed up by dark, eclectic furnishings. The menu is playful with street food-inspired dishes at surprisingly affordable prices based on Nordic ingredients with long distance influences and an eye to fine dining. A glass of white Burgundy matches the salmon sashimi slider with mayo, cucumber and pickled ginger, and the kohlrabi tacos with crab mayo, trout roe and lobster tail. The Swedish octopus starter with green chilli oil, Avruga caviar and potato pieces rolled in nori marries nicely with a riesling, but the condiments conceal the mollusc’s delicate aromas. The tartare of dry-aged beef is among the best in town with pickled chanterelle mushrooms, salt-cured pickles, horseradish mayo, crispy fried onions and mustard cress. “That went down easy, I see”, says the waiter as he takes it away to leave room for the main courses. One is brill with tomato and sardine butter, fermented fennel beurre blanc and mashed potatoes. It’s a bit like a fine dining version of the Swedish classic, Jansson’s Temptation. A large serving of venison, seared rare, is accompanied by hearty beets, porcini mushroom cream, sour blackcurrants, brown butter and oyster mushrooms. These are paired with a tight white Spanish godello and a simpler but tasty red bordeaux. The desserts are welcomely light-hearted: a fresh citrus salad and yuzu curd with Sichuan pepper meringue; and a plum and filmjölk sorbet with umeshu foam. As long as you are not misled by the prices and order too many dishes from the flexible menu, a visit to Nook is a stimulating and satisfying culinary experience.
Magnus Ek is one of the pioneers of New Nordic cuisine. Yes, long before the famous manifesto came out in 2004. He is best known for his tireless pursuit of different plants and flavour-agents from the forest and the soil. But both at his first location on the island of Oaxen and now at the former shipyard on Djurgården in Stockholm’s inner archipelago, he forages as much along the water’s edge as on hill and dale. Seaweed, sea grass and algae of various types have been included in Ek’s gastronomy for over a decade, so of course it is here we have had the chance to try glass shrimp in their shells, swim bladders and Icelandic ocean quahog. The quahog is seriously chewy with powerful sea flavours, a real ocean tough guy, and can also be over 500 years old. Ek serves the recalcitrant old guy carved in its shell with crispy Icelandic dulse and matches its high salinity with the slightly tart sweetness of sea buckthorn. Then a series of similarly complex and confidently executed servings shows how Ek masters the marine theme and explains how he secured the 2017 Merroir Award. Kalix bleak roe is served with chips on venison topside and a cream of fermented blue plums and pineappleweed. Lightly marinated brown trout is crowned with Finnish Baeri caviar and grilled parsley. With this we drink house-made schnapps of parsley, dill and caraway, which is macerated three days before it is distilled, as the well-briefed waiter informs us. It’s certainly a digression from the house’s famous non-alcoholic juice pairings. Sweet, creamy raw shrimp from Fjällbacka mingle with a high-gloss fat cap from dry-aged rib-eye and a small piece of sirloin steak that is cooked on hot stones at the table. Smoked scallop gets a nice kick from nettles and unripe currants in an oyster emulsion with high mineral notes. A Meursault 2010 from Pierre Boisson meets it with both minerality and smoke and an excess of oak, indicating a classic tilt. The new chef/sommelier Hans Weinefalk has tossed out everything in Agneta Green’s basement that does not come from Europe. Some time into the meal a mighty piece of roasted turbot reveals itself, displayed in a wooden box, before it is served with pickled black radishes from their farm on the island. Of course there is still a focus on vegetation and the island’s wild flora, complemented now by their own garden, where they grow their favourite roots, leaves, flowers and herbs. Even stems, stalks, tops and roots have a place in Ek’s kitchen, and the ambition is to become as sustainable as possible. Yet the only entirely vegetarian dish is the kohlrabi baked in smen, browned and served with pickled peas, and ramsons for a little bitterness. Above all it is the wild-picked that is unique to Oaxen. Last fall on the island they harvested a 20-kg lion’s mane mushroom from an oak tree, not unlike a longhaired cat perched in the tree. The so-called “smart mushroom”, which allegedly has beneficial effects on various brain functions and possibly counteracts dementia, has a strange animal flavour, reinforced by serving it a hollowed-out piece of oak that resembles marrow bone. Naturally the carnivore is appeased by their ten-course meal preceded by eight snacks. Ek has experimented a lot with charcuterie and fermentation, and a thin slice of Swedish Wagyu on creamed corn in a house-made soy sauce on potatoes is certainly one the year’s highlights. The desserts are not super sweet: a roasted carrot sorbet with browned butter and hay-infused cream is based entirely on the inherent sweetness of its ingredients. But sweet tooths will never be disappointed in the ending here. The house’s little box of exclusive chocolates from their own chocolaterie is still in a league of its own.
The team at Oaxen has always been early, if not first, on the ball, and so of course they now offer a selection of handcrafted beverages. A battery of “mixers” – sodas with seasonally driven ingredients – lure you in with flavours like raspberry, mint, ginger and burnt honey cola. Add to the alcohol of your choice to make a “grog” or enjoy as a non-alcoholic alternative. The somewhat thin aperitif bubbles from Chartogne-Taillet are served with well-thought-out snacks like confited, fried hedgehog mushrooms with pure forest flavours; typically rich and salty ham from a Linderöd pig, aged 36 months; and fried Brussels sprouts that are juicy on the inside but crispy on the outside. The relatively short wine list with a focus on the organic and biodynamic still manages to cover most situations. And if you ask nicely you might be allowed to order from the wine bible at Oaxen Krog. The steak tartare is a harmony of textures and flavours: soft silverskin onions, silky mustard dressing, bitter cress, crusty sourdough, tangy cream and topside ground to perfect chewiness. Grilled celeriac baked in whey has a complex, deep richness enlivened by whitefish roe and chives. The forest-like flavours continue in a ragout of venison shank with Jerusalem artichokes and ramson capers, and in the dish with grilled duck breast and funnel mushrooms. Do not miss the sides, so carefully conceived that they constitute dishes in their own right. Round off with bread pudding, brown butter, jam and lightly whipped cream. Or the lighter dessert with fresh, macerated blueberries, sorrel, charred meringue and tarragon. Oaxen manages impressively to satisfy many different palates, but still retain its great personality – a warm bistro where the delicious Nordic flavours are purveyed with elegance and knowledge, against Stockholm’s restaurant scene’s loveliest backdrop.
The national treasure in the Opera House lives on, trying to find the right balance between past and present, formal and relaxed. This is clearly illustrated in the beautiful fin de siècle interior by the architect trio Claesson Koivisto Rune, whose large angled brass screens, displayed all around, reflect Oscar Björck’s famous frescoed ceilings. Elegant frivolities are also plentiful at the table, not least in the lightly gracious service. In a time where downshifting to casual dining has become the norm, we are thankful that the Main Dining Room stubbornly protects classic restaurant culture. The champagne trolley, one of several magnificent carriages that roll up during the evening, tempts with around ten treats by the glass – like Initial, the first champagne of the evening, from cult producer Jacques Selosse, which was disgorged in January 2016. The house champagne by André Jacquard would make anyone happy. The wine selection here is consistently among the best in Sweden. Restaurateur Carl Frosterud’s whole performance actually outshines by a broad margin that which comes from the kitchen. The parade of amuse-bouches has difficulty engaging us, though the best is a baked egg from Sanda farm in a mushroom cream broken by herb oil and topped with tarragon-rolled matchstick fries – a nice contrast in textures. A lot of greenery pops up here and there in the meal and gets in the way. Coriander takes command over a Belon oyster served in the shell with a cucumber granita. And a seared scallop is totally out of sync with the ferocious chervil oil, which kills the heap of Périgord truffles on top. The menus, which change monthly, are structured modularly. A number of classic main ingredients in traditional preparations are varied with familiar sides and sauces and the always reliable and delicious oyster beurre blanc can elevate any sea creature whatsoever, especially in the company of a hefty scoop of Oscietra caviar, as on the pan-fried Atlantic cod. The foie gras is perfectly seared and challenging in the odd company of liquorice root, lingonberry and almond cream. Pigeon from Bresse is a beloved classic in Catenacci’s kitchen and the delicately seared bird bleeds nicely into its green pepper sauce with pickled elderberry capers. The skillets are at full capacity in the kitchen and the fifth pan-fried item in a row is beef tenderloin, served with its marrow and a composition of onions. The cheese dish is real rock ’n’ roll: a Roquefort with Jerusalem artichoke foam, caramelised hazelnuts and maple syrup, bright, full flavours in fine balance. Getting to roast the marshmallows at the table yourself is now a foregone conclusion here, as is the thimble-full of the house’s “own” calvados, Coeur de Lion.
It is impossible to visually differentiate them, the glasses containing López de Heredia from Rioja and the one with clear pressed apple juice from Urshult. But the former is creamy and sweet to the taste, the other tart and cool – and both are equally suited to the parade of amuse-bouches. But first some healing! Everyone gets a hot stone, first burning hot and after a while delightful to hold in your hand. It works. It’s actually calming – and it makes you focus, so you can take in everything that’s about to happen at PM because it’s the details that make the experience. The bread alone comes with three spreads: a house-churned cow and goat’s milk butter, wonderful smoked whitefish rillettes and lard topped with spruce tips. Oh yes, there are a lot of logs and stones to cross over. “Eat the quail egg in one bite so you don’t spill any of it”, says the waiter thoughtfully. Yes, that’s a good idea, because you don’t want egg yolk on your shirt, nor Carelian caviar for that matter. The langoustine is one of the few ingredients that does not have its origins in Småland or Öland. With a square, smooth stone as a backdrop it lies, quickly charred and naked in one of the year’s most sacred presentations. A ball of butter-basted kale keeps its distance, while a gelée-shimmering mustard emulsion watches like the full moon over them both. The service staff are calm and pedagogical and take plenty of time to explain everything in spite of the full dining room. With the buttery zander, the white gloves come on for the truffle grating. Those who want may have another glass of pressed apple juice, this one diametrically different from the first; it is cloudy, austere and so tart that it feels bittersweet in the back of the mouth. Time for snacks! The chewy macaroon with sweet black pudding cream is really something to write home about. On the whole, the entire PM establishment with its beautiful hotel, its grand roof terrace and bar, its bistro and fine dining restaurants, its lovely bakery, and its florist, is a world of its own that you cannot wait to initiate others into. Few are those who end up in PM’s dining room by chance. From old restaurant veterans to young wine nerds, they usually come from far away and purposefully. We are surprised to learn that Smålands Gräbba, a high-octane blueberry beverage, can replace a sancerre pinot noir from Vincent Pinard because each of them plays equally well with the scoop of natural foie gras that you get to spread on brioche. Tender moose comes next (respectfully accompanied by a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Chateau la Serre), but the king of the forest is overtaken by the next presentation: a brännvin case from which emerges a threesome of homemade schnapps. The one made of nettles and fennel is purely, wonderfully audacious. Yes, everything related to beverage making is in a class by itself here – beer, wine, liquor, juice – the alcohol content does not matter when it comes to the level of dedication. Lemon verbena lends the perfect green note to the sorbet in the apple dessert with beautiful flavours that transport you to a Småland apple orchard on a chilly morning. Four hours at the table and still it is with a kind of melancholy that we nibble at the last thin coin of chocolate and juniper. Oh, Småland! We will be back soon.
The casual dining side of well-renowned PM & Vänner is far from a scruffy little brother but a restaurant that stands strong on its own merits, and indeed, “bistro” may be an understatement. The comprehensive menu admittedly incorporates both French classics like steak minute and Småland blockbusters like three kinds of isterband sausage, but there are also considerably more refined dishes that, in terms of flavour, are like high level spin-offs from the mother ship in the room next door. One example is the delicious, gently baked char with sweet-sour pickled cauliflower, chanterelles, dill and an airy, caramelly brown butter emulsion. The meltingly tender pork belly from Olinge farm is more rustic in style but equally delicious. And, like everything served at this address, it is extremely wine-friendly. Just imagine what it’s like to have Sweden’s most knowledgeable wine geeks on the payroll. On our visit the beverages are brilliantly handled by Swedish sommelier champion John “Patjanga” Nilsson who guides us through the wine bible that makes every visiting wine enthusiast tremble with glee. The dessert, too, shoots well over the bistro target with a delicious pistachio and strawberry terrine, flanked by a small salad of orange-marinated strawberries, elderflower gelée and vanilla bavaroise, sprinkled with violets and marigolds. It is quite rare that “something for everyone” equals a culinarily interesting experience – but PM & Vänner Bistro delivers exactly that, every evening.
The “Love Stew” is heartwarming and seductive: a creamy egg foam surrounded by potatoes and onions shouldered by hearty dollops of Kalix bleak roe. It’s one of the tastiest things we’ve eaten at the city’s top restaurants this year. And the dish is in many ways typical of Klas Lindberg’s ambitious first effort. He is well known from competitions (Chef of the Year and Olympic Gold Medalist), but don’t expect any convoluted contest creations. Here Lindberg has sought out his inner chef – and he is apparently a sympathetic and downright uncomplicated guy. The style is mature and unpretentious with excellent ingredients and the cooking is precise. Dinner is a steady journey through culinary geography and restaurant history. The gastronomy takes no great leaps forward but cherished classics are tightened up. Many of the dishes are finalised tableside. A coarsely ground beef tartare made from dry-aged topside and tasting heavily of iron is mixed by the waiter’s nimble hands. It is simple and good along with flavourful friends in the form of cucumber and horseradish. The scallops get a quick pick-me-up in a red-hot cast iron skillet and are further enlivened by lemon, mushrooms and bottarga. And the sweet conclusion’s showpiece, Baked Alaska, gets a shower of flaming rum. Such flourishes in the dining room add as much to the experience and the taste as they do to the cosiness. A brilliant pork chop is elegantly rustic in its deliciously crunchy, breaded coat served along with sardines, potatoes, and onions in different textures and temperaments. Occasionally the aesthetics and the straightforward flavours are out of synch. The excellent chuck steak with béarnaise potatoes and smoked pearl onions is a welcome ruffling of this populist dish but it looks like a pretentiously arranged pile of leaves. Probably a vestige of all that competitive training. The setting is stylish, comfortable and well groomed – in that generic way that many modern restaurants are. The crowd is savvy and affluent. Some are dressed up, but most are smartly casual, which fits with the relaxed atmosphere. When it comes to what ends up in our glasses, sommelier Totte Steneby performs seamlessly. In a short time the wine experience here has established itself as one of the best and, in accord with the tone of the place, it’s knowledgeable but uncomplicated with a twinkle in the eye. At first glance the wine list is a string of world-renowned prestige players. It’s not cheap, but relax. The wines by the glasses are very good, and so is the whimsical selection of domestic beers. The latter works fine if you’re just there to hang in the bar. Be sure to try some of their snacks, like the tasty house-made version of pancetta and an airy duck liver mousse in bite-size format.
Listen to the murmur spilling out from the Postboxen wine bar and relax at the fine dining restaurant where every serving in the seven-course menu becomes a little adventure. We start lasciviously with seared scallops that melt in our mouths together with a lobster emulsion. Then, with a tart, fresh pumpkin from Vassmolösa paired precisely with a nutty chenin blanc, we are off on a taste journey – the Småland way. The broccoli is a surprise. It comes planed and dried paper-thin, in the form of a cream, and as a vinaigrette based on the stem, together with poached Swedish oysters, almonds, and horseradish snow. Beautiful. Sweetbreads with chicken mousseline, cream of local corn with sherry and black trumpet mushrooms together with the oxidized yet crisp white Rioja makes a sparkling combo. Chef Johannes Persson comes to the table and puts a knife in the perfect, pink, pan-fried venison from Kåremo, lying on a bed of twigs on a rustic cutting board, wilderness-style. That he is flying solo in the kitchen and yet gets everything out at exactly the right tempo to two crowded dining rooms suggests incredible control. Pure love comes out of the oven in the form of a syrup loaf based on grandmother’s recipe. It comes with lard flavoured with thyme and apple, and house-churned butter with cider-marinated mustard seeds. Served in a wooden box with four kinds of bread on straw, the bread serving is a dish in itself. The house apple juice from the juice press is like an exclusive wine. The Postgatan gang’s friendship and appetite for knowledge has led to strong gastronomic development since its inception two years ago. This is how crazy good Småland tastes!
Once you have sat down at one of the tables with red chequered tablecloths, just sit back. The kitchen is highly technically proficient, which means that the ingredients are handled perfectly. They also know a thing or two about flavour, which becomes evident the second the amuse-bouche lands: two dollops of a smooth purée of autumn apples and carrots topped with a few slices of cheese from Almnäs Bruk. These are flavours that immediately feel comfortable with each other. Several smaller producers from different parts of Sweden are represented. The cheese, for example, is from Hjo and the venison from Funäsdalen. Some of the ingredients can be bought in the shop in the same building. The menu is short and seasonal. Every evening there are also some extra dishes on the blackboard. “Menu surprise” is an affordable option with five dishes. We order it and are delighted by the variations on the vegetables served as sides, like creamed savoy cabbage, chanterelles and crispy fried potato pancake. The timing from the professionally friendly service staff is perfect. We feel neither rushed nor have to wait for long. In a nice way, we learn more about the farms that the cheeses or the meats come from. The wine list is relatively short and the staff are very helpful in selecting the appropriate option. The desserts keep to the same confident style. In fact, whoa, here come the 70s in the form of a dense and fresh raspberry mousse. Now that was a surprise! Proviant also has locations on Kungsholmen and Gärdet.
Fine dining is dead, declared Pubologi in autumn 2016 and exchanged their fixed menus for à la carte. Otherwise things are still the same at this cosy gastropub in the Old Town: the simultaneously humorous and atmospheric interior design; the large community table down the centre with a few small deuces along the walls; the suitcases suspended from the ceiling; the cutlery in the drawer under the table; and the resplendent red book with countless wines to immerse oneself in. But just because tasting menus are a thing of the past here does not mean we shall eat conventionally. Restaurateur Daniel Crespi’s hedonistic disposition calls for extravagance: “Start with a number of snacks, continue with at least two medium-sized plates, share and sample, and feel free to order different drinks with everything, and enjoy”. And we do. A bit of suet has melted down over the Tsarskaya oysters on the grill and been rounded off by tomato vinaigrette in a delicious balancing act. Equally good and fatty are the thinly sliced scallops in a brown butter fragrant with bergamot. We fall in love with the next buttery variation, with lovage and marrow, served with a tartare of topside energised by pickled onions and crunchy pistachios. Another butter, this time smoked, comes with the raw seared lobster and silky celeriac “tagliatelle”. This is paired with an equally buttery Meursault from Burgundy, which makes us long for more acid or maybe bitterness. The latter, however, we get in excess in a cabbage jus served with small pieces pork loin and flowersprouts. With grated dried char on top and tarragon cream the dish gets lost among the flavours and the impression is incohesive. We conclude with a fun dessert with dried apple and meadowsweet sorbet with a Mazarin almond base, but have to admit that we somewhat miss the fixed menu, even if the new concept actually suits the venue better.
Yummy or strange? Whimsical or just ridiculous? This is the kind of place you either love or hate. And if you are amused by attitude, gimmicks and music, with everything from Siw Malmkvist to Eddie Meduza at top volume, then you’ll have fun with these guys, Jocke Almqvist and Kalle Nilsson. Especially if you like smoke machines and childish fancies. As the menu’s name suggests (“Total Overdrive”), the initial flurry of snacks is epic and delivered at a breakneck pace. Colourful plastic water pitchers land on the table along with ice-cold Koskenkorva vodka, and a giant dollop of caviar to lick from the back of your own hand. We have left the gate. Our favourite is the small omelet that is prepared tableside and topped with crunchy deep-fried grated potato – then suddenly a big spoon is shovelled into our mouths with fried lobster, porcini cream and shaved black truffles – followed by rolls of red beets with camembert cream, even more truffles (this time white) and a delicious pancake made from reindeer blood topped with whitefish roe. The iconic butter-fried brioche, with a smiley drawn in rosehip cream on a round of foie gras mousse, served with a plastic duck. All this happens before the first real dish – a subtle and well-executed, punk-free scallop in a kombu broth with dill oil. The tempo and the staff's attitude are a big part of the proceeds. And behind the cheap tricks lurks a solid craftsmanship – a performance with 18-20 dishes requires meticulous control. Still, they manage to convey the illusion that most of it is plunked down on the table at random. Like the slightly absurd dish that is presented as “the classic shrimp tree” where raw shrimp cling to a burned broccoli stalk. Is it good or a parody? We do not know, but right then we do not care. The evening’s high note is a raw langoustine tail topped with cabbage and Spanish almonds – closely followed by the ingenious conclusion: butter-fried brioche with cinnamon roll ice cream and iced Swedish punsch. The punk boys know the limits – and that alone is worthy of praise. Next door, at Punk Royale Café, one can drop in more spontaneously.
Architects Sandell and Bohlin’s interpretation of a modern, socially focused restaurant is unique: a beautiful combination of harsh concrete, intimate floor plan and warm hues. Here you sit around the bar and the open kitchen or along the wall, shoulder to shoulder with other diners, many of whom have been hanging out at “Roffes” for many years. They often have creative but commercial jobs, which characterises the mood. Many of the dishes on the menu are classics. The perfectly fibrous braised ox cheek with smooth pressed potatoes is one such example. The always-crispy potato pancake with caviar is another. Johan Jureskog has run the restaurant for a while and has the sense to protect their signature dishes. Sometimes more elaborate compositions feel a bit uneven. But the kitchen does have a way with pig. The Iberico shoulder has a nice texture and fat, nougaty flavours. The pork belly confit with cabbage and beer-poached onions is also outstanding. The Lobster Thermidor has been under the broiler a little too long but is still really yummy, filled as it is with sweetbreads and foie gras. You would be wise to begin all this with snacks: a few slices of pata negra, some oysters and perhaps a handful of snails with lardo. Yes, the style is robustly masculine. The wine list is impressive both in breadth and depth, and the staff know how to match drinks and food, but sometimes this gets rushed over. Likely because of the awaiting diners who stand stomping in the undersized entrance. That Roffes is as crowded as an Indian train compartment and as loud as a college frat party is, however, part of the charm.
Grand Hôtel, Södra Blasieholmshamnen 8, 103 27 Stockholm
Chili, lime and coriander. Avocado and mango. These components are from a lot further afield than Mathias Dahlgren’s former “natural kitchen” concept. With Rutabaga – ”a world-class vegetarian restaurant” – he is headed in a whole new direction and invites us to experience flavours and ingredients from around the world. The interior is decorated with greenery, and naked light bulbs create a warm, welcoming glow. A bartender shakes cocktails – developed in collaboration with the kitchen. We begin with an alcohol-free, homemade kombucha poured over a glass of beautiful red berries. The version with alcohol is based on umeshu plum wine and is topped with tofu foam and small flakes of nori; it smells like sushi and tastes delightful. The appetiser goes well with the drinks – seared spicy pineapple, roasted cashew nuts, sesame bread and fresh yogurt cream. What you see is what you get: Mango and mozzarella are mango and mozzarella; avocado with jalapeño is avocado with jalapeño. The simplicity is striking, but everything is fresh and flavourful. If you want to drink wine, it comes in four different sizes. Choose between light, full, funky or exclusive – white or red. A lot of the dishes follow the formula of “main ingredient plus condiment”. For example, the small, fried falafel-like chickpeas balls are accompanied by of a coarse pea guacamole. The roasted cauliflower comes with a deep-green ”béarnaise”. The highlight of the evening is raw, grated carrots on a bed of silky mayonnaise, sprinkled with peanuts and coriander. Eggs and dairy products are allowed, but rarely play the main role except in a few dishes: a light echo of Dahlgren’s previous restaurant Matsalen, appears in the truffle-laced, fried “twin” egg yolks with large, tender white beans. Rutabaga is the sort of uncomplicated and consistently enjoyable experience we would like to see more of.
This is a top-rate sushi joint. Though we miss the intimate view of the chefs at work, now that the bar section is gone, we get to watch as the stylish, oblong glass panels are carried in laden with sushi and sashimi pieces. Aw, shucks! We should probably have also ordered a few nigiri with seared cod and apple purée. It’s like a parade of pastel-coloured confections. And everything looks unabashedly good. Less colourful treats, like the gunkan sushi with grilled duck heart, get visual help from a cummerbund of thinly planed cucumber. When one gunkan falls to the floor (the one with scallop tartare, browned butter and miso emulsion) the waiter immediately offers us a new one. “It’s one of my favourites. I don’t want you to miss out”. The sweet seafood pieces with umami-rich cream are delicious. Our humble and easy-going waiters also have full control of everything drinkable – from the bitter Reparationsbajer (“recovery beer”) from Denmark’s To Øl brewery to a polished, mineral sake. We even get a sneak taste of an Argentinean white, just because “it’s so good”. It suggests a certain confidence to serve a mixed sashimi (Moriawase) without any other bling. But there is ingenuity in the other dishes, like zander with lardo from Swedish Wagyu, and beautiful beetroot-salted halibut. The food is imaginative, tasty and loaded with finesse. Our glass plate, overloaded just a bit ago, is now almost empty. Not even one roe remains. It was just too good.
In December the farm that previously housed Ambiance à Vindåkra was transformed into one of Malmö’s most outspoken New Nordic restaurants. Heading it up is the Danish-Swedish duo Sven Jensen and Alexander Fohlin who previously worked with Nordic pioneers like Thomas Drejing and Claus Meyer. The concept is perfect for the little farmhouse with its wooden beams, whitewashed walls and crackling fire – a cross-fertilization of an inn in Skåne and an urban Copenhagen restaurant, where the frugally Nordic meets the generosity of Skåne. The flavour spectrum they create here (often with the help of brown butter and sweetness) is rounder and more approachable – without sacrificing exciting wild-picked, self-harvested or pickled ingredients. A good example is the fine, foresty tartare of coarsely diced perch fillet with fried oak moss, blackberry elixir, preserved blackberries, brown butter and samphire. Or the extremely tasty little amuse-bouche of poached, mashed, dried, and finally fried Jerusalem artichoke that is used to scoop up a fresh buttermilk panna cotta topped by bleak roe. In a Nordic “spring roll” sugar beets from the fields outside have been simmered for several hours, sliced and softly pan-fried to form a housing that encloses liquorice cress, goat's cheese and black garlic. Black truffle and poppy seeds top the creation and the nutty seeds play elegantly together with the orange wine from the Swedish-French vineyard, Mas Zenitude. Our palates delight in a lukewarm buttery brioche in a nest of warm wheat kernels served with a chilli-rimmed, air-dried slice of pork’s neck and pickled sea buckthorn. The same thing goes for the precisely cooked local pork with a sabayon flavoured with blanched black pepper and Finnish tar syrup. The wines are well chosen from a selection of natural wines and the non-alcoholic beverage pairings are innovative. SAV is quite simply creative joy on all fronts – and extremely affordable considering the level of cooking.
Shibumi is the Platonic ideal of an urban restaurant. Because of the format, and to a great extent the professional and well-informed staff, it can transform into exactly what you want it to be. True to the izakaya form, there is a bar with beer, well-shaken Asian twists on cocktails and finger food, but Shibumi’s range also extends to intimate date dinners, a foodie experience with carefully conceived sake matches, and friend or business dinners with an endless stream of share plates. It’s a pretty impressive feat. And despite the chameleon qualities that satisfy virtually everyone who walks through the door, the food at Shibumi is far from middle-of-the-road. Not, you understand, when it’s Sayan Isaksson who holds the reins. The salmon tartare in its little wooden box is a crowd pleaser we never tire of, with popping trout roe, sesame mayo and crispy rice paper, it is an explosion of flavour with lots of interesting textural play as a bonus. We prefer to sit in the bar and watch over the chefs as they assemble the most minutely prepared small dishes, grating fresh-smelling wasabi root on top and charring the ultra-fresh fish with a gas burner when it needs a little charred juxtaposition. Though fish occupies nearly half the menu, there are also deeply satisfying meat and vegetable dishes. Like flowersprouts, the trendy relative of Brussels sprouts which, after a turn in the deep fryer, delivers a crunchy cabbagey-ness. Gauzy katsuboshi flakes break up the oiliness. A Japanese “taco” containing tender braised short rib with homemade chilli paste and pickled cucumber disappears in a flash, though it’s somewhat one-dimensionally sweet. The skewered chicken hearts with fermented chilli paste is a more exciting choice with its delicious sweet-hot kick, as are the masterful gyoza dumplings. Have we eaten better ones in Stockholm? Probably not, even though dumplings have suddenly become commonplace. Shibumi’s version is crisp-fried on one side and the dough is perfectly paper-thin. The gingery ground pork inside is airy and juicy, and it comes with an extra-zippy ponzu sauce that contains aged red wine vinegar. And the desserts? We fall once again head over heels for the uber-charming small ice cream cones with the buttery, caramelly variation on miso. The bill is almost a joy to pay; it’s hard to imagine more bang for your buck.
Regardless of whether cruel autumn winds or balmy summer breezes are blowing out by Gothenburg’s inlet, it is solace for the soul to step into this beautifully renovated restaurant in the East India Company’s old warehouse. The welcome is warm and heartfelt, every detail is thought out and the rough-timbered walls create a cosy nostalgic charm. As soon as we sit down at the table it is clear that our hosts are Gothenburg’s – if not Sweden’s – most successful pair of restaurant workhorses, Ulf Wagner and Gustav Trägårdh. With the former at the helm and the latter in the kitchen, they run a well-oiled machine, focused on the total experience. The algae crispbread with subtle sea notes in the amply filled breadbasket sets the tone. Autumn is the season for both game and lobster, so a tender moose tartare has been given a lovely sounding board of lobster emulsion while tart apple and toasted hazelnuts create much needed contrast in terms of taste and texture. A semi-dry riesling from the Mosel matches nicely with its fruity, mineral notes. We continue with an absolutely brilliant cod loin, first cured and then poached to perfection. The creation is enthroned upon mixed cabbages in a foamy oyster sauce with a nice saltiness and crowned with freshly grated truffle. The flavours are finely tuned and let the fish play throughout his register. With a mighty piece of pan-fried turbot, however, the kitchen has thrown all finesse overboard and brought forth heavy artillery in the form of potato gnocchi, mushrooms and sweetbreads, all seasoned with tarragon. It’s rich, bordering on rustic, but it works. Even though the matching beaujolais struggles a bit. The delightful almond and pistachio cake with plums poached in port wine is still impossible to abstain from, but the tonka bean panna cotta that comes with it leaves us rather unmoved. At Sjömagasinet they are not only masters at combining ingredients on the plate - they also know how to match those combinations with the right beverage, and they do so with knowledge, charm and individuality. It is not easy to successfully navigate this flagship between the luxurious and the popular, tradition and innovation, but the gentlemen do it with honour.
At the very moment we step inside the door a cook begins browning butter. The smell! The sound! Isn’t this cheating? The sweet caramel aroma that fills the dining room naturally adds an additional dimension to the warmth, the atmosphere and the light that so nicely frames SK. We sit in the lower part of the dining room, where the pastry chef works at his kitchen island. In the upper dining room you look instead straight into the warm open kitchen. The cooks seem to thrive in the open exposure – they smile, cheer and come out with the food themselves. Choose between four, six or eight dishes on the long tasting menu – or order from the à la carte section. This is a high-class restaurant, but it never gets too fancy. They open at 5 o’clock and stay open late, so you can drop in for something quick – or devote an entire evening here. Either way, you can’t go wrong. Nor can you go wrong with the fermented, planed, puréed and fried celeriac, a perfect contrast to the salty-sweet, gently cured rainbow trout roe that clatters and pops around in your mouth. The hard-blackened, cured striploin with smoked mayonnaise, crispy pieces of winter apples and spring radishes offers nice contrasts. Except for the radishes, the kitchen follows along with the changing seasons. On our visit in early winter was dominated by root vegetables, cabbage, mushrooms and game. Overall the flavours are intense and a challenge for the sommeliers. They tend to match-make with well-known producers, but it’s the more unusual and artisanally produced wines to which we raise our glasses. Serving the white vermentino from the Italian red wine producer La Spinetta, with the rainbow trout roe, is typical, for example. But the best match is the one between the syrah grapes from Cornas and Domaine Vincent Paris and the tender, red wild duck that combines elegantly with mayonnaise made from toasted rapeseed oil, steamed cabbage and crunchy hazelnuts. If we should whine about something it’s the truly mediocre breadbasket. In the end, we are where our visit began – right beside that browning butter which, it turns out, is to fry the brioche that is served with a cloudberry compote and vanilla ice cream. Simple and so good. At SK the atmosphere is genial, generous and personalised, exactly what restaurateur Stefan Karlsson himself is so good at engendering.
A red cottage accommodates the small, homey restaurant with sturdy wooden tables and alluring ambiance. Upstairs there are a couple of hotel rooms and a short distance away in the village are the family’s two newly opened sister establishments. It is primarily the Bertilsson brothers who now run the restaurant side of the family business, and with a clear focus. The ambitions on the plate extend so far that their goal is to be completely self-sufficient in vegetables within a few years, a project that is already well advanced. Everything served this evening has its provenance either in their farm in Funäsdalen or comes from very local, carefully selected producers. Rustic dishes dominate the menu with natural flavours inspired by the mountain. The food is simple; every ingredient has a role. The dishes are a tribute to the region and that which nature provides. Homemade charcuterie starts the meal, followed by a buttery Jerusalem artichoke purée topped with pleasantly tart pickled tarragon, slow baked lamb and fried Jerusalem artichoke chips. These tender, nurturing flavours are paired with a nice cream ale from Åre. The beverage recommendations are consistently knowledgeable, and natural wines are chosen gladly so the pure flavours fit the food. The service is familial and professional, present and empathetic. Crunchy rainbow trout fried with its skin on is balanced with round sea-saltiness from trout roe, fermented fennel and mashed potatoes. Yes, in the menu it says simply, “mashed potatoes”. Liberatingly unpretentious.
A stroll through the park and a break at the castle’s Matcafé is a perfect start to an afternoon off. If your goal is to maximise your evening, book a tasting menu in size small, medium or large, at the castle’s impressive Matrum. Slottsrestaurangen has Skåne and Småland as favourite landscapes and the menus change from day to day, driven by clever creations and availability of ingredients, like moose tongue, sweetbreads, cod skin or goose. The dishes are served on handmade porcelain that has been specially designed with inspiration from the castle’s rooms and facades. Whether you take a big or small spending mood with you, the visit is an almost magical experience. We test the daily special and get cherrywood-smoked salmon from the kitchen’s smoker with dilly mashed potatoes. Bands of dill-marinated cucumbers beautifully cut lengthwise, freshly harvested carrots and a parsnip marinated to outrageously sunny freshness are strewn helter-skelter. It would be inappropriate to lick the mash from the plate, but we sure we want to. Both the Matcafé and Matrum are located in the castle with its 800 years of history, and it captures the imagination. It turns out that Thomas and Charlotta Begic accept bookings from all over the world, sometimes of the more quirky type – like a wedding party with a menu comprised only of medicinal plants. After a charmingly handled cappuccino using beans from Balck Coffee, the local roastery in Kalmar, Slottsrestaurangen conjures up a glass of red wine with a balanced, incomparable roundness from northern Médoc. It is a perfect finish.
The dynamic duo of Melker Andersson and Danyel Couet have had a major impact in the restaurant industry in recent years. The most obvious being the move from fine dining to quality, fun eating. Under Marcus Lindstedt's leadership their most institutionalized restaurant, Smak, has parked itself confidently at the forefront of the group. The concept remains the same: small plates from world cuisines are served in rapid succession, each with a single, dominating flavour. You order by making checkmarks on a form, and there are also carefully selected beverage options with each of the dishes. We really enjoyed a brioche with sirloin steak, foie gras and ginger perfume, as well as a pointed cabbage wrap with sweetbreads with a bit of a chilli kick. Dilly brandade of cod from Lofoten and char with nutty brown butter, crispy (!) oyster mushrooms and trout roe, all illustrate the style nicely, too. On the sweet side the trio of pear, mint and chocolate invites you on a trip back to the 70s and we conclude that not everything was better back then. Even the setting is cut from the same conceptual template. It has the generic feeling of a modern big city restaurant over it all - stylish and properly put together, but not without cosiness. High ceilings, large windows, soft lighting from ornate light fixtures, muted colours, smoky mirrors and tapestries are a warm contrast to the glass and concrete of the surrounding city neighbourhood. The guest mix is eclectic - a mix of suits at work dinners, dating young couples and county officials up for a conference. The service is easy-going and knowledgeably leads us through the food and drinks.
Snapphanarna from Göinge were, according to the history books, warlike peasants who fought against the Swedish crown. At the Malmö restaurant of the same name, the battle is over how to refine what grows next door. The brothers behind Vollmer, Malmö’s best restaurant where seasonality is king, have established in Snapphane their own casual dining restaurant following the same motto, albeit in a more relaxed and pared down form. Snapphane is a tightly run establishment. The chefs work with quiet concentration in the glass-enclosed kitchen located in the middle of the space. The menu is short and the wine list, too. Ebbe Vollmer with his staff guide diners expertly through the evening. Snapphane breathes fine dining, with its sober decor, perfect lighting and its hyper-modern kitchen. And they succeed in the details, not least in the bread serving of small stuffed rolls that make us happy. The parsnip-filled bun sprinkled with liquorice powder in particular elicits shout for more. Later we receive a plate of buttery, sweet-salty salsify with trumpet mushrooms. It’s fiercely good. With each wine serving we get a lesson in oenology. A pinot noir from New Zealand matches the guinea fowl served with a crazy umami-dense purée of fermented vegetables. The dessert is an ode to autumn: dark pink strands of coloured, crunchy pear, a pear parfait rolled in blackberry powder, and a lovely cream made of white chocolate and buttermilk. Snapphane is a bargain among Malmö’s restaurants, especially for those who seek excellent service and good ingredients cooked with a gentle, steady hand.
You can still pop in and hope for a spot here, but now you can also book in advance, which pleases those of us who want to ensure a place at one of the three communal tables. While getting acquainted with our neighbours, we try to choose from among the evening’s dishes. It’s not entirely easy, but thanks to the small plates concept we can order several. Speceriet is the “bakficka” to Gastrologik, a casual dining side that shares a kitchen with the fine dining establishment, so while the dishes are less sophisticated than at the main restaurant, they are delicious and composed with playful finesse. A fluffy “blini” made from chickpea flour arrives in a small skillet topped with the finest bleak roe and delightfully smoky sour cream – a brilliant start. Our knowledgeable waiter recommends a glass of Ca ’Lojera from a magnum to go with it. Egg sandwich with truffles? Yes, thank you, and at every brunch for the rest of our lives, please. Under a sunny-side-up egg hides an umami-fueled Parmesan cream, sautéed onions, and a slice of brioche. Over all of that they’ve sliced a generous amount of Gotland truffles. The attentive staff look after us, making sure the flatware holders on the tables are full and chatting with the diners. A duck breast that’s so tender we almost get tears in our eyes is pleasantly accompanied by pickled oyster mushrooms and the smoothest pumpkin cream. Do we have the energy for one more dish? Oh, yes. And then dessert – Jerusalem artichoke ice cream in caramel sauce with a chocolate crisp from Sthlm Bean to Bar.
You would have to have a heart of stone not to fall in love with the welcoming, urban, relaxed atmosphere at Spisa. We also fall a little in love with the knowledgeable and attentive waiters and waitresses, who really do their utmost to ensure a good experience. Are we hesitating between two wines? They suggest a sip of each. How is it cooked? They’ll check with the chef. Share a glass? No problem! We are equally happy about the cheeky drink list with sangria and rebujito variations, and the many gin and tonic combinations. The food that travels over the counter from the huge open kitchen along one long side of the dining room is well prepared and comforting, with deliberate crowd-pleasing French-Spanish-Italian hits in their own interpretations. There is something for everyone – in the absolute best sense. The crispy-fried boquerones with lively tarragon mayo and poached eggs, and the coarsely cut beef tartare with tangles of fried potatoes both taste exactly as yummy as they sound. We cannot imagine anyone who can resist the totally decadent, creamy, al dente risotto topped with browned butter, sweet, nutty roasted chestnuts and grated truffles. A cool Langhe nebbiolo to go with it is just what the doctor would have ordered. The main courses are large, and a little less daring flavour-wise, but they work fine at a family-style dinner where everyone picks from each other’s plate. Just like at sommelier and restaurant king Björn Persson’s other restaurants, the wine skills are far above average here, and you can safely let yourself be guided by the rather short but well thought-out list.
A richly aromatic juice of blue grapes from the garden is one of the non-alcoholic surprises. Another is a milk drink from Järna, shaken with coffee beans and orange peel. Delicious. The milk drink is served with a ganache with lingonberries and a meringue flavoured with fennel and caraway. Possibly caraway and fennel leads to thoughts of aquavit, but that is also the only association we get to spirits. In other words, it’s a shame that the restaurant has such a misleading name. Namely because some of Sweden’s best non-alcoholic beverages are served here – and those that do contain alcohol are far removed from the spirit world. It starts with a sweet-sour non-alcoholic sprattelsaft made from rowanberries served with a snack of fried cabbage with pickled radish. It’s an excellent combo, and the “alco-hol”alternative, biodynamic Gelber Muskateller from Steirerland in Austria, marries equally well. The most spectacular beverage serving, however, is a tea carefully prepared at the table using a piece of fermented teacake from 2012. The deep earthy forest notes are in complete symbiosis with a dish of grilled celery tops, wild ramson capers, funnel chanterelles and currants in varying stages of maturity. Chef Petter Nilsson has a confident palette and a creative handle on vegetables. Some of it is extremely daring, like in three black lumps on a plate: a fermented garlic clove, a baked beetroot and a charred baked radicchio. Three shades of black with deep, mouth-filling flavours in different textures. Entertaining, especially with a nice piece of lamb tenderloin. The focus on craft beer and modern natural wines is brilliant. A chenin blanc from Domaine Mosse in Loire has deep fatty notes and wild honey aromas that make the lobster ravioli filled with goat's cheese almost explosive when it meets the lobster broth with kombu seaweed. The beverages are managed by Hanna Lilja, who has been schooled by her predecessor, Erika Lindström. A Macon Rouge pinot noir brings out the muted root vegetable flavours in a dish with zander, grilled turnips and bottarga. With its superior drinks and one of Stockholm’s most interesting menus, a visit to Spritmuseum is one museum experience whose experimental exhibits are sure to entertain.
In a short amount of time Stadskällaren in central Skellefteå has become an institution in town. With courage and decisiveness, the old paint shop a few steps down from street level transformed into a restaurant entirely integrated in the well-stocked delicatessen – or is it vice versa? It does not matter, for this is where anyone interested in food gathers, either to eat in or to buy a complete gourmet bag to cook at home. The restaurant has its own twist on tapas with small plates that make it interesting for a variety of palates. The menu is divided into four sections: greens, meat, fish and sweet. Five small dishes are equivalent to a three-course dinner. Each component in tonight’s composition of moose, Jerusalem artichoke, lamb and smoked cod is excellent in and of itself, and plays in perfect harmony. The beverages are selected with great care and local character. Even if the setting can at times be a tad noisy, don’t let it get to you. Instead, sit back, enjoy the atmosphere and let the very professional staff take care of you.
You can now find a little piece of unadulterated French gastronomy in the heart of Malmö. Karim Khouani has left Tygelsjö to compete with the more urban Malmö restaurants in Sture’s classic (and newly renovated) restaurant premises. The combination of the hundred-year-old decor, the simple door partition that breathes cool grey luxury, and the open kitchen convey a sense of elegance. For SEK 950, you get seven dishes, six snacks and an abundance of petit fours. In this era of experimental fermentation, it is almost a relief to be served perfectly cooked lamb, or a piece of turbot that falls apart in beautiful flakes. The finesse lies in the precision of the cooking and the small, light-green shroud that envelops the lamb tenderloin in sage and tarragon. The lamb is served with the season’s local vegetables – either breaded and pan-fried, or puréed – so there is also balance in the textures. Generous amounts of black winter truffle further anchor the French flavour profile. A buttery tender king crab is wrapped in parchment-thin lardo and topped with a small dollop of Ossetra caviar and red wood sorrel. The crab is amazing, and has been handled with care, in order to achieve a perfect storm of sweetness, texture and mineral sea-saltiness. In terms of wine, there are mostly low-key French classics to suit the theme. A light beaujolais works best with the oven-baked turbot with grapefruit and bell peppers. An impossible combo on paper, but the young, tart wine works surprisingly well. A floral sauvignon blanc is not as convincing with the crab, and an albeit delightfully spicy côtes-du-rhône is too strong to be the only wine served with the amazing cheese trolley – which could be worth a visit in itself. The kitchen is, on the whole, balanced and mature without too much shouting or screaming – and gets extra points when the perfectionist is allowed to come into his own in the amuse-bouches and petit fours. The small canapés are the evening’s highlights, with small cake pieces of fresh clams and garlic mayo, herb-infused “chips”, lobster meat with caviar, and the fried ball of pork cheek. The artistic expression is as meticulously controlled here as in the desserts, where Khouani does not shrink from the traditional in combining a coffee and chocolate tart with exotic elements like mango, coconut and lime. There are few places in Sweden where it is possible to find such a passionate relationship with cheese – and the portions here are more than generous. However, the discriminating wine menu needs a bit more courage and vision to match the great French narrative on the plates.
Every self-respecting city should have a restaurant that summarises its soul – at least the fashionable part. For many years Sturehof has shouldered the role of “Brasserie Stockholm”. Open from morning to night, everyone seems to hang out or pass through here at some point during the day. The patina of Jonas Bohlin’s interior only becomes more beautiful over the years. It’s classic blond Swedish divided into several sections with a large oblong dining room tightly fitted with damask-covered tables. The entrance is in the middle of the premises so everyone can see who steps forward to the maître d’ podium. Fish and seafood are the main features on the plates and all the ingredients from sea and lake are sustainably caught. The kitchen does a pretty good job, which is impressive given the high pace and the number of diners. The house’s seafood sausage is fun as are the lovely and classic quenelles. From the Barents Sea comes cod, lightly cured and served with shrimp, horseradish and a brown butter hollandaise, so scrumptious it can be eaten with a spoon. Oven-baked turbot from Kvinesdal is served with beurre blanc, the zander comes from Lake Malaren and the apples in the finale are from Små-dalarö. The foie gras, prepared au torchon, is as good as it is heftily proportioned. The wine list follows the same brief, as does the service staff, who are multitudinous, experienced and quick. On Fridays this is a fun scene for those who slaved away in neighbouring offices during the week.
It all goes so fast. In the traditional Tokyo-style, called edomae, the name for the sushi that became the world’s first fast food in the early 1800s. In one and a half hours we’ve enjoyed 15 servings in the form of an omakase, i.e., the chef’s choice. Carl Ishizaki packs a big experience into this little room, which is cramped and rather spartanly furnished. Behind the counter he and his mates assemble the servings with a light hand and good humour in disarming, long-sleeved undershirts to the tune of 80s pop music. It begins with a series of small dishes, and we are impressed by the tuna cubes with green okra, puffed rice and an egg yolk that’s been marinated overnight in soy sauce and sweet sake. We are asked to mix it all together to experience the sweet-salty-tartness in a soft cream with roasted notes. More smoke, acidity and fat are supplied by the dish with halibut and plum vinegar – perfect with the soft, elegant notes of a Masumi sake. There are mostly Atlantic fish among the eight nigiri pieces, and these are served with a slightly sweeter sake: Daishichi Masakura. The sake also gives wings to a fun variation on herring with pickled spring onions and crushed ginger. The best, though, is the seared rainbow trout with rice that’s been laced with lightly fermented vinegar. A third, more rough and woodsy sake combines nicely with the ocean notes of salmon roe and Galician sea urchin. The recommended sake pairings are an interesting journey into a new world of flavour, though Japanese beer or fresh German riesling wines are good alternatives. There is no doubt that Sushi Sho delivers – although perhaps in the fastest way possible.
“What strength would you like?” the waiter asks, when we have trouble reading the menu and wonder if they have some reading glasses we can borrow. This says something about the level of service at Svartengrens, where a remarkably well recruited and warm staff unpretentiously and safely pilot you through dinner. When the waiter explains that the flap steak on the cow sits next to the slightly drier flank – and that the tres major sits above the flatiron steak, in front of the ribs, and has a bit of the same character as filet mignon – he does so with his whole body, as if in a dance. It is precisely these different cuts that are the draw at one of the city’s hottest destinations for carnivores. All of the meat comes from small producers close by, often in the Stockholm archipelago. In the restaurant’s basement it is tenderized, smoked and cured. Then it is served with the sophistication that only really good meat can be, naked and alone on the plate, with optional condiments on the side. “Onions, Onions, Onions” is one of the better options, with memorable crispy panko-fried rings. The starters take longer to prepare, like a flower of rolled slices of dry-aged roast beef and coppa standing on end, surrounded by sugar-salted cranberries, thin mushroom slices, and bone marrow butter. Sublime. If you did not have time for a cocktail in the bar before dinner, treat yourself to one with dessert, like the little gem straightforwardly described as “sugar peas, champagne and vermouth”. The venue is often crowded, the customers young and savvy, the wall art liberal and impressive, and the atmosphere is always as high-pitched as the music streaming forth from the speakers.
Swedish Taste is much more than an elegant restaurant. Here they offer cooking activities for groups of friends and businesses, conferences, events and even bags of groceries from the small café/shop next door. The location, opposite the Gothenburg opera house, characterises the crowd, especially when the “Tenor box” (as Gothenburg has dubbed the music scene) hosts one of their more popular performances. There is an opera menu among the tasting menus, of course, but all the dishes here are affordable enough, even to order à la carte. The kitchen works happily, as the name suggests, with a lot of Swedish ingredients, but the flavours and spices are often of more exotic sort. Though this does not apply to the venison tartare that has been given a slight scorching, served with flavour-boosting black garlic and green juniper and some pears for sweetness. Things get really yummy when a plate of fermented Jerusalem artichokes with walnuts and browned butter lands on the table and the talkative waiter proficiently grates Gotland truffle on top. They place great effort in finding good wine matches here, and with some of the dishes the same talkative waiter holds miniature wine tastings to make sure we’re satisfied. To match the tender lamb from Sjuhärad with salt-baked beets, fermented blackcurrants and fun, popped amaranth seeds, our choice falls on a muscular Portuguese wine from Quinta do Vallado instead of the proposed Swedish one. But of course Sweden is in our glasses when the dessert is apples with a little fried donut; Brännland ice cider is hard to resist.
On Brunkeberg hill, Stockholm’s new entertainment district is emerging under the name Urban Escape. At the top of the building is Tak, one of the most talked about restaurant openings in recent years. Chef Frida Ronge’s (formerly of vRÅ in Gothenburg) Nordic Nippon kitchen now has a new home and the food is an appealing, clever mix of Swedish and Japanese ingredients, flavours and techniques. One example is the house “algae potatoes”, which are grown 25 meters from the sea, covered with algae, resulting in a firmer texture and more nutrients. They are served with Arenkha caviar (herring roe), sour cream and herring with a mild, smoky taste; unmistakably Swedish but with a Japanese sea note. Some things are finger-licking good, like the house donburi – a mixture of chicken, sweet and sour pickled rutabaga, rice, sweet caramelized onion and a perfectly baked egg whose flowing yellow yolk binds it all together in a delicious mix. Sure, the flavours get a bit messy, with all those potent ingredients in one deep, beautiful bowl. But it’s a sure-fire crowd-pleaser. Another perfection is the grilled redfish that flakes beautifully when it hits the fork joined by a complex “salad” of rice, almonds and iceberg lettuce, moistened with a mayo made from roasted garlic and chicken. All of this is topped with shredded dried pork. Oh yes, it’s seriously extravagant and dastardly good. On the concise list of sweets (there are only two) a tasty ice cream of roasted rice stands out. The restaurant is smart and modern, and the dining room designed by Wingårdh is very “now”. The open floor plan has stylish room dividers and in the background a large tattooed entourage in white coats prepare the food in the kitchen. It’s fun, playful and yet elegant with gold metal, wood, leather and concrete as base notes. The flow of light through the large windows is dazzling – as is the view, with large parts of the city at your feet. On the beverage side, sake plays prominently in different styles and temperaments. This is the place to get more closely acquainted with the complex world of rice wines. The large terrace outside is guaranteed to be this summer’s most coveted place in the sun.
Gustav Öhman, the restaurateur at Taxinge Krog, lives for food and loves talking about food with his customers. He is excited about the chewy gluten strands of the last delivery of Warbro Kvarn’s flour, about the taste of the meat from the six-year-old cow that he had the privilege to come by, and the delight in a childhood memory of BigPack ice cream now reinterpreted in a version containing strawberry, porcini and spruce shoot ice cream. In the next second he’s acting as sommelier, presenting his selected drinks with equal amounts of engagement and knowledge. He explains how the flavour of the beers or the organic and biodynamic wines will pair with the food. Non-alcoholic beverage pairings are also available, with different flavours of house-made barley waters. He is currently assisted by a young Swede who, during his internship in Paris, was referred to Taxinge because it is considered to be at the forefront when it comes to green and sustainable cooking. The rumour has reached Europe. It’s true, Gustav probably runs one of Sweden’s most sustainable restaurants. The plant kingdom forms the basis of the food served here and he uses as much as he can of each ingredient. The season governs what is collected, grown, picked, fished, butchered and prepared. The menu is fixed at six to eight small dishes that vary week to week, depending entirely on what his small producers and entrepreneurs from the neighbourhood have to offer, or what they find in the forest and soil.
Tore Wretman knew what he was doing when he opened the doors to Teatergrillen nearly five decades ago. Across the street is the Royal Dramatic Theatre’s stage entrance and the goal was to attract the best-known names from stage and film. Specially discounted prices after performances did the trick and the place became a veritable celebrity magnet. Even today the crowd consists of entertainers, albeit of a different kind – these come from the financial world and the political scene. And they have a decent amount of money. Which may be needed, for it is expensive at “Grillen”. In exchange one gets to see one of the country’s most complete restaurant experiences come to life. This includes the gentle clatter when the silver carriage rolls over the wall-to-wall carpeting, the mannered murmur of a self-conscious and sometimes recognizable crowd, along with well-mixed cocktails. The spot-on 60s interior design by Yngve Gamlin does its part to establish the Mad Men aura, with nicely divided rooms, marble, theatre props and red velvet. Even the output from the kitchen rests on a classic foundation. From the aforementioned silver trolley comes a hearty piece of salt-baked beef that’s carved tableside and served with a lovely tarragon-laced béarnaise. Another feature taken directly from Wretman's era is Tosca pears, which it’s fair to say is rather simple for SEK 145. The cod bourguignon with beef brisket and fried almond potatoes as well as a foie gras terrine with fried oyster mushrooms are as well prepared as they are apropos. The masculine service staff are stoic and knowledgeable and match with the environment and the atmosphere. In the small entrance bar you can order slightly simpler fare: a burger or toast Skagen with a glass of wine.
In the midst of the minimalist era Markus Aujalay has invested deeply in its total opposite: fuchsia, turquoise, plush fabrics, cosiness, pillows, chandeliers and warm ambiance en masse. And actually, we note how our shoulders sink a few centimetres when, without resistance, we are embraced by the comfortable armchairs. The furnishings and soft jazz streaming from the speakers are an effective counterpoint to the extreme urban location in one of the city’s main traffic junctions. But can the food from this master chef judge withstand the same harsh scrutiny that he himself subjects to aspiring chefs on TV? Indeed it can. The simple little burrata serving manages to eclipse most interpretations in the genre: the creamy cheese is the perfect temperature and served with intense, cured tomatoes and powerful herbs. The halibut carpaccio, which is more like a love child between carpaccio and ceviche in style, is even better. Massive slices of supple halibut topped with well-dosed amounts of both lemon and piment d’Espelette. Among the heavier dishes we are impressed by a perfectly cooked piece of venison, paired with red wine and coffee sauce and an orange-braised, slightly bitter endive cleft. It’s an impressive balancing act where the bitterness of coffee and endive functions like clockwork with the wild game’s iron bloody sweetness and the fruitiness of the orange. The food is straightforward, tasty, and very well thought out. And the drinks? Yes, there is a bevy of fun cocktails, a well-curated wine list, and knowledgeable staff to help you along. Our wine selection is handled as carefully as the food, and the staff are just as wonderfully untrendy (aka., genuinely warm) as the pink, plush furniture. A new favourite restaurant is born.
“This wine is damn good with the steak”! Our waiter tries to convince us to order the newly arrived bourgueile, and of course he is right. The young tattooed waiter knows his stuff and has an attuned ear for service: he’s straightforward, witty and has a twinkle in his eye. Björn Frantzén calls this restaurant off Mälartorget a gastropub but, note that they do not serve regular pub food here – and especially not at regular pub food prices. The bill can easily run up to SEK 2000 for two. The environment is an upscale interpretation of a pub, robust and elegant at the same time, with wood and leather as a backdrop. The clientele is also in line with the concept: it’s a fun mix of colleagues out to dinner, peppered with a remarkable number of couples in different configurations. A hand-cut lamb tartare is a fine tribute to classic Swedish flavours when it intermingles with a mayo tinged with acetic acid, pickled carrots and onion. It is also stylishly presented in a hefty cast iron casserole. The Kalix bleak roe with pork belly and brown butter is a dish with a similar spirit. Quite simply, yummy Swedish food. The house fish ’n’ chips succeeds in being crispy on the outside and beautifully flaky inside. And the aforementioned steak comes with porter-glazed onions, fried straw potatoes and a fantastic gravy. The thick pancake with macerated cloudberries is a heavy finish. A lot of fun and complex stuff streams out of the beer taps here. Behind the restaurant hides Back Bar, a simpler section with a focus on beer and music. Here you can show off your smarts in a recurring music quiz.
You can’t help but think about the parties and dinners that have been arranged in this stately mansion over the years, even if today it is primarily the haunt of conferencing groups. A lot of foodies find their way here too, and with good reason. A menu is served here every evening and soon after one is shown to the table the sommelier sneaks in to talk about the evening’s beverage pairings, with or without alcohol. The amuse-bouche consists of small pieces of fried sweetbreads with an emulsion of tarragon, and it immediately gets us in the mood. The first course is a delicate balance of seared scallops, creamed clam and a beautifully cut pointed cabbage roll that, to the untrained eye, resembles a sheer piece of leek. It’s a bit strange, though, that part of the dish is cold while some ingredients are lukewarm. But the porcelain is beautiful and there is a well thought-out unity in the presentation. The main course of lamb is tender and tasty but it’s the crown dill emulsion that makes us howl with pleasure. We find the same intense flavour explosion in the dessert, a phenomenally beautiful arrangement of “apple pie”. Here they have paved the plate with crumbs of cinnamon and chocolate. A light green sorbet of Granny Smith constitutes the dish’s centre, and it is flanked by thin flakes of cider-flavoured meringue with a tingling acidity. This is truly the menu’s crowning dish and when the golden drops of Brännland’s ice cider slip down our gullets, we shudder with happiness.
Nowadays they play popular Swedish rock at Thörnströms. And at relatively high volume, too. Thörnströms turns 20 years old this year and for 20 years has offered a predictable and traditional fine dining restaurant experience. The mature, loyal, affluent clientele who still sit for long dinners on the padded seats have now been joined by a younger crowd since Hakan Thörnström’s successful stint on television. And the staff! Last year the more serious, suited service staff started being replaced by young girls in black jeans with corkscrews in their back pockets. This year they own the floor fully; unpretentious, professional, charming and easy-going. The kitchen on the other hand has rarely produced so much heavy metal. An egg royale with cauliflower and drifts of truffles is like eating hangover food at first, due to its flavour-fueled, cheesy-creamy indulgence, but it’s fun in combination with a mature champagne. The amuse-bouches are multiple: a cheese-filled macaroon is a sweet intro and chips with horseradish cream are post-modernly stylish. Among the cold starters there’s a chilled rabbit ballotine encrusted in pistachios accompanied by a product of the year’s zero-waste craze: fried carrot tops (which, it should be said, also have zero taste). The main courses are protein-heavy calorie bombs. Six tender slices of venison flanked by a thumb-sized venison sausage and an herb-disguised stew. We look desperately for acid among the plate’s greenery, where a few thin apple slices fight valiantly among some twigs of rosemary. But then, oh! – a super-cute cookie jar appears with the coffee, packed with old-fashioned shortbread cookies like brysselkex, lingongrottor, kolasnittar, and schackrutor.
The Inn at Ulriksdal, north of Haga Park, is a Swedish national treasure. Now the beautiful white building has been awakened from its gastronomic slumber thanks to the Svenska Brasserier restaurant group. With Sturehof, Riche and Teatergrillen to their credit, they know how to manage and renew restaurants with a gentle hand. And with Tommy Myllymäki as gastronomic commander, no one need hesitate about the quality and ambition. Here you can take family and friends, and have quiet business meetings. Visually, everything is the same; there’s a timeless elegance where nothing stands out. This also applies to the food that Myllymäki is gently coaxing into the present. A poached Lake Malaren zander comes with browned onions, anchovies, bleak roe and crispy oven-baked potatoes. A handsomely baked char in a butter sauce flecked with trout roe comes with steamed cauliflower and Anya potatoes. He also composes classics like veal with sweet and sour sauce and Wallenbergare. The starters are more contemporary, like the thinly sliced whole-roasted celeriac with Parmesan and truffle cream. For sweet tooths, the magnificent dessert buffet is a memory for life. It is ceremonious to step into the space with its old-fashioned tidiness. Many are attracted by the daily smorgasbord, which has been simplified to a fresh appetiser version with the best from the cold kitchen. What we now see at Ulriksdal is only the beginning of a new era. The once unrivaled wine cellar has also been updated, a new cooking studio with a lab is being built, and in the garden they are planning to build beds that will supply both Ulriksdal and the other Svenska Brasserier restaurants with fresh produce.
It has been a little shaky at the top of the middlemost of the three Gothia skyscrapers, but now it seems like new Head Chef Gabriel Melim Andersson has his house in order. Even if the place at times seems like an anachronism: a formal fine dining restaurant for business dinners in an era of casual fun dining when food enthusiasts eat on their own dime. You could say that the restaurant passes through a narrow window in time, thanks to a service staff who, in spite of the starched grey uniforms and golden sommelier brooches (yes, all are certified sommeliers) succeed in creating a warm, intimate atmosphere and manage to correctly adjust the tonality to various types of guests. Not that there are so many; it is pretty empty in the large dining room with its glass walls facing out towards the city’s nightly glitter competing for attention with the plates that rain down on the table. The six amuse-bouches are fireworks from the start: the opening quince meringue with sturgeon caviar from Bulgaria sets the standard. Then comes the house’s signature: the small yet highly aromatic slice of fresh mushroom atop a mushroom croquette that tempts in a pas de deux with a blood tartlet, Kalix bleak roe and orange marigolds. That we are in Gothenburg is confirmed by a charcoal-grilled langoustine on a thin rye crisp, served with a crown dill emulsion. It’s almost like Leif Mannerström himself were standing in the kitchen. The bread presentation continues to be one of Sweden’s most entertaining. A brioche is stone-baked with bay leaves, tableside, naturally in the form of the iconic Hönö flatbread. The wine pairings are well chosen, even if the classic top wines, primarily from the United States, which were present here a couple of years ago, are conspicuously absent. The sommelier now shows his skills in the non-alcoholic beverage pairings. The actual tasting menu jump-starts the meal with a delicious brown crab with sour milk, whose mild umami is hidden under a slightly over-worked arrangement of green algae sails. Bonny Doon’s Verjus de Cigare made from the unfermented juice of grenache blanc and mourvèdre grapes supports the dish with its aroma and lively acidity. The evening’s highpoint is the crispy pan-fried cod loin with small pieces of corn under paper-thin daikon slices and flower petals in an herb-split jus, scented with puffs of smoke. A non-alcoholic spätburgunder from Bernard Ott in Austria matches the dish as nicely as the chablis, a 2013 1er cru Forêt with both mineral and floral notes. Next, an “anjou noir”: Maupiti from Clos de L’Elu, with its spicy fruitiness, is a devoted husband to the stylish dove from Skåne served with fermented plum and lilac under red pointed cabbage. Yes, there are a lot of floral displays here, even in the middle of winter. They continue all the way into the sweets, ending with violets and hibiscus. You can choose something from the bar to go with the sweets, but a few of these four scrumptious bites are tinged with alcohol, minimizing the need for liqueur.
Nordiska Akvarellmuseet, Södra Hamnen 6, 471 32 Skärhamn
The only embellishment in this high-ceilinged room is the large glass panel that covers the whole of one wall, turning the hillsides and the sea into part of the decor. And what decor! Outside a storm is howling. The ocean is spewing foam and on the small islets the grasses are licking against the rocks. It is so windy that the restaurant cannot keep the doors open. The square wooden tables are mostly filled with couples. The waiter recommends the warm head of salad as a starter and a wine that should suit both the salad and the main course. Here almost all of the wines are natural and the beers artisanal. “That’s what we like”, he says. With the tart salad he wisely recommends a white wine that has undergone malolactic fermentation. The lettuce, briefly charred, tastes rivetingly acidic together with salted anchovies and olives. The wine is tart and slightly creamy, almost yogurty. The fish of the day comes direct from the auction in Gothenburg and the kitchen is testing new and fun, creative presentations with a lot of character from Sweden and Bohuslän. Next door to the restaurant is the Nordic Watercolour Museum, outside the window the landscape is like a painting, and on the plates, a beautifully colourful finish: beetroot ice cream with strawberries and redcurrant meringue. Lovely.
Along Uppsala’s oldest promenade, Odinslund, with the Helga Trefaldighets church and Carolina Rediviva as neighbours, is where you’ll find the gastro hotel Villa Anna in a graceful 1800s building. Linen tablecloths and white gloves aside, the small dining room feels like a welcoming living room in soft shades. Nordic nature is the kitchen’s melody, and the four-course menu opens with snacks served on sturdy pieces of wood. A lot is locally produced here, like the prosciutto from Nibble farm. And the potato chips are so thin that you can easily see the cathedral tower through them, sandwiched with caviar and smoked cream. Smoked, too, is the butter with the warm sourdough bread. For the next dish we get a glass of Sancerre Le Tournebride. “Elderflower!” we have time to exclaim before they present us with plates of seared scallops with variations on elderflower. In the company of fried kale this course becomes a highly successful elderflower party. After that, zander with an entourage of rose hips picked in Uppsala and a sauce with dulse seaweed. Alongside it, chips with tapioca and algae that provide much needed crispiness. It’s fun and fresh, and the algae adds just the right depth. Finally, the dessert: ice cream with hazelnut and popcorn, crumbs of popcorn and bacon, and meringue made from Jerusalem artichokes. It’s exciting, and devilishly good, but the saltiness and smokiness of the bacon could have been more prominent. Jerusalem artichokes fit perfectly in the deliciously good meringue. The dessert is paired with a fresh and sweet little pearl, rosehip ice wine from Blaxsta vineyard. With a light feeling in both our stomachs and our step we walk down the cobblestones from Villa Anna.
Chef competition veteran Daniel Müllern lords over the cooking in three restaurants at the Ystad Saltsjöbad hotel, though we suspect that his heart is in the kitchen at the gingerbread-trimmed Villa Strandvägen. Excellent food has been made here before, but after an extensive renovation, the beautiful turn-of-the-century villa has been completely transformed. Coming to eat here is like being welcomed into a plush interior design magazine. You start with champagne in the library with an open fireplace and puffy cretonne-clad couches. The dining room is a large open room with sparsely clustered tables and comfortable chairs upholstered in matching fabric. There’s also a cosy little sofa area, and a dream kitchen in one corner with a shiny bright red French Molteni stove. Here the cooks work on an open stage, without either frying or the rumble of the fan. Müllern is passionate about seasonal produce from Österlen’s rich pantry. The menu gives you an option of either three or five courses, with some flexibility for substitutions. A great effort is made to combine food and wine. A starter with seared scallops and Jerusalem artichoke chips is paired with an unforgettable oak barrel-aged grüner veltliner. A slightly bloody and outrageously tender duck breast with baked beets, cherries and sour oxalis takes flight with the help of the noble French grenache and syrah grapes. And if you should enter a food coma, there are seven charmingly decorated rooms for overnight stays.
Mats Vollmer’s strongest talent lies in his ability to elevate humble creatures and make them into stars. The beet broth is a shining example. This seemingly simple little slurp of garishly Bordeaux-red liquid has an intense, fruity sourness that makes other renditions of borscht seem insipidly amateur. This is how it should taste and yes, thank you, another tiny dollop of sour cream would be lovely. The generous amuse-bouches are also tempting with a delicious little fried “kale sandwich” where two crispy leaves enclose a kale cream, topped with a sea-flavoured powder made from bladderwrack. The last one is a world-class pork belly from Olinge farm, salted and smoked over applewood then hung for three weeks. The process is described while the bacon slices are finished off tableside and then topped with sage and vinegar powder. The atmosphere is elegantly balanced, just like the flavours in the food, and formal fine dining mingles elegantly with a genuine and personal approach that brings to mind an inn in Skåne. Karin Chudzinska has a firmer grip than ever on the wine presentations – and she always has a linen napkin ready, which she folds into different shapes in order to pedagogically illustrate the locations of different wine regions. It’s much more entertaining than long reports on the wine farmer’s family relationships. She freely mixes classics, unknown gems, and natural wines, and the matches are both spot on and fun. The best is perhaps the Lugana wine from Tenuta Roveglia with its saffron notes paired with the fusion dish made from cream-poached and caramelised cauliflower, topped by crunchy, dried papadum-like cauliflower flakes and “Skåne curry” with twelve spices derived from either nature (like ramsons) or Skåne’s culinary traditions (like allspice). The result is a wonderfully multifaceted dish where Christmas vibes and India’s aromas play magically together, and with chutney made from Victoria plums. In Sweden’s most multicultural city, it is a small exclamation mark in a string of dishes that are otherwise more firmly rooted in nostalgia for Skåne. The non-alcoholic pairings have improved significantly since last year; the elegant cherry-tasting green tea with plum juice is one of the highlights. The dish that has been dubbed “Against principles” is exactly that. Control freak Mats Vollmer has resisted jumping on the fermentation wave, despite an otherwise pretty Nordic approach to food. But now he has found a way to control the bacteria as he likes and his fermented rhubarb adds juxtaposition to a tasty little mussel in an intense clam broth. Another winning number is the mushroom soup, which could be printed out as a prescription against winter depression with its deep, intensely nourishing and comforting umami. The secret involves vacuum-cooking the mushrooms to prevent even a single drop of water from sullying the pure juice that forms from the mushrooms. And of course: there’s the irresistible bread. Presented in the same beautiful rod shape as usual, but under the surface, like the restaurant, it’s been under constant development. It still has its foundation in the 100-yearold sourdough starter that the brother duo obtained from relatives on Östarps Gästgivaregård when they opened the restaurant. The first sweet kick here is the vanilla cream-filled freshly baked signature Danish pastry. The rest of the desserts are elegantly and finely tuned, like yogurt in four consistencies with pear and lemon verbena. They are fresh and light, and we appreciate that more than sugar bombs. Vollmer in its 2017 vintage is better than ever.
This austere little locale houses some of Sweden’s most defiant cooking. Both the flavours and the colours of the dishes tend toward the earthy, doing full justice to natural wines. It is easy to be impressed by the many uncompromising experiences, like a dish where topside, from a cow from Bjällansås farm, plays the main role. Under the thin raw meat lies a delicious blend of ramson cream with chips made from maple peas and the crunch of hazelnut. Eaten all together, it’s a funky flavour-enhancer in which the herb cream and nuttiness meet iron, fleshy notes. The wine, a juicy, raspberry-ish nerello mascalese from Vino di Anna on Etna, grows in the experience along with the topside. The most attractive dish, however, is a plate with Jerusalem artichoke cream flavoured with smoky notes of sugar-salted char roe on which beautiful strips of thick and pickled green rhubarb make a fanciful, impressionistic effect. An elegant flavour combo with acidity, smokiness and a deep creamy taste. A pinot gris from Pierre Frick in Alsace lived up to the dish’s acidity. The celeriac dish with cultivated mushrooms from Torna Hällestad in Skåne is no beauty, with its snake-like dumplings of celery cream winding around the pale mushrooms. But the taste – packed with maximum umami – makes us forgive the transgression. The reddish-black, slow-baked beet has been grilled with a birch sap glaze and plated on a grey dish with an airy hollandaise that’s flavoured with woodruff vinegar and dusted with powders made from beef brisket and beets. It is stylish and surprising with fatty, herby, earthy flavours that take flight with help from the wine, a cabernet franc Les Tailles from Jean-Christophe Garnier. The grilled, red pointed cabbage is an odd beauty. It covers pieces of thinly sliced lamb from Ällmora farm with naked barley and smoked mayonnaise. The meatiness and the bitter notes work well with a syrah from Saint Joseph in Rhône. It’s nice to fall into a dialogue about the dishes with all the knowledgeable people in the dining room – and they impart their passionate knowledge more than happily.
To turn an ordinary hotel dining room into a high-class restaurant is no easy feat. Hotel Vox, which started a few years ago, has succeeded. In winter 2016 the restaurant was upgraded under the leadership of Tom Jallow who, after guest performances at PM & Vänner in Växjö, is back in Jönköping where he previously ran several establishments. This time the food has an Asian twist. We are in the best mood from the outset, with the perfect dry martini in old-fashioned bevelled glasses. It only gets better from there. We continue with two amuse-bouches: oyster in soy reduction, and shiitake broth with fried rice paper and miso mayo. Delicious. The most beautiful dish of the evening is the scallop with mussels and avocado. The Asian take on råraka, the potato pancake, is a serious dish with, among other things, bacon and salmon. We praise the variation on Jerusalem artichoke for the root’s foam and the tasty mushrooms, though we wonder if the soft-boiled egg in the bottom was really necessary. A Smålandic classic follows this up: isterband sausage from Vaggeryd with beets in various forms. For dessert it will be pears, rosehips and local Rudenstam apples. The wine list is safely chosen and we are guided by a knowledgeable sommelier. We receive a riesling from the Rheingau with our various starters. Even the sausage finds a friend in a heavy red Australian wine from Adelaide. The dining room is clearly separated from the hotel lobby. The building itself is less inspiring; we sit in the former Social Insurance Agency(!), a cramped concrete building. But what does it matter when the food experience is better than most in Jönköping?
Clarion Hotel Post, Drottningtorget 10, 411 03 Gothenburg
In a calm, draped-off section of the grand Clarion Hotel Post, we are served a dainty, cubed starter – baked celeriac with onion emulsion, kale, and roasted sesame seeds in black and white. This beautiful confection illustrates VRÅ's concept – flavourful, deliberate, and seasonal with Swedish-Asian notes. We decide against wine this evening and choose a frothy IPA instead, a white ale from a Japanese microbrewery and green Bancha tea. The latter has been harvested in the fall and stored for three years before it reached our cups. It’s fun to read the tea menu, which explains when each tea is harvested, which parts of the plant are used, the storage time and expected taste. Our tea has notes of popcorn. The miso soup with apple, Jerusalem artichokes and mussels is fortifying. Then we are treated to ssäm, consisting of grilled char that you roll yourself into lettuce leaves and top with rice, pear chutney, pickled onions and beets, along with soy and sesame mayonnaise. It’s worth pointing out how incredibly well the Japanese daidai IPA relates to the dish; it has the distinct scent of oranges (daidai means “orange” in Japanese), which highlights the fruity condiments. We enjoy the main course – a potpourri of lightly charred (almost raw) zander, 63-degree egg, sour soy sauce, pickled red onions, salmon roe and algae threads. The desserts are smartly expedited. “What are you craving? Sweet and salty, or sour and fresh?” We dare to try the one that sounds a bit strange, a fresh cheese ice cream flavoured with soy caramel and crisp buckwheat, and our palates rejoice.
Fish of the handsomest kind? Certainly, but more importantly, Wedholms takes you on a magnificent journey through time, back to the mid 1980s. Remarkably little has changed at the restaurant that was Bengt Wedholm’s crowning achievement. The impressive piece of grilled turbot has almost the same girth, elasticity and juiciness, and the hollandaise that accompanies it has the same delicate acidity, curbed by the sweetness of the shallots. Was it better back then? In maritime gastronomy, yes. Nothing, nothing at all, can beat the sole meunière (SEK 495) served here, perfect in its naked caramel butteriness with only a lemon wedge and some boiled potatoes. And then again, no. Back then no one cared about the origin, the fishing methods or the vitality of stocks. In this regard, Wedholms is an anachronism. Currently zander from Lake Hjalmaren is MSC-certified, but that is probably not something the guests here are interested in. It’s enough to know that it comes poached, with the incomparable caramelly champagne sauce. This sauce alone is one of the strongest reasons to pay a visit and you can get it with almost anything. If you can’t choose, get the fricassee of lobster, sole, turbot and scallops, but be prepared to pay SEK 675 – even at lunch. But for a few hundred kronor you can get the same sauce with salmon or scallops. Many of the diners here have been in faithful attendance since it opened. They are affluent, with a touch of eccentricity that can electrify the dining room. The fantastic service staff also have this affect. Most are women of a mature age who engender a feeling of security, calm and warmth – creating an altogether unique atmosphere. Knowledge is served with a twinkle in the eye and batting of lashes, as in the reply: “This Burgundy shares a little soil with Montrachet, a damn good wine at a rock-bottom price”.
Prepare to be romanced at this tiny restaurant on Mosebacke Square. There is always a theme behind the minimal menu on the blackboard. On one of our visits the source of inspiration is the ardent U.S. food icon Julia Child, whose cooking shows are also projected on the cute, floral lace curtain. First we fall head over heels for the starter. The gin-perfumed venison tartare melts in the mouth. It’s complemented by smoked cream, crunchy pieces and brittle chips of salsify, trout roe that pops in your mouth and piquant garden cress. It is incredibly ingenious and elicits a mild euphoria, reinforced by the recommended light Burgundy. The smart wine selection draws heavily on the staff’s almost clairvoyant insights about their diners’ preferences. The vegetarian alternative is well conceived and an elaborate orgy of textural contrasts, fat, carbohydrates, and umami. It’s certainly easy to light-heartedly gobble up the food here, but it also holds up to more profound analysis. A dessert with chocolate cake and poached pears may seem pretty simple on paper, but it demonstrates refinement – in part because lavender has been smuggled into the light milk ice cream. At that point we fumble for our calendars to schedule the next visit. There are, you see, many reasons why it is crowded among the narrow long tables with slender chairs. If you want a bit more space we recommend the bar counter where you will receive lots of extra love from the charming and well-informed staff.
With over 100 Masters Level restaurants, the Nordic countries offer a wide variety of excellent culinary experiences. The Top 30 are all at the Global Masters level and they include some of the best restaurants in the world.