The past 15 years have seen a culinary revolution in Stockholm. A growing band of enthusiastic young chefs, fascinated by foreign influences, have begun to experiment with local ingredients in highly imaginative ways. Visitors to the city can now be sure of finding somewhere good to eat without it breaking the bank.
One of the most innovative of the new-wave chef/restaurateurs is Melker Andersson, who has returned to Stockholm after working at Quatre Saisons and Moulin de Mougins. His acclaimed Restaurang Fredsgatan 12 shares its premises in the centre of town with the Academy of Art, which is near the royal palace.
The cooking is brilliantly executed; tiny potato tacos are served with delicate orange bleak roe and lemon cream. Cubes of duck foie gras are lightly coated in breadcrumbs and mustard seed. Venison is accompanied by a tartlet of chanterelles with a dab of lingonberry ketchup. The regular wine list is small, but includes such surprises as Alto Adige Gewürztraminer Kastelaz, from Walch (Kr495/£35.50) and Ravenswood Winery’s Icon (Kr695/£50). A fine wine list is also available. From £35 per head, plus wine. Restaurang Fredsgatan 12, Fredsgatan 12, City, 111 52 Stockholm (tel: +46 8 24 80 52)
Andersson’s latest venture is simply called Restaurangen. The atmosphere is funkier and more contemporary than at Fredsgatan 12, suiting its position in the heart of the modern business district. The speciality at lunchtime is the Business Tray, which includes a starter, main course, dessert and fresh orange juice. The price is an astonishingly competitive Kr140 (£10), and the quality of food is superb. Restaurangen, Oxtorsgatan 14, City, 111 57 Stockholm (tel: +46 8 22 09 52).
Pontus Frithiof is another young chef who’s taken Stockholm by storm. Pontus in the Green House is an elegant 18th-century townhouse in the midst of Gamla Stan (the ancient heart of the city). The food is an accomplished amalgam of Swedish tradition and fusion cooking, with dishes such as citrus-glazed duck with tamarind and foie gras pancake served with shitake mushrooms, spring onion and teriyaki sauce (Kr360/ £25.75). The Pontus Temptation menu of six courses costs a steep Kr950 (£68), but would be perfect for a special celebration. The impressive wine list is extensive, but prices are high. If money is no object, the restaurant also has two double bedrooms and four suites. These are never advertised, and are available only to those in the know. Pontus in the Green House, Osterlanggatan 17, Gamla Stan, 111 31 Stockholm (tel: +46 8 23 85 00).
Leijontornet is a hotel and restaurant just a few minutes’ walk from the royal palace. It is named after the Lion Tower, one of the fortifications of the medieval city, part of which was discovered during excavations in the courtyard in 1984. The smart, slightly austere dining room boasts an imaginative menu that features such local specialities as eel, venison and elk. Entrees start at Kr150 (£10.75), main courses from Kr260 (£19). The cellar is a wine lovers’ dream, and is strong in claret, burgundy and the Rhône. Leijontornet, Lilla Nygatan 5, Gamla Stan, 111 28 Stockholm (tel: +46 8 14 23 55).
Perhaps rather surprisingly, one of the finest and most unusual cellars in Stockholm can be found in the Opera House. The Operakällaren consists of three restaurants – the main dining room (an orgy of high Victorian decoration), Café Opera and the glorious Art Nouveau Opera Bar. Entry to the 30,000-bottle cellar itself is now reserved for members of the ‘Nobisklubben’, a select club, but all the wines contained within it are available to diners upstairs. For information, contact AB Operakällaren, City, Box 1616, 111 86 Stockholm (tel: +46 8 676 58 00).
The centre of Stockholm contains an impressive number of museums and galleries. As well as the usual cultural stop-offs, serious wine lovers should take time to visit the Vin & Sprithistoriska Museet (Wine and Spirits Museum, in other words), which is housed in an old wine warehouse some way off the tourist circuit. Given the history and climate of Sweden, great emphasis is placed on the development and manufacture of bränvin (schnapps). Vin & Sprithistoriska Museet, Dalagatan 100, Vasastaden. Open 10am–7pm Tues, 10am–4pm Wed–Fri, noon–4pm Sat & Sun.
The Ostermalmshallen, a historic and beautiful Moorish/Gothic-style market, was built in the 1880s. Its light and airy glass-vaulted hall is a gloriously fragrant temple of gastronomy, full of elegant stalls laden with mouthwatering produce. Bread, coffee, fruit, cheese, game, poultry, meat (including reindeer, both smoked and fresh), fish (fresh, dressed, preserved) and succulent vegetables are presented with inimitable Scandinavian flair. You can also sample much of the food on offer at a number of small cafés and bars, many of which serve wine. What could be better than a mid-morning snack of caviar and Champagne while doing the shopping? The Ostermalmshallen, Ostermalmstorg, Ostermalm. Open every day except Sunday.
Until recently, the shipping and distribution of alcohol here was controlled by a state monopoly, Systembolaget. Since Sweden joined the EC, this restrictive system has been slightly relaxed, though the monopoly remains the sole retailer.
Systembolaget shops are fairly few and far between, and are usually open between 9am and 7pm, Monday to Friday. A limited number open between 10am and 1pm on Saturdays. Queues are often long, especially on Fridays, and customers must be aged over 20. Most clubs and restaurants stop serving alcohol at 1am.
SAS Scandinavian Airlines flies daily from London to Stockholm (tel: 0845 607 2772).
For further information on Stockholm, contact Stockholm Information Service, Swedenhouse, Hamngatan 27, Box 7542, 103 93 Stockholm (tel: +46 8 789 24 00; fax: +46 8 789 24 50).