20
Jun

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My first impression as I flew to Stockholm was both good and bad. Good because despite the plane being packed with children, it was a surprisingly restful flight with hardly any noise and lovely service — I should have added beautiful manners to the title of this post; every Swede I met on this trip was delightful except, that is, for the gruff sandwich tart lady (you will find her later in the post). They are really the most charming people in Europe! The bad impression which thankfully was fleeting was due to my vision of all Swedes as tall, blond and beautiful and there weren’t many on the plane. But this changed as soon as I landed. Wherever I went, I had to stop myself staring at gorgeous men and women. Fortunately, I was able to stare at the beautiful young man in the picture above taken at Saluplats Husman in the fabulous Hötorgshallen as he served us the most delicious meatballs and a wallenbarger (a very soft large meatball made with veal, eggs and cream).

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Both were our first proper taste of homely Swedish cooking. We had had lunch the day before at Lisa Elmqvist and dinner at 19 Glas but Lisa Elmqvist is all about fish while lovely Olle Tagesson at 19 Glas has a more global approach to cooking including making his own salumi.

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I could have easily spent the whole day ogling the beautiful boy (just joking) while enjoying the food but we were expected at Lux for lunch although not before we swung by a fabulous bakery & pastry shop right next to the restaurant.

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We didn’t taste the breads or crackers which looked beautiful but we tried the pastries, which were just as beautiful although surprisingly dry and over-spiced. Our lunch at Lux on the other hand was exquisite, from the setting (on a terrace overlooking a lake or perhaps it was a river) to the charming welcome by our pretty waitress and the gorgeous husband and wife team (Henrik, the chef, and Lotta, front of house, Norström) to the food which has earned them a Michelin star. I had already tasted bleak roe at Lisa Elmqvist but the way it was served at Lux was very pretty, and on their home-made brown bread that was more like a cake than bread, it was just perfect, as was the rest of the lunch.

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stockholm-brown bread at lux copyThat evening we dined at Oaxen (more about that in a separate post) and the next day we flew to Östersund from where we drove to Faviken (again all about it in a separate post) stopping for lunch at what looked like an idyllic place.

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The setting may have been idyllic, but the meal was anything but. I had an inkling that all may not be right as we walked through a room full of creepy dolls and junky antiques to get to the cafe part which looked abandoned except for the gruff woman mentioned earlier. Not very reassuring I thought, especially given the charming welcome we’d been having everywhere else. Even less reassuring was the food on offer, including an amazing concoction that looked like a cake but was topped with prawns, meatballs and rolled slices of ham. Hideous but weirdly irresistible. I asked the lady what it was and she described it as a sandwich tart — apparently quite common in Sweden! I had to try it and I ordered a slice leaving my companions to decide what they wanted while I went out to the deck to enjoy the glorious weather and view.

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Our not so charming hostess also wanted to enjoy the sun, but away from us and her other clients who looked like locals. I don’t know if they ate her sandwich tart but if you happen to pass by and want to eat there, don’t order it. It is mostly bread and not a very good one at that in a land where bread is almost universally good. It was the only bad thing we ate on the trip. Fortunately,  we more than made up for it that evening at Faviken where we really should have stayed more than the one night although I am not sure if they encourage it. Anyway, it was just as well we left the following morning because the weather turned ugly and the rain never stopped, neither up there nor in Stockholm but we didn’t let it spoil our street food jaunt. Our lovely friend Per had recommended a fun fried herring stall where they serve herring in many different ways. I chose the combination with mashed potatoes while David had the open sandwich version with onions and mustard. Both were very good although his was the lighter choice.

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That evening Per took us to, Shahrzad, a lavish Persian restaurant but I can’t say I was unduly impressed by their cooking and I was definitely not impressed by their rice — too soft and wet and no tahdig. They were trying hard though. The service was very amiable and they did have faloodeh on the menu even if it wasn’t particularly great.

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The weather was just as sad the following day which was also our last but things brightened up as soon as we arrived at Parlans, the prettiest caramel shop with the prettiest 1940s sales girl, complete with the right hairdo, clothes and make-up. In fact, it seemed to be the style of all the girls working there because even those in the kitchen had the same style although not so extreme.

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The caramels were just as delightful as everyone in the shop including the totally gorgeous owner, lisa, who sent us away with a bag full of delicious goodies — I hate to say it but I finished my box of caramels in no time at all! Thankfully, it wasn’t a large box like the ones below but one of the dainty ones with the ribbon on the shop counter. Still, it was a lot of caramels but I enjoyed every single one of them and they were worth every calorie.

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It was a morning well spent and a sweet prelude to our next appointment with Per who was taking us to Rosendals Garden by boat which was exciting as we had not yet travelled on one. And the sun came out for that part of the day! We had a ‘locavore’ lunch outside under the gazing eye of a sea gull before going into the bakery next door to see what was baking.

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It was the first bakery I had been in where all the bakers were women and where everything looked beautiful. I am not sure if that was because of the Swedish sense of aesthetics which is almost as developed as that of the Japanese or because of the women bakers. Oddly enough it was the same at Parlans, mostly women and everything totally gorgeous. I think I will move to Sweden. And if I do, I will have Rosendals bakery’s sesame crackers every day for breakfast. The best I have ever had. I never got to taste the ring bread which also looked fantastic and I would definitely ask them if I can buy some of their bannetons to have in my kitchen because they also looked beautiful as did the tressed hair of the girl selling their bread in the garden shop.

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We should have walked through the gardens before lunch while the sun shone but we were too hungry. Still, I managed to snap a few nice shots of the lovely flowers including my favourite one of a bee feeding on a very pretty flower (sorry, don’t know what it is) before the skies opened. Fortunately we were very near the tram stop so we didn’t get drenched.

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For our last dinner, we ate at Ekstedt where we were greeted by the owner, Niklas, yet another incredibly charming Swede. All the cooking is done over open fire in the restaurant and the kitchen which we could see from where we were sitting (in the best seats of the house!) could have easily been a set in one of Bergman‘s films, perhaps The Virgin Spring! Medieval, dark and smoky with regular flashes of fire as the cooks lit the hay for the sweetbreads, which were fabulous by the way . I will tell you more about our meal there in a separate post but for now, I will leave you with a picture of the sweetbreads buried underneath the burned hay!

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There is 6 comments on this post


  • One of my Viennese cookbooks has a recipe for Herren Torte…..basically the same idea as your sandwich tart but perhaps a bit more sophisticated.
    Very interesting.


  • anything is more sophisticated than this sandwich tart :)


  • I remember riding the bus in Stockholm while on vacation and saying to my sister “wow, if any of the average-looking girls here went to the US, they’d be homecoming queen”. They really are stunning.

  • Danilo Nakamura
    July 1, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Fantastic. Let’s move up to Sweden together. Crackers, herring and schnapps for breakfast!

  • Alexander Lobrano
    July 11, 2013 at 5:35 am

    Dear Ms. Helou,

    Does Swedish tradition dictate the wearing any particular garment when one is serving sandwich cake, or would a simple cloth, or perhaps leather, apron suffice?

    I look forward to reading you, as I am quite keen to know!

    Alec


  • Thank you for your query dear mr lobrano. i guess i should have made it clear in my post that the beautiful swedish people like the waiter in the top picture are required to wear aprons, preferably ones with leather trim to enhance their good looks. in fact, i was so taken by these aprons that i got myself one (kindly given to me by the charming niklas ekstedt) and i wore it for the first time the other night at home as i served a persian dinner to friends. please let me know when you are next in london and i will be delighted to invite you over for a meal :) . wishing you a beautiful sunny day. best, anissas

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