April 28, 2016

Restaurant Delikatessen

Delikatessen, located in former fire station from the 1880's.
Last week I went to dinner with some fellow Les Clefs d'Or Concierge. We were invited to try a relatively new restaurant called Delikatessen... and it was especially interesting for me to try as it is located quite close to the Rival Hotel. I have visited their bar (Bar Hommage) a couple of times and really enjoyed the drinks and ambiance. In fact, they were awarded "best new bar" in Stockholm last year at the Bartender's Choice Awards.
High ceilings and vaulted windows.
What you first notice upon arriving is the interesting space. Delikatessen is located in a building that once housed an old fire station from the late 1800's. This gives the restaurant a unique feel with the high ceilings and vaulted windows. During the summer months they open up these windows and add some outdoor seating. Delikatessen is a French bistro in the old Parisian style both in the ambiance and cuisine, though the menu has more modern French flavors instead of traditional French dishes like bouillabaisse and cog au vin. Södermalm meets Paris!
Baked oysters.
Breast of duck.
For myself, I started a little light with two baked oysters served in the shell with soya infused cream. For the main course I chose the duck breast with endives, piment d'espelette, caramelized onions and blood oranges. Finally, for dessert, I had their play on a French Toast. It was made with brioche bread dipped in crème brûlée batter and then grilled and served with strawberries and Diplomat cream. All washed down with a wonderful Bourgogne. It was all very delicious, including the dishes my colleagues chose.
Their version of "French toast".
This restaurant is a great choice for both the cuisine and ambiance as well as decent prices. I would say that the only thing you should be aware of is that it is popular with locals which when paired with the high ceilings can make it a little boisterous. Not a problem at all, but maybe not optimal for a quiet, romantic dinner on a Saturday night. The restaurant is just three blocks from the Rival Hotel. If you are staying at the hotel, contact me directly if you need assistance in making a reservation. Click here for more restaurant recommendations and reviews.
Award winning bar!

April 22, 2016

Culture Night in Stockholm 2016

Culture Night, or Kulturnatten, is an annual, popular event here in Stockholm with over 400 cultural events happening throughout the city and all with free admission! This year the Culture Night is happening on Saturday, April 23rd, between 6pm and midnight and, as it is every year, the theme color is purple (ironic considering the recent passing of Prince). The events are spread throughout the city and cover all types of culture,.. dance, film, photography, art, litterature, music, theatre and much more. Many cultural institutions and museums are open during the evening with special exhibitions and events. For example, the Nordiska Museet, Nobel Museum,  and Royal Palace among others. With over 400 events, it is hard to do any list here. But you can download a program in English with the highlights. Just click here and then scroll down for the link to the download. Otherwise, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for more information and program. They will also have special informations desks open in the evening at both the Stockholm Visitor Center and Kulturhuset (both located at Segels Torg in the downtown area).

April 20, 2016

Spring & Summer Art Exhibitions 2016

Moki Cherry, Brown Rice, 1975 © Moki Cherry. Photo: Prallan Allsten/Moderna Museet
Spring is here and in a matter of weeks it will be summer! Need some help in planning on what to see and do during your upcoming visit? If you are interested in art in any form, here is a breakdown of current and upcoming exhibitions in Stockholm art museums and major galleries.

"Composition from Kastellholmen in Stockholm" by Bo von Zweibergk 1921, oil on canvas (Sven-Harry's Kosntmuseum)
Photo: Uppsala Auktionskammare
These are just the main art museums and galleries and there are, of course, many smaller ones. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for more information regarding smaller galleries as well as further information about the museums/exhibitions listed above.

April 18, 2016

Celebrating Shakespeare in Stockholm

Did you know that 2016 is the 400th year since the death of William Shakespeare? There will be tributes to this anniversary around the world and, of course, we are celebrating the date here in Stockholm as well.
The Stockholm English Speaking Theatre (SEST) will be paying tribute to the Bard this coming weekend (April 22nd through 24th) with performances in Musikvalvet Baggen, which is located in Gamla Stan... just a 15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. The locale has the perfect ambiance as it is actually older than Shakespeare himself. On Friday they will be doing a performance of Macbeth, which they performed in November to sold out crowds. On Saturday (evening) and Sunday (matiné) SEST will be performing a special "Shakespeare 400" with a potpourri of Angry Shrews and Merry Wives, sonnets, tales of the Bard and more (you might even spot the Bard himself if you are lucky). A great chance to celebrate Shakespeare and enjoy a theatre performance in English (not a common happening in Sweden). Tickets can be purchased in advance online. Otherwise contact me for help if you are staying at the Rival Hotel. More information on SEST's website.

April 6, 2016

Djurgård Ferry Terminal Has Moved!

Ferry arring at the old terminal next to Slussen.
A quick public service announcement. A convenient ferry line, especially for guests at the Rival Hotel, is the ferry to Djurgården where many of the city's main attractions can be found (Vasa Museum, ABBA the Museum, Skansen, etc.). This regular ferry just takes 10 minutes and cuts down the travel time to Djurgården considerably. The terminal on the city side has been located for years on the south side of Gamla Stan right next to Slussen. Slussen, a lock system that connects the Baltic Sea with Lake Mälaren, is undergoing a major overhaul and they have therefore moved the terminal approximately 100 meters north towards the Royal Palace. Not a big deal... but good to know!
The new terminal is now located near the restaurant Mr French.
Back story: Not much can inflame and polarize Stockholmers... but the renovations at Slussen have proved to be an exception. One thing that everyone agrees on is that Slussen needed to be renovated to some degree. What people couldn't agree on is what the final look would be. Sleek and modern or original and classic. After years of political fighting and grassroots campaigning, the renovations are underway. Though I don't think plump lady has sung yet.

April 4, 2016

Restaurant Indian Garden

Unassuming entrance with...
The restaurant Indian Garden in Stockholm is quite the success story. Behind the restaurant is chef Karim Razaul who moved to Sweden from Bangladesh as a 19 year old. He opened his first restaurant in 1999 and it quickly became very popular, winning the prestigious Gulddraken prize four times. International prizes came soon after. In 2010 Karim won the "Tast of Britain" prize for best and most creative curry cuisine in Europe and he followed it up in 2012 with winning the Best European Curry Chef. And with the success came an expansion and they are now found at 6 locations in Stockholm... the latest in the newly opened Mall of Scandinavia.
a casual ambiance and...
A good friend and I ate dinner last night at the original Indian Garden, located in the Hornstull district not far from the Rival Hotel. Embarassingly enough, it was my first time at an Indian Garden. Indian cuisine has never been a favorite of mine and after last night I have come to the conclusion that this is beacause I have been eating at the wrong Indian restaurants up until now. It was a delicious meal. Even better, it was very reasonably priced... a bit more than a neighbourhood curry joint, but with much better food.
delicious food.
The menu is extensive and has both well known Indian dishes (tikka masala, balti, etc.) as well as chef Karim's original "gourmet" dishes. The restaurant is not fancy, has a laid back ambiance and is not at all large, so it might be a good idea to book in advance (especially on a weekend). If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me directly for help in reserving a table. Otherwise they do have an online booking function on their website. A good choice in Stockholm for good Indian food in a casual setting  and at reasonable prices! Click here for other restaurant reviews and recommendations.

March 27, 2016

Best Stockholm Restaurants in the White Guide 2016

While the Michelin Guide is very popular with travellers visiting a foreign city and searching for the best restaurants, the White Guide is another good tool for finding great restaurants in Sweden. In some ways it is even better than the Michelin Guide as it is Swedish critics that rate the restaurants in the White Guide (local knowledge in other words) and they test hundreds of restaurants throughout the country. You also get restaurants rated/awarded in several categories. The trouble is that the White Guide is published in Swedish which makes it a little difficult for non Swedish speaking visitors to access the information... but here is a break down of the Stockholm restaurants that nabbed the top awards and made the lists in this year's guide:

  • Best restaurant in the category gastronomy (Årets Bästa Mästarklass - Gastronomi): Esperanto
  • Newcomer of the year (Årets Stjärnskott): Imouto
  • Pioneering restaurant of the year (Årets Banbrytare): Omakase Köttslöjd
  • Best service experience (Årets Serviceupplevelse): Spritmuseum
  • Seafood restaurant of the year (Årets Merroir Award): Sturehof
Sturehof (Årets Merroir Award), photo by Magnus Sandberg
These are the Stockholm restaurants that made the list of Swedish restaurants with the highest rating of International Master Class (number in paranthesis is their rank on the list of restaurants from all of Sweden):
And these are the Stockholm restaurants that made the list of Swedish restaurants with the rating of Master Class (number in paranthesis is their rank on the list of restaurants from all of Sweden):
While the White Guide for Sweden is in Swedish, they have published a White Guide Nordic in English which covers all of the Nordic region. For past White Guides or other restaurant guides and awards, click here!
Chef Sayan Isaksson.
The big winner this year with several restaurants on the lists (Esperanto, Imouto, Shibumi)
Photo by David Back

March 25, 2016

Stockholm City Bike 2016

The bike stand outside of the Rival Hotel.
One of the surest signs of Spring comes on April 1st: the start of the Stockholm City Bike season (April 1st to October 31st). Stockholm is a fabulous city to bike around... lots of late evening sunlight, plenty of parks and bicycle lanes. This is all made easier (and inexpensive) with the Stockholm City Bike system. They have approximately 100 bike stands spread throughout the city, even out into the suburbs. You have the choice of buying either a 3 day card for 165 SEK or a season card for 300 SEK (250 online). Guests often comment that they only want the bikes for one day. Well, they don't sell one day cards... but the price for three days is often cheaper than renting a bike for one day at other commercial bike rental companies. If you are guests at the Rival Hotel then you can purchase a 3 day card at the hotel (we do not sell season cards). But if you are not a guest, either check with your hotel or else you can purchase your card at over 200 different 7-11's and Pressbyrån kiosks in the city or at an SL Center. Click here for a list of retailers.
Bike path around Djurgården island.
After purchasing a card, you can check out a bike at any of the bike stands by holding up your card to the computer display and following the instructions. You can check out a bike at any of the stands between 6am and 10pm daily throughout the season. If the stand is empty, the display will point you in the direction of the nearest stand with bikes. Otherwise they will be by shortly to fill up the stand with new bicycles. You then have that particular bike for 3 hours. You are welcome to check out a new bike right away, but you have to leave the bike at a stand before 3 hours is up... otherwise you receive a demerit. 3 demerits and your card will be cancelled. This system is to stop people from taking bikes home or into their offices all day long and keeps more bikes in circulation. Be aware that the bikes don't come with locks, instead use the bike stands to lock your bikes (over 100 stands in the city!). It is important to note that you have to be 18 years old to use the bikes. If you are a family with children under 18, just talk to me and I will point you in the direction of a bike rental company that rents out children's bicycles.

March 16, 2016

Restaurant Paradiso

Once upon a time there was a restaurant called Sjögräs just a stone's throw from the Rival Hotel. It was a Bib Gourmand rated restaurant and a great addition to our neighbourhood. We were sad when they decided to close a couple of years ago. A completely different type of restaurant occupied the locale after that ("Angry Diner")... one that wasn't really here nor there when it came to cuisine and concept. We were therefore pretty excited when it was announced that they were closing and a new restaurant, Paradiso, was moving in... especially when we heard that the guys behind Paradiso had their background both at the former Sjögräs and at Linje 10 (another favorite restaurant of ours).
They have been open a few months now and last night I finally had the chance to visit Paradiso with a friend. The restaurant is located just a couple of blocks from the hotel here on Södermalm. This is a small, intimate restaurant with much of the space dominated by a large open kitchen and a smaller bar. They also have another bar with separate entrance from the street.
Lamb with yellow carrots and ramsons.
The description of each dish on the menu is minimalistic... just the three main ingredients are named. But the menu isn't extensive and the waitstaff is only too happy to explain each dish in more detail. I would describe the cuisine as modern Scandinavian using a lot of seasonal produce. I had the reindeer with salsify and shiitake mushrooms while my friend ordered the lamb with ramsons and yellow carrots. All delicious. One thing not found on any of the main course dishes was a carbohydrate element (potatoes, rice, etc.). Instead the dish focuses on the meat/fish/vegetables which is definitely on trend here in Stockholm.
Reindeer with salsify and shiitake mushrooms.
We ended the evening with some dessert ("pineapple, rum and lime" for me and assorted cheeses for my friend). Paradiso has a large assortment of aged rums from the Caribbean so we, of course, had to try some as well. You can book your table on their website or, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me for any assistance. Click here for more restaurant recommendations and reviews.
Open kitchen with seating at the bar.

March 13, 2016

Stockholm Ports and Docks for Cruise Ships

Ferries and cruise ships travelling through the archipelago to Stockholm.
Photo: Stockholms Hamnar
Summer is around the corner and soon the cruise ship season will start. Cruises in the Baltic Sea have become increasingly popular with such interesting stops like Copenhagen, Tallinn, Helsinki, St Petersburg and, of course, Stockholm. Copenhagen and Stockholm are the two ports where most Baltic cruises either start or end... which is great for us as it means more visitors and hotel nights. I get a lot of questions regarding the distance between the harbour and the Rival Hotel. It is actually not an easy question to answer. What many people don't understand is that there are four main ports servicing cruise ships in the Stockholm area, some closer than others. So the answer depends on which port the cruise ship will be docking at.
Stadsgården port with Skeppsbron in the background.
Photo: Stockholms Hamnar
Here are the four ports and their distance from the hotel:
  • Stadsgården- One of the two main cruise ship ports. It is located on the north-east coast of the island of Södermalm (where the hotel is located as well), just a 10-15 minute taxi ride from the Rival Hotel. This is also the docks where the Birka and Viking Line ferries to Finland and Åland depart from.
  • Frihamnen & Värtahamnen- The other main cruise ship port. These two docks are right next to each other and are located in the northern outskirts of the city, about a 20-30 minute taxi ride from the Rival Hotel. There are also special buses that can take you to the City Terminal next to the Central Train Station.This is also where the Silja Tallink Line ferries to Finland, Latvia and Estonia depart from.
  • Nynäshamn- Cruise ships get bigger and bigger each year and some are so huge that they cannot make it through the narrow straits in the archipelago to get to Stockholm. These ships dock, therefore, in the port of Nynäshamn located just south of Stockholm. Some other cruise ships may dock there if it is especially busy at the other Stockholm ports that day. It is about a 50 minute taxi ride to the hotel, otherwise there is also a commuter train and the cruise ships often have their own buses. This is also where the Destination Gotland ferries to the island of Gotland depart from.
  • Skeppsbron or Strömmen- The smaller, and often fancier, cruise ships (like Silver Seas & Seabourn) sometimes dock right at the Old Town, either at the Skeppsbron dock or moored at a buoy in Strömmen. This is about as central as you can get... just a 15 minute walk or 5 minute taxi ride to the Rival Hotel.
Map from www.cruisingfromstockholm.com showing
location of Värtahamnen, Frihamnen, Skeppsbron &Stadsgården.
If you don't know which dock your cruise ship will be using, you can check the Ports of Stockholm's website. For more cruise port information, check Visit Stockholm's cruise page. And the Stockholm Cruise Blog has recently made a similar list which can be seen by clicking here. There are taxi queues at the different ports. Just stick with the main taxi companies (Taxi Stockholm, Taxi Kurir) to get the best prices. Prebooking a taxi transfer can sometimes be problematic as taxi companies want an exact pick-up time (more or less) and cruise ship guests often don't know exactly when they will be disembarking, just when the ship is due to dock.