October 11, 2015

Hard Rock Café Stockholm

Entrance at night. Photo courtesy of Hard Rock Café.
Opened in 1985, Stockholm's Hard Rock Café is celebrating their 30th birthday this year. That is quite an accomplishment! In fact, the Stockholm Café is actually the 4th oldest HRC in the world still in its original location (2nd in Europe after the London Café). As everyone knows, Hard Rock Café is a major global brand and it is a growing company with over 200 locations around the world... not only cafés but also casinos and hotels.
I stopped by to have lunch and a chat with Kevin Lee, their Sales and Marketing Manager. While I have been dropping by the Hard Rock for almost as long as they have been open, it was nice to get some background information.
As a Stockholm Concierge, I often get asked by hotel guests where the Hard Rock Café is located. Sometimes they are looking for a meal and other times they wish to purchase merchandize. Kevin confirmed that collecting t-shirts, hoodies, pins and other items from different Hard Rock locations is still very popular. In Stockholm they have a well stocked "rock shop" with both classic items as well as newer models.
Another reason the Hard Rock is popular with concierge in Stockholm is the fact that the only time they really ever close is on Christmas Eve. This means that they are open on evenings when many restaurants in Stockholm are closed... Midsummer weekend, Christmas Day and New Year's Day for example. They are also popular with American expats living in the city (or Swedes who have lived in the States) as they celebrate many of the American holidays in grand style... like the upcoming Halloween and Thanksgiving.
The Swedish rock band Europe's corner.
Photo courtesy of Hard Rock Café
I believe that most people are aware of the classic Hard Rock menu. However, when I visited they were trying out a few new vegetarian dishes as part of Vegetarian Awareness Month (October). I am not a vegetarian myself but I tried the Quinoa Burger and it was very good. Hard to believe that it was a veggie burger! They will be trying out 3 different juices and 6 dishes this month. We'll see what makes the cut and stays on the main menu.
Photo courtesy of Hard Rock Café.
As at all other Hard Rocks... there is of course paraphernalia from famous rock stars hanging on the walls. Here you will find mementos from both international musicians (Madonna, Michael Jackson, Nirvana, Slash, etc.) as well as local stars (ABBA, Europe,. etc.). Speaking of music, they have regular events, release parties and concerts at the HRC so it is a good idea to keep an eye on their website or Facebook page. Popular sporting events are shown on the restaurant's TVs as well.
The Hard Rock is located in the Vasastan area and the easiest way to get there from the Rival Hotel is by subway (green line) from nearby Slussen. Exit at either Rådmansgatan or Odenplan. Otherwise it is approximately 8-9 minutes away by taxi. Click here for other restaurant recommendations.

October 6, 2015

Restaurant Brasserie Bobonne

The restaurant, street view.
It was my birthday this past weekend and, to celebrate, I went to dinner with a few friends on Saturday night. Since it was my choice and I like trying new restaurants, I booked a table at a restaurant that I had heard good things about... Brasserie Bobonne.
Bobonne, as the name suggests, is a French restaurant and the menu was filled with classic French dishes and flavors. The restaurant is located on a smaller street in the Östermalm neighbourhood and both the exterior and interior are reminiscent of Parisian brasserie (with a touch of Scandinavian clean design details). It is smaller in size and has an intimate atmosphere. Cosy! And just like a French brasserie, the menu is on a chalkboard which the waiter brings to the table.
Chanterelle soup.
The dinner was great... from aperitif to dessert. There are many classic French dishes on the menu that most diners will recognize, like boeuf bourguignon, chèvre chaud, escargot and crème brûlée. But there were also several dishes that were more seasonal, like chanterelle soup, venison with Savoy cabbage and blueberry soufflé.
Boeuf bourguignon... perfect on an autumn evening.
I opted for the more classic dishes... starting with the escargot, then the boeuf bourguignon, finally ending with an apple sorbet. My friends all took different dishes and it was nice to see the different options. The service was very good and the waiter chose perfect wines for the different dishes. One of my friends is lactose intolerant and they were able to put together great choices for her.
Veal with cauliflower and smoked bacon.
Bobonne is a great choice if you desire upscale French dining (with more rustic cuisine) in Stockholm. The easiest way to get there from the Rival Hotel is by subway... it is just four stations away on the red line (Östermalmstorg stop). Otherwise it is a 7-8 minute taxi ride. It is a smaller restaurant so booking a table in advance is recommended! Click here for more restaurant recommendations/reviews.
It was a gorgeous autumn evening... 

September 30, 2015

Social Media at the Rival Hotel

If you have been following my blog... you might have noticed that, over the past three weeks, I haven't been as prolific at posting as I normally am. Besides some vacation time, this is mainly due to the fact that I have recently taken over the reins as social media coordinator at the Rival Hotel (at least for the next few months). What this means is that, besides my work as Concierge and blogger, I will be taking care of Rival's different pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. All in an effort to increase the hotel's social media footprint. I will still be blogging and as soon as I get everything organized I will be back to blogging on a more regular basis.
The Rival is much more than just a hotel. We have a popular Bistro (restaurant), several bars, meeting & event facilities, a Café and a theatre... plus lots of happenings. Because of this we have several pages on different social media channels. For those of you who are fans of the hotel, or otherwise curious, here are the Rival's different social media accounts:

  • Facebook- The Rival Hotel. In English. Information about all aspects of the hotel (including bar, bistro, conference and café).
  • Facebook- The Rival Bar & Bistro. In Swedish. Information regarding the Bistro and bars.
  • Facebook- Café Rival. In Swedish. Information about our popular café. 
  • Facebook- Scenen på Rival. In Swedish. Information about the Rival Theatre and the different artists and shows. 
  • Instagram- Hotel Rival. In English. Overview of the hotel and everything inside... 
  • Instagram- Rival Bar & Bistro. In Swedish. A look at the Bistro, Café, Bistro Bar, Cocktail Bar and Lobby Bar.
  • Twitter- The Rival Hotel. In English. Overview of the hotel and everything going on inside...
  • Twitter- Rival Bar & Bistro. In Swedish. What is going on in the Bistro, Café, various bars as well as the theatre.

  • Pinterest- The Hotel Rival. In English. Everything about the Rival as well as Stockholm and other sources of inspiration.
So like and follow us on the social media sites that interest you. And make sure you "check in" when visiting us and share your pictures, videos and thoughts! And use the hashtags #hotelrival #bistrorival #caferival when possible. 

September 26, 2015

Skansen Aquarium

Path leading up to the Aquarium from the main Skansen entrance.
I have been to Skansen many times and written about it here a few times. Skansen is one of Stockholm's most popular attractions... housing both an open air museum dedicated to Swedish traditions and historic, pastoral life as well as being the city's zoo- filled with Scandinavian animals (bears, reindeer, moose, wolves and much more). It is also where Swedes traditionally celebrate many holiday festivals from Midsummer and Walpurgis to Easter and Christmas.
Up close with lemurs.
One part of Skansen which I have never visited, until recently, is the Skansen Aquarium (Akvariet). While it is found within Skansen, it is a separate entity and has its own admission price. This is probably why I have never been there on my own (paying for Skansen and then paying for the Aquarium)... but now I was with my parents who both had a Stockholm Card (which includes admission to both Skansen and the Skansen Aquarium) so I took the opportunity.
I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with the place. It is very well put together and you really do get close to the animals. Very close in some cases! I should probably point out that the name "aquarium" might be a bit confusing for non-Swedish speakers. While there is a section with sea life (fish, corals, sharks, etc.) there is also much more... reptiles, amphibians, monkeys, lemurs and such. Stockholm does have a proper aquarium called Aquaria, which is located not too far from Skansen.
Cute meerkats...
...and even cuter meerkat pups.
As I mentioned, it is very well put together and I can see why it is so popular with Swedish school classes. Very educational. Some highlights were the lemur enclosure, where there is no fence between you and the animals, and the meerkats. Meerkats are incredibly cute and they were even more adorable now as they had pups.
All in all, I would definitely recommend Skansen Aquarium if you are visiting with children and/or are fans of exotic wildlife. Skansen itself is great for children... they even have a petting zoo with domesticated Scandinavian animals called Lill-Skansen. Skansen is located on the island of Djurgården and to get there from the Rival Hotel, take the Djurgård ferry from nearby Slussen. They depart every 15 minutes or so and the trip just takes 10 minutes.
They even have snakes and...
...frogs, plus much more.

September 19, 2015

Restaurant Volt

I just returned from a week-long vacation in Kraków; recharging my batteries after a busy summer season here at the Rival Hotel. But just before my vacation I had the opportunity to eat at Restaurant Volt. It was definitely one of the top 5 dining experiences I have had in Stockholm... and I have eaten at many restaurants in the city!
Volt received their first Michelin star this year and it is well deserved in my opinion. They serve, as many top rated restaurants in Stockholm, cuisine with a real connection to nature using the freshest, seasonal, local produce (often called "new Nordic"). I found the dishes to be very creative, with delicious flavors, and the wine pairings spot on. I also liked the ambiance... Volt is a smaller, cosy restaurant where the service doesn't feel rushed. Another plus factor was that the prices weren't painfully expensive when compared to other restaurants of the same caliber.
Freshly baked sourdough bread with chicken liver parfait.
1st course: cabbage with blue mussels.
On the menu you have a choice of a four or six course set menu and you can choose a wine/drink pairing package as well if you wish. We opted for the four courses with the drink pairing. With the four courses you are given the choice of meat or fish for the third course. My friend and I both chose the guinea fowl for this course. It was delicious... served on a bed of roasted hazelnuts and chanterelle mushrooms.
2nd course: purple carrots, red wine berry crumble and goat cheese.
3rd course: guinea fowl on a bed of roasted hazelnuts and chanterelles.
Besides the four courses, you also receive a "snack" when you first arrive and you have the option of adding a cheese course (which we did). The creativity of the cheese dish especially impressed me. The plate was covered with crumbled goat cheese and thyme. On the side of the dish was something that appeared to be a scoop of vanilla ice cream but was, in fact, honey whipped with egg whites... like a sticky meringue. The attentive staff explained that we should dip our forks in the honey mixture and use it to pick up the goat cheese crumble. Delicious and creative!
Delicious wines paired with each course.
The additional cheese course.
A colleague, who had already dined there, told us to make sure we ordered coffee after dinner. I followed his advice even though I don't usually drink coffee late in the evening. It was the right choice. The coffee was brewed at the table and came with the most delicious sponge cake (sockerkaka). I was pretty stuffed already... but I still managed to eat half the cake!
4th course: plum sorbet 
Coffee with...
Volt is located in the Östermalm neighbourhood. To get there from the Rival Hotel you can take the subway (red line) four stations to Östermalmstorg. Otherwise it is a 5-7 minute taxi ride. As I mentioned, this isn't a large restaurant... so make sure you book your table in advance!
...delicious sponge cake.

September 5, 2015

Autumn Art Exhibitions In Stockholm

As the summer season is coming to an end, it is time to look forward and see what autumn has to offer! Stockholm is a great city to visit for a long weekend or a "city break". Enjoy the pulse of the city, dine out, do some shopping and visit some great museums. We had some wonderful summer exhibitions and here is what the major art museums and galleries are showing during the coming season:

The Walking Man by Auguste Rodin at Nationalmuseum.
Photograph by Finlands Nationalgalleri/Hannu Aaltonen
© All rights reserved
If you are more interested in history, then Stockholm has a wealth of history based museums. Click here for a list with links. There are also many smaller art galleries and museums in the city that I haven't listed. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, stop by and talk to me and I can help you with information about these galleries. 
Hilda Lancing (b. 1985), "Själständig", Ring, gold and silver.
At Sven-Harry's Konstmuseum
Photographer: Börje Svensson

September 1, 2015

Restaurant Svartengrens

I was off of work last week as I had family & friends visiting. Some of them were visiting Stockholm for the first time, so we did many things that I have already blogged about... like visiting the Vasa Museum, eating lunch at Rosendals Wärdshus, eating dinner at Kryp In and doing a day trip out to Vaxholm and other things one shouldn't miss when visiting Stockholm in the summertime.
We did manage to do a couple of things which were new to me, like dinner at Svartengrens restaurant. I had heard a lot of great things about this restaurant over the past couple of years so I was happy to get a chance to try it. They "love meat" and so do I, so it did not disappoint! Another fact about the restaurant that I really like is that they deal with locally raised beef from the Stockholm Archipelago, which is reared and butchered in a sustainable way. They do all of their own smoking, dry-aging, sausage making and other preparations on site in the kitchen. The menu does change often as it depends on what produce is available.
When it comes to the main courses, you have choice of sausages and cuts of meat. You then have a list of creative side orders to order with your meat. Our waitress was happy to recommend which side orders work best with which main course. I opted for the flank steak and paired it with the jalapeño & cheddar croquettes, bbq sauce and cumin pickles. It was all very delicious! Not surprising perhaps that Svartengrens was rated as the third best steakhouse in Sweden last year.
Svartengrens is located in the Vasastan neighbourhood. To get there from the Rival Hotel, you can either take a subway (green line) to the Odenplan or Rådmansgatan stations. Otherwise it is about a 8-10 minute taxi ride. Click here for other restaurant recommendations.

August 18, 2015

Heading out to the Archipelago!

Svartsö island
It has been gorgeous weather the past couple of weeks... so a day off of work and visiting parents meant a trip out to the Stockholm archipelago. You really can't visit the city during the summertime and not take yourself out to the islands. Unfortunately, most visitors have a tight schedule when coming to Stockholm and really can't take a full day to explore the archipelago. There are ways to get a feel of the islands when you have time constraints... like the Little Archipelago Tour or taking a ferry to Vaxholm for lunch. But if you have the time, take a full day and do some exploring!

Cinderella boat taking passengers on at Strandvägen.
I usually take the Cinderella boats out as it is a quick way to get to the outer islands. Basically these boats power out to either Möja or Sandhamn, stopping at popular islands along the way. After a short stop they turn around and head back to the city, stopping at the same islands. So you can choose which island to visit and then pick up the Cinderella boat as it comes back. Pretty easy!
Cinderella heading on to Möja after dropping us off.
We chose the island of Svartsö to visit, which is 1½ hour trip out on the Möja line. To be honest, we chose it because it was an island we had never visited before and they have a restaurant. We thought we could head there, have lunch and then head back. However, we were there on a Monday and, of course, the restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. There was the option of renting bikes from the country store and biking 2 miles to the other side of the island where there was another restaurant. But we felt lazy and decided to just buy sandwiches at the store and take a leisurely stroll instead.
Country store and kiosk at the pier.
Whichever island you decide to visit, it is the trip itself that is half the experience. So relaxing sitting on the boat and passing by some of the 30,000 islands that make up the archipelago. Beautiful nature, gorgeous houses and boats of all shapes and sizes. Click here for some of the more popular islands you can visit with the Cinderella boats. If you wish to visit some of the more obscure islands, your best bet is the ferry company Waxholmsbolaget. Views along the way from the boat: