February 26, 2015

Stockholm Restaurants in the Michelin Guide 2015

Congratulations Oaxen Krog on your second star!
(EDIT- This is the list for the 2015 guide, click here for the updated list)  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.

February 6, 2015

The Swedish History Museum - Historiska Museet

Historiska Museet (The Swedish History Museum) is a great and interesting museum but, unfortunately, is often overlooked in favor of more famous Stockholm museums like the Vasa Museum and Skansen. A little strange when you consider that Vikings (featured prominently in the museum) are one of the things, historically, that Sweden is most famous for. Last month I was invited to a special showing of the different exhibitions at Historiska, so it is the perfect opportunity for an update (last time I wrote about the museum was waaay back in 2010 in one of my first posts).
One of several Viking runestones at the museum.
The museum is probably best known for "The Gold Room", an amazing collection of silver and gold artifacts and jewellery from the Middle Ages, Viking period and even earlier. Many of the objects have been found by farmers, buried in their fields. Hoards hidden for one reason or another. The amount is impressive... the Gold Room contains a total of 52 kilograms of gold and 200 kilograms of silver. One my favorite items is the bejeweled Elizabeth reliquary.
The Vikings' presence in the museum is not limited to the gold they left behind... there is also an impressive, permanent exhibition at the museum dedicated to our famous ancestors. Here you can learn about Viking culture, history and everyday life. Hopefully you will come away with a better understanding of the Vikings. To start off with, "viking" was actually a profession not a people and while they are most famous for terrorizing Europe, they were more successful as traders and colonizers. Many of the artifacts here come from Birka, the old Viking trading town located just outside Stockholm (and a great place to visit during the summer).
Section of the Viking exhibition,,,
When you consider that the Viking period only stretched for a little more than 250 years, then you understand that Swedish history is more than just the Vikings! The museum has one exhibition which gives a great overview of the history of Sweden from the 11th century until today. Another exhibition that I particularly like looks at medieval art with the majority of objects coming from churches (from Sweden's Catholic past- relics, crucifixes, madonnas and altar pieces).
Medieval art.
Historiska is located in the Östermalm neighborhood. To get there from the Rival Hotel, take the subway to Karlaplan (red line, in the direction of Ropsten). But if you are on the island of Djurgården, visiting the Vasa Museum or Skansen... it is just a short walk to Historiska from there across the Djurgårds Bridge. And if you are interested in history, don't miss these other museums that concentrate on history.