October 28, 2015

Halloween & All Saints' Day

Whether you celebrate the more commercial Halloween or the more spiritual All Saints' Day, this is a special holiday weekend coming up (Oct 30th-Nov 1st)!  Halloween does, of course, have its roots in the traditional All Hallow's Eve celebration... but the Americanized Halloween holiday has become more and more popular here in Sweden over the past 10-15 years. On the days surrounding the 31st, don't be surprised to see children and young adults dressed in costumes on the streets of Stockholm.
Last year they dressed up the Globe arena as a jack 'o lantern. http://instagram.com/globearenas
But if you really want to party like a ghoul then you shouldn't miss the Shockholm festival, especially their parade (which is the largest Halloween parade in Scandinavia). The parade takes place on Saturday, October 31st, starting at 5pm from Kungsträdgården park... directly after a pre-parade party (3pm-5pm) with costume contests and other activities. The parade route will go around the old town (Gamla Stan) before returning back to Kungsträdgården for the after party ("After Shock")!
Skogskyrkogården, photo by
(c) Susanne Hallmann, Kyrkogårdsförvaltningen Stockholms stad
For a more spiritual celebration of the holiday, head to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Skogskyrkogården. This is the beautiful Woodland Cemetery, designed by architect Gunnar Asplund and located in the southern suburbs of the city. This site is a great place to visit year-round, but it is especially beautiful (and significant) on this weekend when thousands of people come to the cemetery to leave decorations and candles at the graves of relatives. There will be staff on hand on All Saints' Day (Nov 1st) to help with maps and grave searches and there will be music in several of the chapels. To get to Skogskyrkogården from the downtown area, take the subway (green line) in the direction of Farsta Strand. Exit at the station Skogskyrkogården. Just 7 stops from the Slussen station which is near the Rival Hotel.

All Saints' Day. Photo: Cecilia Larsson/imagebank.sweden.se
On Sunday, November 1st, there will be a torch walk along the lake Brunnsviken in located in Haga park. Start at 4pm and there is a program with music as well. And finally, to really get in to the mood... why not partake in a Ghost Walk sightseeing tour of Gamla Stan. This is the old medieval center of the city where many bloody events have taken place throughout the city's history (like the infamous Stockholm Bloodbath!). The guides on these walks really make this history come alive...

October 25, 2015

Bistro Rival - A Classic Södermalm Restaurant

Bistro Rival... pre service!
Over the past few years I have reported on many of my restaurant visits throughout Stockholm... but it is only fair that I write a report on a recent dinner I had at the hotel's own restaurant: Bistro Rival. My cousin was visiting from out of town, so I treated her to an evening in the Bistro. I suppose I don't have to report on how to get to the restaurant from the Rival Hotel like I do in other reviews? Well, at any rate, it is located on the first floor of the hotel with views of the Mariatorget square in front of the hotel. The restaurant also has a balcony which is open during the summer months and is perefect for dining al fresco.
Red velvet booths along one wall with movie star card artwork.
Close up of the artwork.
The Rival Hotel is in a building that once housed a movie cinema. These days the cinema itself is a popular theatre and the hotel has used its cinematic history as a theme for the hotel and adjacent public areas like the restaurant and bars. For example, our Cocktail Bar used to be the popcorn concession stand for the cinema. In the Bistro this is evident with a lot the decor... from the red velvet booths to the artwork and design touches. For example, on one wall the artist Carouschka Streijffert has created an artwork made up of hundreds of movie stare cards. In the US people collect baseball cards, but here in Sweden we used to collect and trade cards with movie stars on them!
We love an open kitchen... dinner with a show.
Our head chef is Håkan Carlsson. As I write this, he is actually preparing for the quarter finals of the prominent competition "Årets Kock 2016" (chef of the year- 2016). We are keeping our fingers crossed that he makes it all the way to the finals! Håkan told me that his philosophy is to use Swedish, especially locally produced, ingredients as much as possible and that he aims to have a vibrant and creative kitchen. This means that the menu has Swedish cuisine using seasonal ingredients. The entire menu can be seen on the website which you will find on the right hand side as you scroll down.
Löjrom (bleak roe) from Vänern with accoutrements...
...and Jerusalem artichoke soup with seared scallops.
My cousin started with bleak roe from Vänern and I opted for the soup with Jerusalem artichokes from Tollby Gård and seared scallops and autumn truffles. A great start! For our main courses my cousin had the pan fried hake from Skagerak with chanterelle mushrooms and baked beets and I had the wild duck from Österlen served with rillettes of duck leg and fried brussel sprouts. All of it was very autumnal and delicious. Instead of dessert we decided to take an after dinner cocktail from the bar, sitting in the entrance foyer to do some people watching. I should definitely mention that the Rival bartenders are great and have a drink list with some amazing signature cocktails. In fact, the bar was recently named as one of the top 5 hotel bars in Stockholm!
The hake with chantarelle mushrooms...
...and the wild duck.
The Bistro Rival is a very popular restaurant with locals and not only hotel guests, This is especially true on evenings when we have shows in our theatre. Then the restaurant can be particularly busy with guests eating dinner before the start of the show. It is therefore always smart to book your table ahead of time, either on our website or by sending an e-mail to bistro@rival.se. The restaurant is open every evening, 365 days a year. There is also a popular brunch served on most Sundays. So popular that it requires booking a table at least two weeks in advance!
Hotel lobby with stairs leading past the Cocktail Bar to the Bistro.
Cocktails with a view... 

October 19, 2015

Martin Schoeller at Fotografiska

A luminous Cate Blanchett.
This past weekend I visited Fotografiska (The Swedish Museum of Photography) to see their latest exhibition: "Martin Schoeller - Up Close". Born in Germany and based now in New York, Schoeller got a great start to his career as assistant to the legendary Annie Leibovitz... queen of portrait photography (and the first photographer to be exhibited at Fotografiska). These days he is a well known portrait photographer himself with his work appearing in the pages of GQ, New Yorker, Time, Vogue and National Geographic among others.
Seymour Hoffman and Dench.
Douglas, Jolie and more...
This exhibition (running until February 7th, 2016) is actually the first time Schoeller's four photographic series are being exhibited at the same time. His style of detailed, close-up photography makes his portraits much more interesting than other variations of the genre. In his series you will find all types of politicians, sport heroes and movie stars. Swedish footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic even makes an appearance. Some other portraits are less up close, but still very interesting... Usain Bolt posing at the Met or Brad Pitt and George Clooney playing croquet for example.
Usain Bolt at the Met.
Clooney and Pitt.
I also took a look at another of their exhibitions while at Fotografiska... their Höstsalong ("Autumn Salon"). This is a collection of work from 24 amateur and professional photographers, chosen by a jury from among 2304 applications. The works represent of wide range of styles, techniques and subject matter. Showing until November 22nd.
I always find Fotografiska worth a visit and, located on the Södermalm waterfront, it is easy to get to from the Rival Hotel... just a 15-20 minute walk away. Or else you can take the subway to Slussen and then walk 10 minutes along the waterfront to get to the museum. One good thing to consider when planning a visit to the museum is that they are open until 11pm every evening and they have an award winning restaurant on the top floor with great views of the harbor. Make sure you don't miss their gift shop either... nirvana for anyone interested in the art of photography.
Entrance to Fotografiska.
Great gift shop and book store!

October 11, 2015

Hard Rock Café Stockholm

Entrance at night. Photo courtesy of Hard Rock Café.
Opened in 1985, Stockholm's Hard Rock Café is celebrating their 30th birthday this year. That is quite an accomplishment! In fact, the Stockholm Café is actually the 4th oldest HRC in the world still in its original location (2nd in Europe after the London Café). As everyone knows, Hard Rock Café is a major global brand and it is a growing company with over 200 locations around the world... not only cafés but also casinos and hotels.
I stopped by to have lunch and a chat with Kevin Lee, their Sales and Marketing Manager. While I have been dropping by the Hard Rock for almost as long as they have been open, it was nice to get some background information.
As a Stockholm Concierge, I often get asked by hotel guests where the Hard Rock Café is located. Sometimes they are looking for a meal and other times they wish to purchase merchandize. Kevin confirmed that collecting t-shirts, hoodies, pins and other items from different Hard Rock locations is still very popular. In Stockholm they have a well stocked "rock shop" with both classic items as well as newer models.
Another reason the Hard Rock is popular with concierge in Stockholm is the fact that the only time they really ever close is on Christmas Eve. This means that they are open on evenings when many restaurants in Stockholm are closed... Midsummer weekend, Christmas Day and New Year's Day for example. They are also popular with American expats living in the city (or Swedes who have lived in the States) as they celebrate many of the American holidays in grand style... like the upcoming Halloween and Thanksgiving.
The Swedish rock band Europe's corner.
Photo courtesy of Hard Rock Café
I believe that most people are aware of the classic Hard Rock menu. However, when I visited they were trying out a few new vegetarian dishes as part of Vegetarian Awareness Month (October). I am not a vegetarian myself but I tried the Quinoa Burger and it was very good. Hard to believe that it was a veggie burger! They will be trying out 3 different juices and 6 dishes this month. We'll see what makes the cut and stays on the main menu.
Photo courtesy of Hard Rock Café.
As at all other Hard Rocks... there is of course paraphernalia from famous rock stars hanging on the walls. Here you will find mementos from both international musicians (Madonna, Michael Jackson, Nirvana, Slash, etc.) as well as local stars (ABBA, Europe,. etc.). Speaking of music, they have regular events, release parties and concerts at the HRC so it is a good idea to keep an eye on their website or Facebook page. Popular sporting events are shown on the restaurant's TVs as well.
The Hard Rock is located in the Vasastan area and the easiest way to get there from the Rival Hotel is by subway (green line) from nearby Slussen. Exit at either Rådmansgatan or Odenplan. Otherwise it is approximately 8-9 minutes away by taxi. Click here for other restaurant recommendations.

October 6, 2015

Restaurant Brasserie Bobonne

The restaurant, street view.
It was my birthday this past weekend and, to celebrate, I went to dinner with a few friends on Saturday night. Since it was my choice and I like trying new restaurants, I booked a table at a restaurant that I had heard good things about... Brasserie Bobonne.
Bobonne, as the name suggests, is a French restaurant and the menu was filled with classic French dishes and flavors. The restaurant is located on a smaller street in the Östermalm neighbourhood and both the exterior and interior are reminiscent of Parisian brasserie (with a touch of Scandinavian clean design details). It is smaller in size and has an intimate atmosphere. Cosy! And just like a French brasserie, the menu is on a chalkboard which the waiter brings to the table.
Chanterelle soup.
The dinner was great... from aperitif to dessert. There are many classic French dishes on the menu that most diners will recognize, like boeuf bourguignon, chèvre chaud, escargot and crème brûlée. But there were also several dishes that were more seasonal, like chanterelle soup, venison with Savoy cabbage and blueberry soufflé.
Boeuf bourguignon... perfect on an autumn evening.
I opted for the more classic dishes... starting with the escargot, then the boeuf bourguignon, finally ending with an apple sorbet. My friends all took different dishes and it was nice to see the different options. The service was very good and the waiter chose perfect wines for the different dishes. One of my friends is lactose intolerant and they were able to put together great choices for her.
Veal with cauliflower and smoked bacon.
Bobonne is a great choice if you desire upscale French dining (with more rustic cuisine) in Stockholm. The easiest way to get there from the Rival Hotel is by subway... it is just four stations away on the red line (Östermalmstorg stop). Otherwise it is a 7-8 minute taxi ride. It is a smaller restaurant so booking a table in advance is recommended! Click here for more restaurant recommendations/reviews.
It was a gorgeous autumn evening...