March 30, 2013

Restaurant Taverna Brillo

And my adventure in new restaurants in Stockholm continues! This time I visited Taverna Brillo with a few friends. Taverna Brillo is part of a restaurant conglomerate that includes old favorites Sturehof and Riche. Brillo reminds me of Mario Batali's Eataly in NYC... both in the cuisine (Italian) and the concept. It is made up of a large dining room surrounded by a "market place" which includes a florist, bakery, pizzeria, gelateria and several bars. When it was first described to me, I thought it was all in one large locale... but actually the different parts are connected by a series of corridors. The restaurant is located in the fashionable Stureplan district, where many restaurants, bars and nightclubs are found.
Almost everything, except the menu, is similar to Brillo's sister restaurants (Sturehof & Riche)... from the interior design to the clientele to the staff. They have proven to be winning concepts, so why argue with that? Brillo is a restaurant you visit with friends or colleagues... it is a boisterous atmosphere with happy people straining to see and be seen. Not sure if this is the right restaurant for a romantic dinner (especially on the weekend) but, for a visitor, this is a great restaurant to see the locals in action. Also a nice place to take a break from shopping for lunch or a gelato and coffee.
Speaking of boisterous people... the bars seemed to be very popular and the Greenhouse Bar (Växthusbaren) in the back has DJ's playing on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. They are open until 2am every night of the week, except on Sundays when they close at midnight. As I mentioned, their location on Stureplan makes Brillo a perfect place to start an evening on the town.
The cuisine is Italian... with gourmet pizzas, pastas as well as fish & meat dishes. Some good vegetarian options. We started with grilled bread with different toppings (baked pumpkin, crab, steak tartare), followed by pasta (I had the rigatoni with crispy sweetbreads and pancetta... delicious!) and finally some classic Italian gelato (hazlenut & pistaccio for me). It was all very good. To get there from the Rival Hotel is easy... four stations on the subway (red line) to Östermalmstorg, exiting to Stureplan. Otherwise 7-8 minutes by taxi. Click here for more restaurant recommendations.

March 28, 2013

New Commuter Train from Arlanda Airport

Photo by Lars Näslund, SL
There are many ways to get from Arlanda Airport to downtown Stockholm: taxi, bus and high speed train (Arlanda Express). All great options, depending on your budget and time constraints. Now there is a new option, which is of special interest to guests of the Rival Hotel! Stockholm has an extensive commuter train system (called pendeltåg in Swedish) run by SL, the same company that runs the busses and subways. They have now extended a track and built a station at the airport. The station, called Arlanda Centralstation (or Arlanda C for short), is located between terminals 4 & 5, in Sky City. Trains depart at 13 and 43 minutes past the hour and the trip to Stockholm Central (Centralen) takes 38 minutes.
Arlanda C station in Sky City, between terminals 4 & 5
What is of particular interest for guests of the Rival Hotel is that the train continues south after Stockholm Central to Stockholm's Södra Station... which is located just 4 blocks from the hotel! Exit to the street Swedenborgsgatan, turn left on the street and walk 4 blocks to the square Mariatorget. We are located on the right-hand side of the square. So, instead of taking the Arlanda Express to the Stockholm Central and then having to take a taxi or subway to the hotel, guests can now take the commuter train the whole way (just about). The journey between Arlanda and Stockholm's Södra takes 43 minutes.
Many signs guiding to Arlanda C
Even more good news... the trip is quite inexpensive. A one-time ticket costs 150 SEK. Compare that to a taxi which takes the same amount of time and costs 520 SEK and the Arlanda Express which costs 260 SEK but only takes you as far as the central train station. If you have a SL card (good for all commuter trains, busses, subways and some ferries) or one-time SL ticket then you only need to buy a supplementary airport fee for 120 SEK. They do sell the SL card at the Arlanda C station. Now for the bad news (you knew it couldn't be all good news). The trains only depart every half hour. So if you happen to just miss a train, you may have to wait up to 30 minutes for the next train. But if you aren't in a rush, or plan wisely, then this is a great option!
Entrance to Stockholm Södra Station,
4 blocks from the Rival Hotel.

March 23, 2013

Restaurant Farang

Yes, yes, yes...! Those were my thoughts after visiting the newly opened restaurant Farang this week. I had been getting favorable reports sent from friends who had dined there, so I was curious if it is as good as they were saying. It is!
I would like to preface this report by explaining that Swedes have been in a passionate love affair with Southeast Asia over the past 15 years or so. The region, especially Thailand, has been the #1 vacation destination for Swedes for awhile now. As a result, restaurants featuring the region's cuisine have been very popular in Stockholm over the past decade. Farang, however, takes this trend to the next level. They have steered clear of trying to resemble a restaurant in Thailand and have opted to serve a fusion of Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese and Indonesian cuisines in a sleek, modern atmosphere.
Open kitchen along right hand side
Farang is the brain child of Tommi Björck and Matti Wikberg, famous chefs from Finland. They run several successful restaurants in Helsinki, including the original Farang. They have teamed up with top Swedish chef Kim Öhman to open Farang in Stockholm. Farang is located in downtown Stockholm in the building that once housed the Stockholm electricity company (Elektricitetsverk), which gives it a real industrial feel (design-wise). The gray & black color palette and use of natural materials adds to this feel. A cocktail bar and lounge are located at the entrance to the restaurant... followed by a corridor which leads you into the main dining room. The room is very spacious (seating for 160) with an open kitchen running along the entire right hand side.
"Street style" appetizers
The meal was fantastic! This was definitely the best dinner with Southeast Asian cuisine that I have had outside of the region itself. They do have tasting menus, which were recommended to us, but we opted to choose from the menu. We started with Bo La Lot "Street Style" snacks... minced meat wrapped in cha plu leaves. For the main course they offer "share" dishes which are meant, as the name suggests, to be shared. We took the Crispy Pork with Palm Sugar Caramel and the Coconut Braised Duck in Red Curry (both with extra sauces and condiments). They were absolutely delicious and perfectly prepared. To be honest, it was almost too much food! Finally, for dessert we split an order of Ho Chi Minh Xoco... mint chocolate with salted caramel and Vietnamese mint ice cream. I almost forgot how full I was.
Crispy Pork!
The service was great as well. Personable and willing to explain dishes as they came to the table. This place has gotten a lot of positive buzz, so booking in advance is a good idea. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel, you can contact me directly and I will help you make a reservation.
Duck in Red Curry. Mmmm...

March 21, 2013

Restaurant Nosh & Chow

Hold on to your hats, I have been out trying new restaurants (lots of new restaurants have recently opened, or will soon)... and first out is Nosh & Chow. This restaurant opened in January and is the first of two restaurants which will be found in the same building. The second restaurant (to be located on the second floor) is slated to open this autumn. The "theme", if you want to call it that, of the restaurant is that they offer four menus to choose from. Each from a different region of the world. When we were there, the regions were Russia/Karelia, Southeast Asia, North Africa and North America. I have now noticed that they have changed it to Alps, Southeast Asia, North Africa and Peru. So I assume the regions will change from time to time. Each menu isn't large: 2 appetizers, 3-4 main courses and 2 desserts from each region. Their website, which I have linked above, is mainly in Swedish.. but if you scroll down you will find the menus in English as well.
Tacos! With requisite marguerita...
My friend and I both chose the tacos from the North American menu. I am a Mexican cuisine aficionado, and I must admit that they were pretty good tacos. Not the fast food variety, these tacos were filled with quality ingredients! For dessert we split a mint tea sorbet with a citrus and pistachio salad (from North Africa). Fresh and light. I did find, unfortunately, the wine list to be a bit expensive with few quality choices on the lower end of the price scale. The only other negative aspect I found was that the service was a bit spotty. But, having worked for many years in the restaurant business, I know that little hiccups are to be expected in the first few months after a restaurant opens.
Bar at entrance to dining room 
The interior design (by Spanish architect Lázaro Rosa-Violán) of the restaurant is quite eclectic with a mix of different styles and materials. Perhaps designed to match the menu? Very nice with a decidedly masculine vibe (chrome, mirrors, dark wood, somber textiles, etc;). There is a bar in the dining room as well as one in a separate room and they can be quite popular, especially on the weekends. I did spy another smaller dining room adjacent to the open kitchen with a large beautiful table in the center. Chefs' Table? Looked great at any rate. I must say that just the spa-like bathrooms alone are worth a visit...
Bar in separate room.
Nosh & Chow is located on the street Norrlandsgatan, right in the Stureplan district which is filled with restaurants, bars and nightclubs. This makes it a good place to dine before an evening out or a place to add on your bar-hopping itinerary. One note: the sign is a bit hard to spot as you are walking down the street, so keep your eyes open. It is easy to get to the restaurant from the Rival Hotel... just four stations on the subway (red line) to Östermalmstorg station (exit Stureplan), otherwise a 7-8 minute taxi ride.


March 19, 2013

Royal Palace Sprint (Skiing in Gamla Stan)

Photo by Henrik Trygg, Stockholm Visitors Board
One of world's most unique sporting events takes place in Stockholm tomorrow (Wednesday, March 20th)... the Royal Palace Sprint! This is a cross country sprint skiing competition. What makes it unique is that the course is in the middle of a major city, around the Royal Palace located in Gamla Stan. This isn't any amatuer event either... it is part of the World Cup series, so some of the best cross country skiers will be competing! This is the final sprint event of the season and the winner of the Sprint Cup will be announced and "crowned". Important points for the overall World Cup trophy (awarded this coming weekend in Falun, Sweden) are up for grabs as well. Apparently, there is only 15 points separating the top three in the current standings (Levkov, Northug and Cologna). So this is serious business!
Photo by Henrik Trygg, Stockholm Visitors Board
This will be the tenth time this event will be held here in Stockholm. The good news is that this is the first time I can remember that the weather has been "wintery" when the event has been held. Usually it is warm, spring weather and the fact that they truck in snow has been met with raised eyebrows by the locals. This year it is cold and snowy! The bad news is that this is apparently the last time for a few years that they will have the event in Stockholm... I read a quote from an official this morning where he said "hopefully by 2016". So, if you are in town, head down to Gamla Stan and see this unique event!
Photo by... me (from last year). Bad quality but, hey, they ski really fast! Hard to catch them!
The qualification rounds will be held between 2 and 2:45pm. The opening ceremonies with HRH Prince Carl Philip will be at 3pm followed by the semifinals and finals. The award ceremony, with His Majesty the King, will be held at 5:30pm. So plenty of chances all afternoon to see some quality skiing and spot some royals.

March 16, 2013

Royal Funeral Today

This is mainly to inform visitors about what will be going on in Stockholm today in regards to the funeral for Her Royal Highness Princess Lilian. In case you are curious about the woman, visiting dignitaries, the lines of people, happenings at the Royal Palace and such.
Photo by Claes Göran Carlsson, kungahuset.se
HRH Princess Lilian passed away this week at the age of 97. She was the aunt of our king and very beloved by the people of Sweden. Born in England, she met and fell in love with Prince Bertil of Sweden during World War II. When the current king's father died in a plane crash in 1947, Bertil had to be prepared to act as regent until the king (then less than 1 year old) came of age. Because of this, he could not marry Lilian (a commoner) as you gave up your right to the throne in those days if you married a commoner. They lived together discretely for 30 years until the king came to the throne (after the death of his grandfather) and he allowed them to marry. As the king himself had married a commoner, he could hardly deny his uncle. A romantic story!
Royal Chapel, kungahuset.se
As a visitor, it is good to know that the funeral will take place in the chapel at the Royal Palace at 1pm. There will be a lot of spectators and media, so it would probably be best to avoid the area around the Royal Palace. There will also be a cannon salute from the island of Skeppsholmen, across the water from the palace. After the services (approximately 2pm) there will be a motorcade winding through downtown Stockholm, taking the princess to her final resting place in Haga Park, north of the city. Expect roads cordoned off as well as traffic during this time.

March 14, 2013

Michelin Guide Restaurants- Stockholm 2013


(EDIT: This is the list for 2013, for the current Michelin Guide... click here!)
Last year, the announcement of which restaurants received stars in the international Michelin Guide was anticlimactic as there was no change from the year before. This year there has been some changes... and, I'm happy to say, all positive for Stockholm! Two new restaurants have received a star each. Here is the list...

Two Star Restaurants:
One Star Restaurants:

And here is this year's list of Michelin's Bib Gourmand (awarded to restaurants for having great food for reasonable prices) restaurants in Stockholm:
Congratulations to the restaurants that kept their stars and a special congratulations to Gastrologik and Ekstedts for joining the Michelin star club! Lux Stockholm is going to change owners and, when that is finalized, they will lose their star in accordance with Michelin rules. Hopefully the new owners will get them back on the list quickly. I was really hoping that Restaurant Jonas would have made the list this year... next year!

March 12, 2013

Easter in Stockholm- 2013

Photo by Marie Andersson, Skansen
(EDIT: This article is from 2013, for this year's info... click here!) This year Easter falls on the last weekend of March. As a visitor to Stockholm, here are some practical things to know: both Friday March 29th (Good Friday - Långfredag) and Monday April 1st (Annandag Påsk) are bank holidays in Sweden, which means that banks, smaller shops & boutiques as well as liquor stores (Systembolaget) will be closed. Easter Sunday (Påsk) is, of course, a holiday. But, besides the above mentioned, most museums, department stores, restaurants and shopping centers are open as usual... with maybe shorter opening hours certain days. Thursday April 5th (Skärtorsdag) is a special day. While not a holiday, many office workers use it as a half-day in anticipation of their long weekend. The only main museums I can find that have unusual opening hours during the Easter Holidays are Historiska (history museum) which is closed on Friday and Saturday and Livrustkammaren (the royal armoury) which is closed on Friday. Be aware that several museums are closed on Mondays during the low season. The sightseeing tours will run as normal. The Vasa Museum and The National Museum are closed during this period for renovations/expansion.
The best place to experience a traditional Swedish Easter is Skansen on the island of Djurgården. There will be music in Seglora church, Easter activities for children as well as an Easter Market (11am to 4pm Thursday-Monday) where you can buy traditional arts & crafts, foods and Easter decorations. It is easy to get to Skansen from the Rival Hotel... regular ferries to Djurgården from Slussen (10 minute walk from the hotel, ferry ride is also 10 minutes). If you are guest of the hotel and need specific opening hours for a store or museum, contact me directly at the hotel!
Happy Easter!

March 9, 2013

Restaurant News in Stockholm This Spring

And speaking of restaurants... lots of new restaurants as well as other changes this season. I thought I would collect them here in one post. I will be visiting several in the upcoming weeks (tables booked and everything!) and I will be sure to report back here.
A few restaurants have already opened in the past couple of months and I have heard some good buzz about them.

  • Taverna Brillo- Italian restaurant & market. The restaurant is surrounded by bars as well as shops selling flowers, bread, pizza, ice cream and more. Inspired by Batali's Eataly in NYC.
  • Farang- Cuisine from Southeast Asia. Newly opened sister restaurant to the very successful Farang in Helsinki, run by Finnish top chef Tomi Björck.
  • Nosh & Chow- Menu is split up between different cuisines from around the world, using mainly Swedish produce. This Fall a second restaurant will open up in the same building with a concept of its own. 
Opening this month (March, 2013):
  • Cultur- To be honest, I don't know too much about this restaurant yet. But the fact that it is owned by the same people that own the successful restaurants Den Gyldene Freden and Fjäderholmarnas Krog makes me very curious. Located in Gamla Stan.
  • The Flying Elk- An English pub might not sound too exciting, but when I tell you that it is (two-star Michelin restaurant) Frantzén/Lindeberg's take on an English pub you might find your interest piqued! Located right around the corner from Frantzén/Lindeberg in Gamla Stan.
Opening later this Spring:
  • Hornhuset ("the corner house")- The renovation of the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Hornstull is almost complete. On April 26th the doors will open to Hornhuset, which bills itself as "one building, two restaurants, three floors". The menu is made up of smaller dishes which are meant to be combined for your meal.
  • Nytorget 6- One of my favourite restaurants, Roxy, closed this past December. In May a new restaurant will open at the same address (Nytorget 6 in SoFo). We will see if they live up to the spirit of Roxy!
  • Oaxen Krog & Slip- The most anticipated restaurant opening. Once located south of Stockholm and considered to be one of the best restaurants in the world, Oaxen is reopening in the city on the island of Djurgården in May. Even better news... it will be 2 restaurants in 1: the gourmet Krog and the more casual, bistro-inspired Slip.
And finally... some restaurants changing ownerships in Stockholm. The popular Pontus by the Sea, with one of Stockholm's best locations on Gamla Stan's waterfront, has been sold! As of now, the new owner is still a secret. Michelin star restaurant Lux Stockholm is being sold after 10 successful years. According to the Michelin rules, it will automatically lose its star status after the change of ownership.  
For sale: Lux Stockholm! Photo- luxstockholm.com

March 6, 2013

White Guide- Stockholm's Best Restaurants 2013

Congratulations to Esperanto!
(EDIT: This is the guide from 2013, for the current guide... click here!)
'Tis the season... restaurant awards are announced and guides are released. I recently reported on the newspaper DN's Gulddrake Awards, now it is time for the White Guide, the ultimate Swedish guide to the best restaurants in the country. This year White Guide visited approximately 800 restaurants and 90 bars in Sweden. Here is how Stockholm restaurants fared in the list of winners:

I was recently at this Michelin star restaurant and you can read about my experiences by clicking here!
Here are the Stockholm restaurants that made the list for "International Master Class":
And, finally, the Stockholm restaurants that made the list for "Master Class":
Click here to read about last years winners. And stay tuned here... the 2013 Michelin Guide comes out soon! Did any restaurant gain a star? Lose a star? Will Stockholm finally get a three star restaurant? More awards.


March 1, 2013

Exhibitions in Stockholm This Spring 2013

Robert-Antoine Pinchon, La Seine à Rouen au crépuscule, 1905
© Collection Peindre en Normandie
It seems that in the past few weeks I have delivered negative news when it comes to museums in Stockholm... with the National Museum closing for four years for renovations, the Vasa Museum closing for a few weeks for expansion and the end of some great exhibitions. Let's turn this around and talk about what IS showing at different museums and art galleries this Spring season (lots of fun stuff)!

  • Moderna (modern art museum)- I have already reported about the opening of their Hilma af Klint exhibit, but there are a few other noteworthy exhibitions there this season. For example, the Le Corbusier exhibit which runs until April 18th and The Surrealism & Duchamp exhibit which opens on March 26th and runs the whole year out. More to look forward to... Pop Art Design (June 29th to Sep 22nd). See picture below.
  • Fotografiska (photography museum)- we are sad to see the LaChapelle exhibit coming to an end, but I am definitely looking forward to The Man, The Image & The World, a retrospective of the work of the great Henri Cartier-Bresson (March 8th to May 26th). There is no news about what their summer exhibition will be... which makes me very curious! (EDIT: And it has just been announced... their big summer exhibition will be Helmut Newton! Starting May 29th... can't wait!)
  • Millesgården (statuary and art museum)- they have a great ongoing exhibition that I am eager to visit... Painters in Normandy, Wonderful Impressionists (until May 26th). See picture at top.
  • Thielska Gallery (art museum)- another exciting, ongoing exhibition... Munch (until May 12th). In honour of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch's 150th birthday. Famous for being the man who painted The Scream, this exhibition shows much more of the artist and why he is one of Scandinavian's greatest. 
  • Liljevalchs (art museum)- their ongoing exhibition is their Spring Salon (until March 24th). I know that a lot of visitors are interested in Swedish interior design, so their summer exhibition is of particular interest: Home Sweet Home - Furnished Tales (June 27th to Sep 15th).
  • Waldemarsudde (art museum)- it's all about fashion this Spring with We Were Wrong, fashion photography by Carl Johan de Geer (until April 28th) and Fashion During the Time of Prince Eugen (until May 19th).
  • Hallwylska (palace/museum)- after their popular exhibit last season of the clothes from Downtown Abbey, they just opened an exhibit of under garments from the tun of the last century called "Under the Surface (Under Ytan)". Runs until June 9th.
  • Museum of Far East Antiquities (Östasiatiska, east asian art & history museum)- good news... their exhibit Secret Love, which I really enjoyed, can still be seen until March 31st. 
See... lots of great art news! And in May there is even more great news: The Vasa Museum reopens on May 1st and ABBA the Museum opens for business on May 7th. Can't wait! There are, of course, plenty of other museums (the city has over 80) and art galleries. If you are staying at the Rival Hotel and are interested in what is going on in smaller art galleries... contact me directly at the hotel.
Tom Wesselmann
Smoker Banner, 1971
© © The Estate of Tom Wesselmann/BUS 2013