October 15, 2017

Restaurant Hjerta

Last week I was at the opening of the new Norm Form exhibition and afterwards my friend and I wanted to grab a bite to eat. The museum, ArkDes, is on the island of Skeppsholmen and there are not many restaurants there except at a hotel and the museum. The one exception is Restaurant Hjerta. As I had never tried Hjerta before, this was a great opportunity to pay them a visit.
The island of Skeppsholmen is in the middle of Stockholm harbor but is still a little off the beaten path. The location on the waterfront of the island with the boats and views of the harbor make it very idyllic and worth the effort to get there. It's not that it is hard to get there, it is just that you won't likely be walking by it spontaneously unless you have just been visiting Moderna, Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities or ArkDes.
To share... three fish tacos and two vegetarian tacos.
I know from friends that Hjerta has a really popular outdoor seating area during the summer months and I can imagine that it must be really beautiful sitting in the sunshine with all of the boats passing by. The day we visited was sadly on a rainy autumn weekday so we didn't get to experience that aspect of the restaurant. Instead the weather made the restaurant all the more cosier, especially with the open kitchen in the middle of the restaurant.
I would say that the cuisine is a fusion of Latin American and Swedish with some pure Latin/Mexian dishes like gorditas and ceviche while other dishes are more European fused with Latin flavors... like a broiled cod with garlic fried mini octopus and chorizo butter. My friend and I opted to share a plate of tacos, both fish and vegetarian (halloumi). They were very good!
There is a bridge connecting Skeppsholmen with the downtown area so you can take a taxi or walk to the restaurant. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, you can take the Djurgård ferry from Gamla Stan. Just tell the ferry staff that you wish to disembark at Skeppsholmen and they will make an extra stop on the island (during the summer months they do make regular stops there). The ferry trip just takes 10 minutes and you disembark a 5 minute walk from the restaurant. Click here for other restaurant reviews/recommendations.

October 12, 2017

Fine Dining Experience at Restaurant Aloë

My job as Concierge does come with some wonderful benefits, like being invited to try great restaurants like Aloë. This restaurant has been on the White Guide's list of best restaurants in Sweden over the past couple of years and I have been really curious to try it so I was obviously very excited over the invitation. I did, however, find out that I have been pronouncing the name incorrectly... it isn't pronounced a-low (like in aloe vera) but instead a-loe-ay. It is Latin and loosely translates to "unknown origins". More about that later...
Opening salvo of caviar royale and champagne
Aloë's location sets it apart from other Stockholm restaurants as it is located in the southern suburbs of the city. It really isn't as daunting as it sounds. You can take public transportation there (subway + bus) which takes about 30 minutes or a taxi/über. I opted for the latter and it only took me 10 minutes to get there from the Rival Hotel, which is about the same amount of time to get to the downtown area from the hotel. I found the location actually quite charming as it, coupled with the interior design, made it feel like you were dining in someone's home. Albeit someone with great taste! The locale is small and intimate with a beautiful open kitchen. The spacing between the tables gives you a more private dining experience.
Open kitchen
The cuisine/menu also sets it apart from other Stockholm restaurants of similar quality and standard. Many of the top restaurants in Stockholm (Scandinavia for that matter) do what is called Nordic, or New Nordic, cuisine which uses mainly local, seasonal, often ecological, produce. Instead, Aloë takes its inspiration from a variety of world cuisines, using the freshest quality ingredients wherever they find it. Hence the name "Aloë" (see above). The menu we ate had flavors from places as geographically different as Russia, the Far East, southern Europe and Latin America. Makes for an interesting and creative menu! The chefs are very merited with backgrounds that include competing in Bocuse d'Or and working at Michelin star restaurants like Operakällaren, Mathias Dahlgren and Esperanto.
Squid dish
Aloë serves a tasting menu made of around 15 dishes/servings. You can also choose a beverage package to go with the menu or just order by the glass/bottle. The dishes were interesting and the flavors great, ranging from good to superb with no misses. We had the wine package (8 beverages including a champagne and a sake) which complimented the dishes well. Some personal favorites on the menu were the caviar royale, langoustine with fermented beans and Gochjuang, venison with "oriental spices" and squid with green pepper and jalapeño. The desserts were spot on and I was definitely full and satisfied afterwards. I would say that the flavors were quite rich throughout most of the menu and I could have used a lighter dish or two to break it up... but that is just a matter of personal taste. The service was excellent; both personable and knowledgeable.
Booking is best done online and, if you are staying at the Rival Hotel, I can help you with that... though you will have to confirm your booking with a credit card. Keep in mind that while they can accommodate certain allergies and dietary restrictions, they do need to know this well in advance and definitely not while you are sitting down to dine! Click here for other restaurant reviews/recommendations.
Venison dish
Dessert sampler to end the evening...
...after which you are presented the evenings menu as a souvenir

October 8, 2017

Norm Form Exhibition at ArkDes

ArkDes is the Swedish Center for Architecture and Design... a museum, study center and focal point for discussion about architecture and design. It is in the same building (with same entrance) as the modern art museum Moderna, so it is convenient to visit both (2 birds, 1 stone). I have been there a few times, like for their past Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition, though mostly for their annual gingerbread house competition. This time I was there for the premiere of their new exhibition for the fall/winter season: Norm Form.
Norm Form looks at elements and forms of design that break the norm, whether it is gender, religion, sexuality, age or other cultural norm. Hijabs designed for Muslim women working in the fire department, a male version of a gynecological chair and jeans designed for a disabled individual confined to a wheel chair are some of what is on exhibit. Over 50 designers and artists have taken part in this exhibition which runs until February 11th, 2018. Free entrance!
I found it interesting, especially the pieces focusing on gender norms. Really made you think about gender norms and how many of these norms are forced upon you at an early age and reinforced throughout your life. From how boys' and girls' toys are packaged and sold to how men's and women's shaving products are advertised.
ArkDes is located on the island of Skeppsholmen and, as I mentioned, has the same entrance as Moderna. Many of the exhibitions in both museums have free entrance so this is a great way to visit two museums and soak in some culture without breaking your budget. The easiest way to get to the museums from the Rival Hotel is to take the Djurgård ferry from Gamla Stan. There is also a bridge connecting the island to the downtown area. Closed Mondays.

October 5, 2017

The Wine Bar Dryck

It was my birthday the other day (no presents please, cash is fine) and, after a long day at work, a friend and I decided to go out for a glass of wine. We had been discussing for a while about trying a wine bar called Dryck, that opened up a few months ago around the corner from the Rival Hotel... so this was the perfect opportunity. Wine bars (vinbar in Swedish) have become quite popular over the past few years here in Stockholm. Basically they are bars that specialize or concentrate on wine, with knowledgeable staff and small dishes that go well with their wine selections. These bars often offer wine tastings as well.
Dryck (FYI: Swedish for drink/beverage) was the location of a popular health food store called 8T8 until the owner decided to change directions a few months ago and follow her passion for wine. And it has proven to be successful. It is an intimate and cozy bar with a communal table in a back room as well. They do also have outdoor seating in the summer months and, as the street turns pedestrian during those months, it is quite a large outdoor area.
During our visit, we had two glasses of the Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir. They do have a bar menu with mostly small dishes like a selection of cheeses and charcuterie but a few larger dishes as well. We however just chose a couple snacks this visit... a variety of olives and popcorn with truffle oil and grated parmesan. Perfect to snack on while enjoying some wine. The service was good and personable... they were knowledgeable without being pretentious (like some sommeliers can be). In fact their tagline is "wine nerdiness without snobbery" (vin-nörderi utan snobberi).
Unlike many wine bars, they do also have a wide selection of great beers for those who prefer grain over grape. Don'y worry, they also have several good choices of non-alcoholic wines. I would say that this isn't a place to go for a quick glass of wine or just to get your buzz on. Instead, come here to enjoy and great glass of wine or beer, with a date or with friends. As I mentioned, Dryck is located right around the corner from the Rival Hotel. If you are coming from somewhere else in Stockholm, then the closest subway station is Mariatorget (red line). Skål!

October 3, 2017

The View from Skinnarviksparken

When I was visiting vintage clothes stores in the neighborhood last week, I took a break, bought a coffee and visited Skinnarviks park (Skinnarviksparken) to enjoy the great views over the city. I have already blogged about Monteliusvägen and Fjällgatan, also with great views, but I thought I would tell you about this park as well to give you more options.
Entrance to the park.
Just like the other two spots, Skinnarviksparken is located on the heights along the northern coast of Södermalm... though further west than the other two. Just adjacent to the park itself is the "hill" Skinnarviksberget which has given the park its name. At 53 meters, this hill is the highest natural point in central Stockholm. "Skinnar" is the Swedish word for tanner (someone who tans hides, making leather) and refers to the tanners who worked and lived in this area back in the 1600's. At that time, tanning hides caused quite a bad smell and tanners were often located on the outskirts of the city (which this area was back then).
Top of the hill. The chimney belongs to the old brewery, now event locale. 
The park is small, but pretty and popular with locals out for a stroll or, in the summer, a picnic. It is also a good place to view the firework display on New Year's Eve. You can also climb the hill (not too strenuous) for even better, more unobstructed views. The park is just a 15 minute walk from the Rival Hotel. Otherwise the closest subway station is Zinkensdam (red line). 
The view to the west. 


September 27, 2017

Vintage and Second Hand Clothing Stores on Södermalm

This coming weekend I am going to a party with a 1980's theme, so I decided to search through vintage clothes stores to see if I could find something good to wear. And since many of the best vintage and second hand stores in Stockholm are in the Rival Hotel's neighborhood and hotel guests do ask about them from time to time... I thought that this would make a good blog post.
Södermalm is often called the "Brooklyn" of Stockholm and is the home to our hipster population. There is even a hipster guide of the area. Let's be honest... most major cities in the western world have this type of neighborhood these days. These areas, whatever the city, are great places to find funky design stores, craft beer pubs, great cafés, barbershops (need to keep those beards trimmed!), yoga studios, eclectic music shops and... vintage clothes stores. You have at least 12 stores within a 4-5 block radius of the hotel and they run the gamut from charity shops to boutiques selling hand picked vintage items.
Siv & Åke
Here is a list of the 12 closest stores with locations. I have marked them with a C (charity shop), S (second hand clothes- from mundane to treasure) or a V (vintage, hand-picked quality clothes) so you can decide which ones to visit. This is a great way to find that unique fashion piece for your wardrobe or just a great bargain. They are listed by location... loosely east to west. Happy shopping!
Ruth & Raoul

If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and are looking for more vintage and second hand clothes stores in Stockholm or need other advice, contact me directly at the hotel.
Herr Judit
Emmaus- two shops, one location.
Beyond Retro

September 20, 2017

Food Market- Hötorgshallen

Discrete entrance
I always love visiting indoor food markets when I travel to new cities. It is a great way to soak up the sounds, smells and flavors of a city. And Stockholm has a couple of good ones! The most well-known is the Östermalms Saluhall, or Östermalmshallen. This food market is very historic, a bit upscale and concentrates mainly on Swedish produce. Currently they are renovating the building, so they have moved all the vendors and restaurants to a temporary structure in the square across the street.
Escalators down to the basement level
However there is another great food market that many visitors miss, mainly because most guidebooks only mention the Östermalm market. This market is called Hötorgshallen. Less upscale than Östermalm and more global in what their vendors offer... this market is very popular with Stockholmers. It is located on the square Hötorget in the downtown area and an extra selling point is that the square itself is filled with fruit and flower vendors Mondays through Saturdays. The indoor market has quite a discrete entrance at the back of the square and it takes up two floors, the smaller ground floor and the larger basement level.
Vendors here sell a wide variety of produce... coffee, tea, sweets, meat, fish, cheese, sausage, fruit & vegetables, bread, pastries, ice cream, delicacies and much more. There are also several small restaurants which are great places to stop for lunch. What makes it especially fun, in my opinion, is that the vendors represent a range of nationalities. Swedish vendors rub shoulders with Asian, Turkish, Italian, Finnish, South American and Eastern European shops. For example, I stopped by here the other day to pick up some Brazilian linguica sausage. They even have one of the state run liquor stores (Systembolaget) in the market, making it one-stop shopping for Stockholmers planning their dinners.
...bread and pastries...
There are several cafés, delis and restaurants spread throughout the market and are great places for lunch. One of my favorites is the seafood restaurant Kajsas Fisk which has some of the best fish & shellfish stews in town. And you know it is fresh as the restaurant is adjacent to the fish mongers. Stop by the Gelato Bar afterwards for some dessert! No reservations at these restaurants, just drop-in spots. Hötorgshallen is only open during the daytime so no dinner options (the market is also closed on Sundays and bank holidays).
...and fish!
The square itself is quite lively... with vendors selling fruits, vegetables and flowers on all days except Sundays when it becomes more of a flea market. Their produce is very seasonal. For example, this time of year they sell a lot of mushrooms and berries from the Swedish forests. Hötorget is centrally located in the downtown area and a quick walk from the many nearby department stores and shopping centers. To get there from the Rival Hotel, you can either take the subway, green line, to Hötorget station (three stations from nearby Slussen) or else it is a 7-8 minute taxi ride.
Fruit vendors on the square out front.
Chocolates and truffles
Wild sausages (moose, reindeer, wild boar, etc.)

September 13, 2017

Restaurants Serving Traditional Swedish Cuisine

Assorted herring plate at Sturehof.
One topic of discussion that often comes up with hotel guests is Swedish cuisine. Most visitors feel like they should try traditional Swedish cuisine when they are visiting Stockholm... but what is Swedish cuisine? There is a big difference between modern and traditional Swedish food culture. Modern Swedish cuisine often follows the same concepts as New Nordic Cuisine: innovative and using local, seasonal often organic produce. Traditional Swedish cuisine is something entirely different. This is our everyday food; traditional dishes that have been around for a long time (sometimes for centuries) and what we often call husmanskost. Our comfort food!
Löjrom Toast at Söders Hjärta
Many of these dishes will be familiar, like (Swedish) meatballs, marinated/cured salmon (gravad or rimmad lax), pickled or fried herring, fish stew, reindeer, black pudding and Toast Skagen. Other dishes will be less familiar, like kroppkaka, Biff Rydberg, löjrom, gubbröra and Wallenbergare (links take you to informative videos made by the Foodie List). Certain dishes or produce are more seasonal... moose, venison and chanterelle mushrooms often show up on menus in the fall, crayfish has a short season in August, goose in November while white asparagus is a spring delicacy.
Östermalms Saluhall.
Photo by: Carro Hjerpe
So, where can you try traditional Swedish cuisine when visiting Stockholm? You have quite a few restaurants to choose from, whether you want a high-end restaurant or a good, casual pub. Here are some that I recommend and which I have split up in three categories: high-end, mid-range and casual/budget. Some serve only traditional dishes while others mix them in their menu with more modern dishes.

  • Den Gyldene Freden - world's oldest restaurant with the same surroundings, Bib Gourmand rated.
  • Ulla Winbladh - famous restaurant in bucolic setting, Bib Gourmand rated.
  • Grand's Veranda - choose a la carte or try the smörgåsbord (see below).. 
  • Erik's Gondolen - on Södermalm with great views of the city. 
  • Fem Små Hus - historic atmosphere in the old town. 

Swedish meatballs at Den Gyldene Freden
  • Tennstopet - cultural landmark in Vasastan, celebrating 150 years. 
  • Operakällaren's Bakfickan - casual dining in the opera house, no reservations.
  • Prinsen - classic Swedish brasserie in the downtown area. 
  • Sturehof - Swedish/French, focusing on seafood. 
  • Tradition - as the name suggest, very traditionally Swedish. Menu, music, design. 
  • Tranan - another Stockholm culinary mainstay.
  • Östermalms Saluhall - indoor food market with several Swedish restaurants like Lisa Elmqvist, Gerda's and Tysta Marie. Main building currently under renovation, but they have moved everything into a temporary food market on the square. 
  • Rosendals Wärdshus - summer restaurant on Djurgården, also open on major holidays (like the Christmas season). 
  • Harvest Home - cosy, at home, restaurant in SoFo. 
  • Meatballs for the People - meatballs, meatballs and even more meatballs. 
  • Knut - Vasastan restaurant serving cuisine from Norrland (northern Sweden).
  • Rival's Bistro - our own hotel restaurant which always has a few traditional dishes on the menu. 
Smörgåsbord at Grand's Veranda
Photo by: Magnus Mårding
The Swedish word smörgåsbord has made its way into many other languages and has come to be synonymous with "a wide variety of things to choose from"... and this is exactly what it is: a buffet style meal where you can choose from lots of traditional warm & cold dishes (including several of the above mentioned dishes). Swedes generally only eat smörgåsbord during major holidays like Easter, Midsummer and Christmas (when it is called julbord). However, you can try the smörgåsbord at the Grand's Veranda. The Christmas julbord, on the other hand, is served at many restaurants in the four weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. Feel like going even further back in Swedish culinary history? Try the medieval restaurant Sjätte Tunnan or the Viking restaurant Aifur, both located in the old town (Gamla Stan).
Toast Skagen at Ulla Winbladh
Restaurant Kvarnen
Photo by Staffan Eliasson/mediabank.visitstockholm.com