I landed in Stockholm at 12:40pm on Saturday, September 10th, after a my sojourn at Fäviken in northern Sweden. After checking into The Grand Hotel, I made a beeline for the Östermalms Saluhall, a giant food hall founded in 1888 where you can buy and eat all manner of Swedish produce, fish, cheese, prepared foods and coffee, among others.
I gawked for awhile at the incredible display, lamenting the fact that I couldn’t buy any of it (fish doesn’t travel so well in a suitcase….), and then sat down at Nybroe for a glass of Chardonnay and a a smoked salmon and asparagus smørrobrød (open face sandwich) with crème, salmon roe and dill.
Feeling thus fortified, I was then ready to face the afternoon in a new city, and set out to explore.
After a few hours walking the city and a relaxing sauna session at the hotel, I dressed for dinner and set out for Restaurang Volt.
The night before, upon hearing that I had no reservations for dinner on Saturday night in Stockholm and furthermore no idea where to go, a look of slight horror had come over Johan’s (the manager/sommelier at Fäviken) face, and I was told it would be tricky since it was Saturday after all, but he would do his best.
Johan’s (of Fäviken) friend Johan (Bengtsson) is the maître d’hotel and a co-owner of Volt and he greeted me when I arrived with a glass of champagne while I waited for my table.
The menu informed me that “We are at our best when you choose a menu of several dishes” and so, to make sure I didn’t miss anything important, I went for 5: two first courses, one main, cheese and dessert.
After I had ordered, I was served a plate of still-hot bread (delicious – and not hard, why do not more restaurants do this?) served with a whipped sheep’s milk cheese spread and butter from Jämtland, which the bus boy excitedly told me was where Fäviken is. It was good butter, but it’s got nothing on “The Good Butter” I had had that morning. However, the cheese spread was really delicious.
For my first first course, I ordered “Broccoli, served with oysters, sea plants and algae.”
I’m not sure where the oysters were from, but they were much smaller than what we usually get in the US, with a very strong sea-taste, reinforced by the sea plants and algae.
Next was “Carrot, rabbit, carraway, rice.”
The dish consisted of slices of lightly pickled carrot, carrot purée, roast rabbit, and bits of a sort of rabbit terrine, topped with puffed rice and caraway seeds. A really interesting mix of textures (smooth purée, crunchy carrots, meaty rabbit, crispy rice) and flavors (pickled carrots, sweet carrots, gamey rabbit, the bite of carraway).
For my main course I had plaice with peas, yogurt, spruce and butter lettuce. The spruce was a really interesting touch. With this Johan paired a sauvignon blanc from Touraine, which my tasting notes tell me “tasted like buttah.”
It was a delicate dish – but I had slight food envy for the steak that arrived at the table next to me …
The cheese, a spiced Gouda-style from even further northern Sweden than Fäviken, came with cucumber and mustard seed and was not only spiced but spicey.
And finally dessert.
Corn pudding with caramel in the center, dried corn and something that tasted sort of like corn nougat. It was perhaps not my favorite – very much on the sweet side – but I was forewarned so share part of the blame. In the end I was so full already I really could have done without dessert altogether.
I ordered an infusion to help start digesting, and what arrived at the table were two mint and lemon verbena plants, artfully potted in shiny tin cans.
Johan clipped a few pieces of each, deposited them into a small glass teapot and instructed me to let them infuse for a few minutes. The perfect end to the meal.
Added bonus: the bathroom at Volt has some of the coolest wallpaper of all time:
Armed with my Lonely Planet guide I set out the next morning (Sunday) in search of cinnamon buns. It was 8am, and the city was just waking up as I walked up Birger Jarlsgatan towards Café Saturnus, which Lonely Planet describes as having the “biggest and dare we say best cinnamon buns” in town. I can’t say for certain, but they were pretty damn good, and also enormous.
I ordered a bun and a latte for take away and left with a huge paper wrapped parcel to find a park bench.
I sat down and unwrapped my parcel. The cinnamon bun was about as big as my face. I ate about a third, drank my coffee, put the remaining bun in my purse and set out for a walk on Djurgården and a visit to the Vasa Museet before heading to the airport to fly to Copenhagen.
Stockholm travel tips:
- Hotels are much cheaper on weekends (even up to 50%) and many have less expensive single rooms, some with no windows that are fine if you plan on spending little to no time in them. The Grand also has a “prepaid” option where if you pay up front you get a cheaper rate.
- Guidebooks: Phaidon Press’s Wallpaper Guide for cool, upscale hotels, bars and shopping, plus great architecture highlights + Lonely Planet Stockholm City Guide for more basic needs like maps, classic tourist destinations and cheaper dining and drinking options
- The Arlanda Express train to the airport is easy and fast (about 20 minutes)
- If you fit the demographic, make sure to ask about youth fares for everything (usually for the under 25 set)
- The Vasa Museet is really cool, featuring a warship that sank in the harbor on its maiden voyage in 1628 and was raised in 1961
- I didn’t get to go there, but I have it on good authority that for a nice, quiet spot for a fantastic view of the city, go to Mariatorget in Södermalm and walk up towards the top of the hill