Copenhagen has hogged the spotlight as far as Scandinavian cuisine is concerned — riding the coattails of Noma to spread the gospel of “purity, simplicity and freshness” expressed through deer lichen chips, hay oil, and razor clams in parsley jelly and horseradish snow. But neighboring Stockholm boasts an equally compelling focus on local foods, independent artisans and ancient heritage revitalized through contemporary technique.
The following establishments are helping Sweden cast off the shackles of meatballs to become a dynamic culinary capital in its very own right.
Considering travel entails almost an entire day of vacation, spent quarantined in a terminal or in the belly of a plane, it’s important for airlines to provide at least a modest taste of your intended destination. Happily for the Stockholm-bound, Scandinavian Airlines’ “New Nordic by SAS” program goes above and beyond by sourcing seasonal products from local farmers and suppliers like Mikkeler, which provides craft beers specially brewed to be enjoyed at high elevation.
Organic beef and produce are served on The Cube — a sleek container which can be closed and tucked out of the way as soon as you’re done eating — along with breads colored with carrots, flavored with mushrooms and pine, filled with jarlsberg cheese, and matched with items such as Norwegian salmon smoked at Grisslehamn or almond potato mayonnaise.
Downtown Camper by Scandic
Not only does this centrally located hotel bolster Stockholm’s reputation as a “European Green Capital” (courtesy of bike and kayak rentals for getting around the city and hourglasses in each room for timing the use of sink and shower water), it offers a truly mesmerizing morning smörgåsbord – far more elementally Swedish than gummy fish or Muppet chefs.
Rustic wooden tables brim with creamed herring, cold cuts, baked goods, pickles, potted herbs, yogurt, as well as fresh and dried fruit and muesli, while a marble counter is lined with hot items, such as sausages and boiled eggs.
A 17th-century landmark on Skeppsoholmen island (which is in the middle of the city), the hotel also serves as a dining destination, thanks to its restaurant. Perched at the water’s edge, the indoor/outdoor eatery proudly nods to its past with traditional favorites such as potato dumplings and shrimp sandwiches, but maintains a modern aesthetic, expressed through grass-fed, dry-aged sirloin with herb salad, and starters such as crayfish soup with pickled tomatoes and chanterelle toast.
Situated within Djurgården — part of the Royal National City Park — there’s no more idyllic place to enjoy the Swedish coffee tradition, fika, than Rosendals Trädgård.
Whole grain and sourdough breads are baked in stone furnaces stoked with birchwood; and soups, sandwiches, pastries, wine and cider are made with organic and biodynamic ingredients, frequently sourced straight from the surrounding vegetable fields, orchards, vineyards, flower gardens and greenhouses. As for leftovers, they’re transferred directly to the largest compost machine in the country.
Not only will you find one of the city’s best views atop this modern photography museum, you’ll encounter an award-winning restaurant as well. Overseen by celebrated chef Paul Svensson, it also has the distinction of being one of precious few establishments to receive product from the aforementioned Rosendals Trädgård.
Focused on ecological sustainability, meat is only available as a side dish; otherwise, your meal will be comprised of entirely green small plates such as perennial grain pancakes with gherkins, plant caviar and sour cream, celeriac “pasta” tossed with wild mushrooms and black currants, and sweets such as caramel malt, served with chocolate and sea buckthorn.
Rising star Frida Ronge is at the helm of this two-story rooftop restaurant, serving avant-garde Japanese-Nordic cuisine. Considering both culinary traditions prize impeccably fresh fish and restrained presentations, it makes for a perfectly happy marriage. Look for soy sauce-cured salmon with pickled Swedish turnip and sesame mayonnaise; Swedish squid over udon noodles with lovage, buckwheat and butter-fried bread; and a dark chocolate dessert infused with licorice and kombu.
If you must have your meatballs, you’ll find the gold standard at this circa 1897 restaurant, part of the powerful PDF Brasserie Group (also behind Villa Godthem, Orangeriet and Cafe Milano). Essentially the Sardi’s of Stockholm, the walls are lined with portraits of famous patrons who’ve continuously flocked to the plush Prinsen for dill-perfumed shrimp on buttered toast, roasted turbot with lemon and capers, and yes, meatballs cloaked in cream sauce, and paired with lingonberries, pickled cucumbers and potato puree.
When Sweden is referred to as the Brooklyn of Western Europe, it’s largely owed to neighborhoods like Södermalm, a vintage-loving artists’ haven, populated by bars like Linje Tio. Dig the old timey street lamp fixtures, oyster happy hours, smoked hams hanging from exposed beams, and bearded bartenders pouring pints of Brooklyn Brewery lager and shaking up coupes of Sage it To My Face – a mix of tequila, sage, buttered honey and egg white.