May 2, 2016

Wine & Cheese at Gamla Amsterdam

Now for something a little different! Last week a colleague and I decided to go out for a drink after work to celebrate the end of another work week. We decided to try a place close to the Rival Hotel that had piqued our interest: Gamla Amsterdam Cheese Shop & Cheese Bar. I had purchased some cheeses there a couple of months ago for a dinner party and had seen that they had started with wine as well as lighter meals. I do enjoy a great cheese plate paired with a nice red wine...
It is a small space that manages to fit in a cheese counter, shop, tasting area as well a few tables and counters. Now that the weather is warming up, they have added a few tables outside as well. The aroma of cheese as well as the wheels of cheese displayed gives the place some great ambiance. I would say that the majority of their business is with people purchasing cheese to take home, but you are welcome to stay and enjoy your cheese there with a glass of wine.
We chose a cheese plate in order to try a variety of cheeses. It was delicious! The staff is very good at recommending cheeses as well as wines that pair well with your cheese(s). They do have other dishes on the menu. Of special note are their smørrebrød, which is a delicious Danish open-face sandwich with different toppings, and their fondues. No table reservations and you can expect to share a table with other patrons. Very casual. The shop is located in Södermalm just a stone's throw away from the hotel on the street Hornsgatan. Click here for other restaurant recommendations and reviews.

April 30, 2016

Valborg (Walpurgis) Celebrations in Stockholm 2016

Photo by Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
Tonight, April 30th, is Valborgsmässoafton (or Walpurgis Eve) here in Sweden! This is a great, annual spring celebration where Swedes gather in the evening, light bonfires and sing traditional songs. Tomorrow, May 1st, is a bank holiday (International Workers Day) so younger celebrants can get a little rowdy. But it is all in good fun. There are official bonfires being lit tonight throughout the city (though mostly in the suburbs), but if you are staying at the Rival Hotel then there are two that are conveniently close to the hotel... if you wish to witness and partake in the festivities.
Valborg at Skansen, photo by Dan Larsson
The main celebration is at Skansen on the island of Djurgården. There will be things (concerts, speeches) going on all afternoon and early evening... but the all important bonfire will be lit at 9pm. Another place you can celebrate is at Evert Taube's Terrass on the island of Riddarholmen, just adjacent to Gamla Stan (old town). Here they will light the bonfire at 8.30pm (however it all starts with a torch parade from Stortorget in the old town at 8:10pm). Click here for a full list of bonfires (list in Swedish). Happy Spring!

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.
Ambiance...
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.