March 25, 2015

Restaurant Nook

Last week I had a Concierge colleague visiting from Denmark. She celebrated her birthday during her visit and she wanted to go out and eat somewhere special. I decided on the restaurant Nook! The restaurant hasn't been open very long, but has already garnered a lot of good press & rave reviews and I was eager to try it. One reason for the positive reviews is the fact that this charming, neighborhood restaurant manages to offer a great gastronomic experience at humane prices in a relaxed setting. Love that!
The kitchen's concept is also very interesting. While they do ride on the wave of the trendy New Nordic cuisine, they also add Asian influences to the dishes in an intelligent and interesting way. For example, in the dishes you will find ingredients like wasabi, nashi pear, rice noodles and hoisin sauce alongside seasonal, local produce.
Casual ambiance.
The menu is a bit limited. Besides "snacks" they have two set 3-course menus. You are, however, allowed to mix between the two or just order a part of the set menu. I opted for the menu that consisted of lightly seared scallop (with pickled daikon, hollandaise and Chinese spinach) as the appetizer, followed by lamb roast beef (with celeriac, crispy black kale and hazelnut butter) for the main course and licorice ice cream (with rasberries and roasted white chocolate) for dessert. Delicious!
Main course...
The restaurant is located on Södermalm, the same island as the Rival Hotel, near the SoFo district. Nook is not a large restaurant and is quite popular... so booking in advance is recommended. If you are staying at the hotel, contact me for help. Click here to see my other recent restaurant visits...
...and dessert.

March 14, 2015

Easter in Stockholm 2015

Easter Lunch!
Photo by Marie Andersson/Skansen
To start off with... the Swedish word for Easter is Påsk (good to know when visiting the city on Easter weekend). While Sweden is one of the least religious countries in the world, it has loads of bank holidays that are religious in origin. On Easter weekend (first weekend in April this year) we have two bank holidays, besides the obvious Easter Sunday, or Påskdagen: Good Friday (Långfredag) and the Monday following Easter Sunday (Annandag Påsk). Even Thursday (Skärtorsdag) is somewhat special as many office workers take a half day off ahead of their 4 day holiday. Once upon a time this meant that the city came to a standstill for 4 days... but these days it isn't that bad. Banks, liquor stores, cafés and smaller shops will be closed or have changed opening hours. Many restaurants, most larger department stores and shopping centers will be open as normal. Though perhaps with shortened opening hours. The Rival BistroBar and Café are all open all weekend long!
Children dressed up as Easter witches (påskkärringar)
Photo by Marie Andersson/Skansen
As for the museums, the big ones (VasaFotografiskaABBASkansen and Moderna) are open as normal. Some others are closed on Friday (April 3rd); these include the Royal Palace and Maritime (Sjöhistoriska) museums. The History Museum (Historiska) is closed on both Friday and Saturday. While these closures can be bad news, there is some good news as well. Monday is a day in Sweden when many museums are closed, however some of these museums are staying open on Monday, April 6th, as it is a holiday. They include HistoryMedievalMillesgårdenNatural History and Drottningholm Palace.  Keep in mind that I haven't checked ALL the museums in Stockholm... just the top 20 or so of the 85 museums in the city. Talk to me directly, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, or check the individual websites if you are interested in other, smaller museums. Sightseeing tours operate as normal.

Scene from Skansen. Photo by me!

If you want to experience Swedish Easter traditions then you should definitely visit Skansen (open-air museum, park and zoo). Don't be surprised if you see little children dressed up as cute witches (påskkärringar)! Here you can learn about, watch, listen to or partake in traditional Easter activities. These are all of special interest if you have children with you. They also have an Easter Market, open (11am to 4pm) from Thursday to Monday, where you can purchase traditional Easter handicraft, decorations, toys and food. For a full calendar of activities at Skansen... click here. I did mention that Sweden isn't a very religious country, but that doesn't mean that it is devoid of religion! There are, of course, many churches (mainly Lutheran and Catholic) that have special Easter services and masses. Contact me directly, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, for service/mass times at different churches. Several churches offer services in languages other than Swedish.

March 12, 2015

Goût de France - Good France

In 2010, French cuisine was added to UNESCO's intangible world heritage list... and rightly so! Very few nations have such a gastronomic cultural identity as France. On March 19th 2015, this cultural heritage will be celebrated in a big, big way: Goût de France. This exciting international gastronomical event will take place in 1300 restaurants in 150 countries on 5 continents. Each chef will offer their own French style menu... French digestive, a cold starter, a hot starter, fish or shellfish dish, meat or poultry dish, French cheese (or cheese plate) and a chocolate dessert along with French wines and digestives (naturellement!). All types of restaurants are taking part, from neighborhood bistros to gourmet establishments.
Good France. Photo by (c) Pierre Monetta
Sweden has long had a close relationship with France, even before the time of Axel von Fersen and Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, and is well represented in the Goût de France. 17 restaurants in Sweden are taking part, 7 of them in Stockholm, and all of these restaurants applied and their menus were approved by an international committee of chefs. The Stockholm restaurants are:

So, if you are visiting Stockholm on March 19th... book a table and help celebrate French cuisine. And if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me if you need any help booking a table or translating a website (some are only in Swedish). You should be able to find their special Goût de France menu on their websites linked above, otherwise visit this website where you can search for ALL restaurants taking part and their special menu for the evening.
Good France. Photo by (c) Pierre Monetta

But you can enjoy great French cuisine year-round in Stockholm, not only on March 19th. Besides the fine establishments above, here are several other recommended French restaurants in the city: Pastis, Delikatessen, Bistro Bon, Á la Crêpe, Mister French, Naturligtvis, Chez Betty, Brasserie Godot, Napolyon and Grand Escalier. Bon Appétit!

March 10, 2015

Best Restaurants Awarded in the White Guide 2015

White Guide 2015
Hot on the heels of the Michelin Guide comes the White Guide. One big difference between the two is the fact that the White Guide is a guide for all of Sweden, by Swedes. This guide also looks at all different categories of restaurants and not just the most exclusive. While the White Guide for Sweden still is only in Swedish, they recently released a White Guide Nordic which is in English and for all the Nordic countries. But on to this White Guide. While many restaurants from other parts of Sweden did very well this year (including Best Restaurant to Fäviken Magasinet), for our purposes let's look at how Stockholm restaurants fared at the top of the lists in 2015...

Best Dining Experience of the Year: Gastrologik
Best Wine Experience of the Year: Operakällaren
Rising Star of the Year (awarded to young chefs with great potential): Lina Ahlin Olofsson at Frantzén.

The gang behind Gastrologik. Photo by Marcus Möller.
Stockholm restaurants that made the list of Swedish restaurants with the highest rating of International Master Class (number in parenthesis is their position on the list of Swedish restaurants):

Stockholm restaurants that made the list of Swedish restaurants with the rating of Master Class (number in parenthesis is their position on the list):
Click here for past guides and lists! 

March 4, 2015

Finally... New at ABBA the Museum!

And speaking of new museum exhibitions... I was invited yesterday to the grand unveiling of the new exhibition at ABBA the Museum. This is the biggest addition to the museum since they opened in May 2013. The museum has been a popular attraction in Stockholm and it is great with a new addition. Click here if you want to read my blog article about my original visit to the museum.
The figures arriving by helicopter...
Finally... together again! The new exhibition consists of life-size, silicon figures of the four ABBA members wearing exact replicas of their (Owe Sandström designed) stage costumes from 1979. In fact, the backdrop to the silicon figures is also a replica of part of their set decor from the 1979 North American tour. The idea for these figures has been around since 2011 when plans for the museum were being made. But it wasn't until the fall of 2013 that plans for the figurines started in earnest.
...before being unveiled to the international press.
Göran Lundström of EffektStudion was given the commission and it took him and a team of 35+ persons about a year to create the figures. I must say that they are eerily life-like... very impressive work. Though this is perhaps not surprising given that the four ABBA members actively participated in this project, helping with measurements, creative opinions and more.
So... another good reason to visit ABBA the Museum! Or revisit? The museum is located on the island of Djurgården, near other popular attractions like Vasa Museum, Skansen and Gröna Lund. It is quite easy to get to the museum from the Rival Hotel using the Djurgård Ferry. Entrance tickets for the museum can be purchased in advance (time allotments) on their website. If you are staying at the hotel, talk to me if you need help purchasing the tickets. And don't miss the fun museum gift shop when you are there...

March 3, 2015

Art Museum Exhibitions- Spring 2015

As we move on to March, it is a good idea to look ahead and see what will be showing at the main art museums and galleries in Stockholm this season. Looks like some interesting exhibitions to choose from! After each museum/gallery, I have written a descriptive word about the type of art they show (modern, classic, etc.). Please keep in mind that it is just a generalization of what they usually show. There are many more smaller galleries. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, please contact me for more information.
Prince Eugen painting. Photo by: Kaleb Torin.
Prins Eugen Waldemarsudde.

Pattern for Mah-Jong by Veronica Nygren, 1968. Thielska Gallery. Photo: Carl Johan de Geer

February 26, 2015

Stockholm Restaurants in the Michelin Guide 2015

Congratulations Oaxen Krog on your second star!
Today The Michelin Guide announced the restaurants in the Nordic countries which have received stars in their guide for 2015. And it was good news for Stockholm! While no restaurants made that magical leap from 2 to 3 stars, Oaxen Krog did gain their second star and Volt received their first star. Congratulations to both of them as well as the other restaurants who managed to remain on the list (there were no loss of stars either)!

2 Stars ("Excellent cooking, worth a detour")
1 Star ("A very good restaurant in its category")
Mathias Dahlgren Matsalen maintained their status as a 2 star restaurant.
And, in case you were wondering, 3 stars means "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey". The Michelin Guide has another category, besides the stars, called Bib Gourmand. This is awarded to restaurants with "exceptional good food at moderate prices". In other words, they won't empty your wallet. Here are the restaurants in Stockholm named in the Bib Gourmand category:
If you are going to be staying at the Rival Hotel, contact me for help in making reservations (or if you need further recommendations/assistance). Keep in mind that these restaurants, especially the starred ones, need to be booked well in advance! Click here to see past Michelin Guides as well as other restaurant guides and awards.

February 19, 2015

Restaurant Público

For twenty years, F12 was a popular restaurant in Stockholm. Considered one of the city's best, it was awarded a Michelin star several years in row. So it came as a bit of a surprise when owners and chefs Melker Andersson and Danyel Couet announced last year that they were closing the doors, with plans to reopen in a new form and direction. But it only makes sense that after 20 years they would want to try different things to avoid stagnating.
Well, less than 9 months after closing, they have indeed reopened. Same location, but completely different restaurant. The new restaurant is called Público. The idea behind the restaurant is that it should function as a place to spend the entire evening... from pre dinner cocktails to dinner and then to nightclub when the clock strikes midnight.
Salmon ceviche...
The menu is a fusion of Mexican and Peruvian cuisines. The interior, with its color palette of terracotta reds, browns, dark wood and touches of gold, gives me almost a feel of Havana. I stopped by yesterday evening with friends to see the changes, have a drink and try some of the food. I am loathe to call this a real review as we didn't eat a proper dinner (just some "tastes"). I also tend to wait a couple of months after a restaurant opens to give it a proper try. I have been part of the opening of a few restaurants and hotels myself and I know that it takes that long for a place to "find itself".
What we did try were the ceviche and tacos. There are 10 different ceviche and 8 different tacos on the menu. We opted for the salmon (with lime, coconut and coriander) and tuna (with green apple, yuzu and sesame) ceviche. Very delicious... I especially enjoyed the tuna. After that, we moved on to the tacos. Three different varieties came to the table: Iberian pork (with chorizo, beans, and mojo rojo), duck leg (with duck liver, apple, cabbage and chipotle) and king crab (with radish, chili and cress). Everyone at the table had a favorite... mine was the duck.
I will definitely be back to try a proper dinner! Though I do like the idea of sitting with friends, a glass of wine and ordering ceviche and tacos until you have had your fill. Very informal and relaxed. Público is located in the downtown area, just on the other side of Gamla Stan from the Rival Hotel. It is either a 30 minute walk, a short bus ride (#3 from Slussen) or a 5 minute taxi ride.

February 16, 2015

Stockholm Museum App

First page for the app.
So... do I need to explain what an app is (short for "mobile application")? No, probably not. Remember 15+ years ago when we had to go to the library to do research? These days there is an app for everything and they make our lives simpler by bringing more information to our finger tips via smart phones/pads.
Category: Cultural History
It should come as no surprise that there are lots of apps available that can make your vacation abroad easier. Many are free to download or just cost a few euros/dollars/crowns. I was recently given a tip about a new app for museums in Stockholm, available in Swedish and English, that is very good. It is free to download through iTunes and is compatible for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch (requires iOS 6.0 or later version).
Searching for museums nearby...
Stockholm has an amazing amount of museums and attractions (80+) for a city of its size, so this app is very helpful. The app sorts the museums into four different categories: Cultural History, Art, Natural Heritage and Technology. You can also search for museums alphabetically. Many museums aren't open daily, especially during the low season, and the app lets you also search for museums that are actually open on the day you are out and about. One final search tool is by location. The app can show you, via an online interactive map, which museums are near your current location.
Part of Skansen's page in the app.
There is plenty of information regarding each museum and attraction, including symbols which let you know if it is child-friendly, accessible for the disabled, has a gift shop, café or restaurant. The app also lets you know how to get to the museum and links to its homepage for even more detailed information. If you staying at the Rival Hotel and need help downloading the app or more information... come talk to me directly. All pictures in this article are screenshots from the app.

February 12, 2015

Bar Hopping in Gamla Stan!

Photo: ©Erik Nissen Johansen, Pharmarium
I remember 20 years ago (yes, I am that old) when Stockholmers generally avoided visiting bars & restaurants in Gamla Stan ("the old town"). They were considered for the most part to be too touristy and not of the best quality. The difference today is pretty astounding... not only are some of Stockholm's best restaurants (Frantzén, Fem Små Hus, Kryp In, Djuret, Den Gyldene Freden among many others) located in this historic part of the city, so are many of the city's best cocktail bars! More good news when it comes to adult beverages is that cocktail culture has really made inroads in Stockholm over the past decade. Gone are the days when a gin & tonic was the most creative thing you could order in a Stockholm bar. Here are some of the best cocktail bars in Gamla Stan:

  • Pharmarium- named "best bar" in Stockholm recently by the newspaper Dagens Nyheter. Located in the same building as Stockholm's first apothecary, the cocktails have ingredients that were often used historically for medicinal purposes. Click here to read about my visit here. Location
  • Tweed- winner of the "best bar" award last year. Cozy, like a London gentleman's club with Chesterfield armchairs and tartan clad walls. Located in the Victory Hotel, which also contains The Burgundy wine bar and newly opened Bottles.
  • Mister French- a great restaurant, it also has an equally great cocktail bar with an interior design reminiscent of the Great Gatsby. With its location on the harbor waterfront, it is especially a must-visit during the summer months when they open a great outdoor lounge and bar. My visit.
  • Corner Club- same owner as the (Michelin 2 star) restaurant Frantzén across the street, this bar has a nice atmosphere and always a great cocktail menu. Location.
  • Le Bar- if Tweed resembles a London gentleman's club, then Le Bar will take you back to turn of the century Paris with its red velvet, gold fringe and chandeliers. Finer dining option in their main restaurant, Le Rouge, otherwise they also have a great bar menu (French dishes, of course!). Location. My report... way back in 2010. 
  • Gondolen- although not exactly in Gamla Stan, it is located on the edge and does overlook the old town. Besides the fantastic views, it also has one of Stockholm's classic cocktail bars. My recent visit.
Art deco bar at Mr French.
The above cocktail bars are of the fancier variety. There are also several great pubs and other bars in Gamla Stan to choose from:
  • Wirströms- Irish pub and sports bar with live music and a great selection of beers (including both Swedish & international craft beers). Location.
  • Ardbeg Embassy- besides being a Swedish restaurant, it is also a pub/bar where you can try 24 Swedish microbrewery beers and around 230 single malt whiskeys. Location.
  • Stampen- famous Stockholm pub with live jazz music and eclectic interiors. Location.
  • Torget- popular, cozy gay bar... and one of the oldest gay bars in Stockholm. Location
  • The Liffey- another popular Irish pub and sports bar with live music in the old town! Location.
A fuzzy picture taken at Tweed.
This is all good news if you are staying at the Rival Hotel... Gamla Stan is just a 10 minute walk from the hotel so you don't have to worry about drinking and driving if you want to go bar hopping there. If you are travelling by yourself and want company on your evening of bar hopping, then you might want to try the Stockholm Pub Crawl... a guided crawl of a few pubs in Gamla Stan and Södermalm.
Gamla Stan in the summertime.