Living in Stockholm, and being a big negroni lover, and after reading this list about the best negronis in town, I had to pay the number one entry, Ciccio’s, a visit.
Ciccio’s ’Negroni XL’ is, according to their menu, served ”generous”, and additionaly comes with a few included negroni friendly nibbles in the shape of above salami and olives. The price is 185 sek (when we visited in 2023), so it’s a bit steep, but since it’s also quite large, and you get some snacks which is unusual in Stockholm, it’s quite worthwhile in my mind. At least compared to other similar venues.
Ciccio’s brands themselves as an American-Italian restaurant, but they also have a small bar area where you can hang out if you like me only visited for the negroni. The interior is quite rustic and old school, in a good way. And felt like an appropriate place to have a stiff drink like a negroni in.
The negroni came pre-mixed from a container in the bar (you can see it in the background in above picture), but is of course made in-house by mixing gin, campari and vermouth into the drink we all (okay most of us) love.
The negronis were really good to be honest. Nice classic flavour, and excellently complimented by the salami and olive nibbles. It is also sufficiently large so that you can get a good idea of the flavour before it’s already gone, as I’ve experienced with a few smaller negronis through the years.
All in all, Ciccio’s is absolutely both a good bar and a nice place to enjoy a near perfect negroni in Stockholm.
Stockholm-Sundsvall: A night at Elite Hotel Knaust
This Christmas, we found ourselves with a few extra vacation days we needed to spend, and not wanting to spend them entirely on video games and Netflix in the sofa at home, – and prices for flying to the sun in Southern Europe and beyond already steep – we decided to go on a domestic trip.
I’ve always wanted to stay at the famous Hotel Knaust in the northern city of Sundsvall, and finding out that Sundsvall is a perfect first stop to chop up the long train trip to one of Sweden’s most famous ski resorts Åre, where another hotel I haven’t stayed at, but been wanting too for ages as well, is situated, the trip started to take form.
Sweden’s high speed trains are called X2000 and X3000, they are not that highspeed compared to what you find in continental Europe or Asia, but they travel fairly fast in about 200 kms per hour and are decently comfortable, especially in first class. At the moment at least you can’t find one of those going to Åre, but you can take one to Sundsvall in about 3 hours from Stockholm and then continue the trip with a slower train, either with SJ, that also run the high speed trains, or with VY Norrtåg, which is what we did.
Jumping back to Stockholm’s central station, we purchased sandwiches and a Christmassy saffron bun at the bakery outlets of Gateau and Fabrique bakeries as we just missed the before-9 a.m.-free-breakfast with a 9:20 a.m. departure in SJ highspeed train first class. Onboard there’s free coffee and tea, as well as usually some snacks, sweets or fruit.
The train ride was a relaxing and uneventful one, and we arrived Sundsvall on time just before one o’clock. Since we would be back in the same station the next morning for our continued trip, we took extra notes of how to find our way, which was a bit unneccessary as it was close and very easy to find.
At Hotel Knaust, we of course immediately noticed their marble stair case, for which they are most famous. The hotel was opened in 1891, and lots of history has gone through the building. For instance a Thai king got addicted to salmon salad there in the 1890s, according to legend at least. 🙂
Being about a week before Christmas, the hotel was beautifully decorated, and despite being quite tiny we really liked our cozy room.
After a short walk around the mostly empty city center, as this time of the year the sun goes down early, around 2.30 pm, and it was a Sunday with many shops and places closed, we headed back to Knaust for some in-room relaxation followed by dinner. Like the shops, many of Sundsvall’s restaurants was closed due to it being Sunday, but the in-hotel Bishop Arms gastro pub (part of a chain of restaurants all over Sweden) was open.
We tried their club sandwich as well as their fish and chips with lobster mayonnaise, paired with two local craftbeers made by Alnöl, which is a pun of Alnö Island where the production is made, and öl, which is the Swedish word for beer. Pun aside, the beer was tasty and the food delicious. My only complaint is that fries were not included with the club sandwich and had to be ordered extra.
After a good nights sleep, we headed for breakfast in the Knaust mirror hall. The spread was decently large, and quality was good. I did not like the scrambled eggs, but the rest of the buffet was quite good. Especially nice with the possibility to squeeze your own orange juice using fresh oranges, as well as a waffle making station with my favourite luxurious Northern Swedish delicasy cloudberry jam, paired with fresh whipped cream. Mmmmm.
Sundsvall-Åre with VY Norrtåg
After breakfast it was time to check out from Hotel Knaust and make our way back to the train station. The station house it quite clean, and had a Pressbyrån convenience store as well as free restrooms, which is not that common in Sweden, at least not in my experience.
From Sundsvall Central station the plan was to catch VY Norrtåg’s train that starts in Sundsvall all the way to the second to final stop of Åre.
Upon booking we got a little confused as we did not receive any seat numbers on our tickets. Checking on Norrtåg owner VY’s website, it stated that every passenger was assigned one, which stressed us a bit. On the train however we realised that we should have read on Norrtåg’s website instead where it, like the train information screens clearly stated ”free seating and no classes”.
The train trip itself was comfortable enough. There was at-seat electrical sockets so you could charge your phone and the seats were good. In the middle of the train there was a service point where you could purchase snacks, drinks and also food. It wasn’t really a bistro, but as far as I understood it they sold food, we only bought some candy though.
The train is both a long distance and commuter train as it seemed. The further we got from Sundsvall, people jumped on at one tiny rural station, and then off again in the seemingly middle of nowhere. It was really cool to experience this part of northern Sweden with villages, snow-clad forests, icy lakes, and eventually as we progressed towards Åre, taller and taller mountains.
Downtown Åre, a night at Holiday Club and dinner at Hotel Granen
Then, after almost four hours, it was finally time to get off the train as we rolled into Åre station. We had booked our first night at the Holiday Club Åre, a sort of time-share holiday apartment building meets hotel meets shopping center and adventure bath complex. Conveniently it has its own pedestrian bridge from the third floor of the Åre Station building, leading, through a few hallways and stairs, to the lobby. It all sounds very big, which it really isn’t, but still is, I guess, for a sort of tiny ski village.
Despite arriving early, we immediately got our room. It wasn’t fantastic, and a little broken, but despite being on the ground floor it had a fantastic view of a few of Åre’s ski slopes. It was also quite large and could sleep 3 persons using the sofa bed and the curtain to the left in the picture to form a mini-bedroom.
After settling in, we took a 10 minute walk to Systembolaget, the national Swedish liquor monopoly, store to stock up on some local craftbeer from brewer Svartberget as well as some bubbles. After this we headed for dinner at Hotel Granen, a 10 minute uphill walk next to the Åre mountain ’gondola’.
Hotel Granen, translated the fir tree, is owned by Swedish rapper, turned restaurantier and vino, Petter Askegren. Ambience is sort of chic hunting lodge, but very cozy and not overly fancy.
We skipped starters and went straight to main courses. Although we got served a delicious complimentary bread basked with butter to nibble on as we waited for our food. We tried a delicious hand-cut (instead of ground) steak tartare, that came with pickled and blackened leek, parsley mayonnaise, lemon thyme, coarse mustard and a side of BBQ-flavoured smashed potatoes. We also tried the seared rose fish with an emulsion of burnt cream, romanesco, peas and smoked trout roe, served with traditional boiled potatoes with dill.
For dessert, we shared a ”warm doughnut” with apple compote, Brännlands ice wine granité and cardamom ice cream. Like the mains, the dessert was really tasty, and worked well with a glass of Sauternes dessert wine recommended by the staff.
After a good night’s sleep, followed by a decent breakfast, at the Holiday Club Åre, we took a pre-ordered cab with ToppTaxi to our next destination.
24 hours of mountain luxury at Copperhill Mountain Resort
After a fifteen minute drive in almost complete mist, we arrived to the vague contours of a large building – okay, it wasn’t that bad, but almost – on top of Förberget mountain in Åre Björnen.
Copperhill, or Copperhill Mountain Resort was opened in 2008, and is a large 112 room luxury hotel with – normally – tremendous views, and location, next to both nature and ski slopes, as well as being a large chunk of luxurious civilisation on top of a snowy mountaion. It has several restaurants, a decent spa, a giant lobby area with a big fireplace and a bar as well as game rooms and various spots for people to gather and hang out. We learned this as they also have the ungodly checkout time of 10 a.m.
Since we only stayed a night, and since prices weren’t terribly good for standard rooms, but pretty good for suites, we decided on the latter. A small standard room with no window was priced at roughly 1 500 sek per night, while a 50 square meter ”Silver Deluxe” suite with mountain and forest views in at least two directions costed us 2 200 sek a night.
The room, or suite, consisted of a living room part, featuring large windows, which enabled great views over the surroundings (when the mist finally dissappeared), a large bathroom with a pretty, but also slightly hopeless bath tub (do not try to be two persons in it), and a bedroom with a quite large and comfortable bed, mini bar/fridge, another tv, pod coffee maker from Nespresso and a nice forest view from the window.
After checking out our room for a couple of hours it was time for dinner. In contrast to Åre’s just-before-the-start-of-the-season-feeling, Copperhill was quite busy. We had booked a table in the main restaurant, and that was probably a good thing as it was almost full. As usual with hotel restaurants, it’s a little bit tricky to find decent information about them, but at least Copperhill has some menus online that you can study if you’re that inclined (I definitely am) before your visit. Fortunately almost everything sounded delicious, and despite its relatively remote location, I didn’t find the prices overly high. The restaurant also had a nice focus on local produce and northern Swedish flavours, which was exactly what I was after this trip.
We started with Local’s cured moose, which translated into an almost steak tartar-y dish of gin-cured finely cut moose meat with baked egg yolk, dried onion, chive oil and smoked mayonnaise. Very, very tasty. But a little bit on the (too) salty side. We also had an oyster each, which came topped with browned butter, whitefish roe, lemon and chives.
For main course we selected the arctic char from Landön island with apple, cucumber, trout roe, fennel, dill, butter sauce, and potato puree; as well as the grilled venison with black currants, white onion, cabbage, porcini mushroom, a creamy thyme velouté and potato cake. both dishes were absolutely delicious. Good, mild flavours which allowed each detail and ingredient to shine through. Really excellent combination of flavours in both dishes.
For dessert we decided to share a ”Winter apple” with apple cubes, muscovado sugar, vanilla custard, browned butter ice cream, rosemary caramel and roasted almond paste. While still delicious, it wasn’t – as – delicious as the starters and the main, and quite brutally priced at 145 sek.
The following morning we had breakfast in the restaurant. It was served buffet style and was of quite high quality, but nothing out of the ordinary. Eggs (a bit watery), bacon, cheeses, coldcuts, a few local items such as game sausages and cloudberries to be put on for instance yoghurt, fresh fruit and pastries was available. It was quite crowded, and quite busy around 8 a.m. but we managed to feed ourselves before rushing back to the room for some final rest and relaxation before the 10 a.m. checkout time. We tried several times to extend it a bit since our train back to Stockholm was departing at 7.30 p.m. in the evening, but as they were fully booked we were told it was not possible.
Instead, we opted to visit the famous spa, that, at the time of writing this, was complimentary for hotel guests if you visit between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. You had to book ahead via your welcome email that arrived approximately four days before your check in date.
The spa is relatively small, or quite large depending on perspective, or rather if someone else is there. When we arrived we were practically alone with one lap pool, a heated indoor pool (picture above), an outdoor jacuzzi sized pool for maybe 4-6 people, and two saunas (plus there’s small saunas in each locker room as well). But steadily as time approached noon, more people arrived, not terribly many, but enough to make it less relaxing and more of a normal pool area. During our selected time slot, the website stated only adults, but there were several children there, so they might have recently changed the rules or did not enforce them.
All in all it was a pleasant experience, but I’m not sure if I’d be happy if I’d paid the non-guest price of 295-495 sek per person, depending on time of the day. It’s a great perk to include it for guests between 10 a.m.-1 p.m. though.
After the spa, we still had roughly 7 hours to kill before our night train from Åre Station would depart. We took a walk around the area where Copperhill Mountain Resort is located. The weather had turned amazing with blue skies and sun, and we could see several mountain tops from our elevated position just outside the hotel.
After the walk we camped out in the lobby, having a coffee and a pastry from their bar/café/fika counter that was delicious.
At around 3 p.m. we asked front desk if they could call us a cab, and then took it to the Åre train station (~ 350 sek) where we had planned to have dinner at the next door Åre Ölkafé restaurant and beer place. They were however closing at 5 p.m. which did not really work for us and our 7.30 departure, so instead we walked up the slope to Mister French, which is a smaller sibbling to Mister French restaurant in Stockholm, as I was craving mussels and fries (it was my plan to eat that at Åre Ölkafé).
Mussels and fries were good and came with aioli and a few slices of baguette. We also tried their steak tartare that was tasty too.
Taking SJ night train from Åre to Stockholm in a first class compartment
After our meal, we walked the five minutes or so down to the station building. For a small town, Åre’s train station is quite large as earlier mentioned, and apart from being connected by an indoor pedestrian bridge to the Holiday Club complex, it also features a couple of floors of a smallish shopping center, with a quite large ICA supermarket on the bottom one. There’s also restrooms, but you need to pay to use them, which is something I really dislike about Sweden. It was only 5 sek (tap your card on the card reader outside), but it should be free for everyone, especially in a train station. Fortunately we knew there were free public restrooms at the Holiday Club, just across the mentioned indoor bridge, from our stay the day before, so we walked over and used theirs. We finished our time at Åre station with buying some snacks in the supermarket, and pretty much on time – 7.30 p.m. – our SJ night train bound for Stockholm rolled into the station.
There wasn’t that many people getting on, as we had suspected, as it was still a few days before Christmas, and season for going to, not from, Åre was just picking up. At moments it felt a little bit like being alone on the train, as we had booked our own ’first class’ sleeper, and barely heard or saw someone for the entire trip.
First class sleeper onboard SJ it pretty much the same as 2nd class, except for the added convenience of a toilet and shower in the compartment. There were also only two beds instead of three, so if you’re sharing with strangers, it’s slightly less crowded. Bed quality was quite decent, and I always find it extremely cozy to sleep on moving trains, similar to the same in business and first on planes, but that is of course usually much more expensive as 10 hours on a plane will take you slightly longer than Åre-Stockholm.
Sleeping quality itself is another story though, and I didn’t sleep that great. We arrived Stockholm at around 5.30 in the morning, and were told by the conductor that we could stay in the train until ”just before 7”, ”if we didn’t want to wake up in the depot”. Those words and the slightly vague time-frame haunted me, so when they put on the engines again around 6.10 a.m. we sort of panicked a little and rushed off the train. Since it was so early, the train bistro that opens at 6.30 a.m. never opened, which I think entitled us to a free breakfast, as we were in first class, at the Central Station Café Ritazza. We were so tired at this point though, so we just walked straight to the connected subway and went straight home for some extra hours of sleep.
One of my favourite Swedish dishes, and probably one of the few Swedish dishes non-Swedes have even heard about, is the famous Swedish meatballs. I’ve seen a few crazy interpretations over the world, but these are quite genuine. 🙂 There’s a crazy twist with these meatballs, and that is that you make them in the oven before finishing them in the frying pan. I did not really believe this would work before trying it myself, but they turn out super juicy and perfect.
Ingredients for approximately two or three persons:
250 grams minced beef
250 grams minced pork
1 onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1/2 stock cube
~ 1 deciliter of water
Neutral cooking oil
1. Fry the finely chopped onion in butter on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes. Do not burn, but it’s okay if it’s a little golden. Set aside.
2. Heat the water in a microwave or on the stove. Add the half stock cube and use a spoon to stir until completely dissolved. Add the breadcrumbs to this and stir again. It will look like some weird savoury porridge (which it is) but trust me, this is an essential part of the process. Let the breadcrumb stock cube porridge sit for around 10 minutes.
3. Put the minced meat in a bowl and add a deliberate sprinkle of salt to this. It’s hard to say exactly how much, and the stock cube will be going in too, but trust your instincts. If you like it salty like I do, add more. If not feel free to add less. Let the salt marinate the meat a few minutes before adding the breadcrumb mix and the fried onion from earlier.
4. Wash your hands, nanananana, wash your hands nanananana, wash your hands nanananana, wash your hands. I’m sorry. But this is easier with your bare hands, and especially so with wet hands. So with your hands, combine everything together – you can use a fork if you really don’t want to do this by hand, but it’s harder to evenly mix the meatball mixture if so.
5. After everything is mixed thoroughly, it’s meatball rolling time. A top trick is to use an ice cream scoop to get even meatballs. Wet your hands again and roll between the palm of your hands until they are round. Put on an oven proof dish and set your oven to 175°C or ~ 350°F.
6. Put the meatballs into your oven and let them bake for 10 minutes.
7. Frying time. Add butter and neutral oil to a frying pan on quite high heat. I use 7/10. when the butter stops sizzling it’s time to add the meatballs. Fry until golden brown and cooked through, if you’re unsure pick one up and cut in two to check that it’s fully cooked. Watch out so they don’t get overcooked though, we want juicy, not dry, meatballs.
8. When meatballs are done, let them rest for a couple of minutes before serving. The Swedish way is to eat them like in the above picture with mashed or boiled potatoes, cream sauce, pickled cucumbers, and sugared lingonberries. Or just with macaronies and ketchup. We never use sour cream, at least I’ve never in my life heard of anyone doing that in Sweden. But maybe we should try?
If you read this and want a recipe for the cream sauce, drop a comment and I’ll add a recipe for that too. Smaklig måltid (enjoy your meal)!
Just outside the capital of Sweden, Stockholm, where I live, there is an archipelago of somewhere around 24 000 islands, both inhabited and uninhabited.
I should admit I haven’t traveled much in the archipelago, but since this years coronavirus related travel restrictions made me stay at home, I thought why not give an old travel dream of mine a go: a summery island hopping trip in Stockholm’s archipelago, known in Swedish as Stockholms skärgård. We spent 72 hours in total, with 24 hours on the slightly posh ’party’ island of Sandhamn, and then 48 hours on the more relaxed and rural island of Lidö. We loved both and I think the combination of them was great, but both of course works well for a one stop trip.
Itinerary: Stockholm- Sandhamn-Lidö
We started off by booking the first leg of the trip: Stockholm to the island of Sandhamn, with the Cinderella fastferry with operator Strömma. You can book ahead online, and by doing this you’re guaranteed to get onboard, which you aren’t if you just show up to the ferry. During the pandemic, all operators have much harder restrictions for the maximum number of passengers allowed onboard to avoid crowdedness.
The Cinderella ferries (Cinderella 1 & 2) are quite large and there’s a combined bar, café and restaurant onboard that serve alcoholic & non-alcoholic beverages, coffee, Swedish necessities such as cinnamon buns, and also food such as shrimp sandwiches, toast skagen, and warm food like burgers. I only had a coffee though since it was early and the trip to Sandhamn is around 2 hours. There was a reasonable amount of seating onboard and it wasn’t crowded despite quite many passengers traveling. The views are stunning if the weather’s great and you’ll be passing a few islands on the way out to the final stop Sandhamn.
Sandhamn: food, beach, drinks and Scandi chic
Sandhamn has for long been a hub for sailors, sailing competitions, fishermen, and for the last century, a playground for the rich and famous, sort of. Sandhamn is not overly fancy, but it has a strong connection to sailing and with that apparently there is a craving for good food and drink, for which there is quite a decent offer considering Sandhamns size of only about one hundred year-round-inhabitants.
We opted to stay at Sandhamns seglarhotell which had a surprisingly good deal on a room only a few weeks before our intended trip in the middle of the high season. Included in the room was a surprisingly good and hearty breakfast considering the remote location. The room itself was nothing to write home about, but comfy enough with two single beds that could be made into a double, smallish tv, private shower and toilet, and wifi. Staff were super friendly and the restaurant where you also have breakfast is stunning.
On the island, there are a few beaches with the one named Trouville (after Trouville sur mer in France) being the prettiest. There are also a few other beaches, such as the small Fläskberget (chubby mountain), which is close to Sandhamn village.
Trouville beach is an easy 15-20 minute walk from Sandhamn village trough a pretty forest. There are actually three different beaches, with one calmer beach furthest to the left, a windier in ’the middle’ and a more private, secluded one to the right which you’ll reach by either take a small path through the forest or just walk over the cliffs. Water in mid-July was cold yet still swimable, but the place on a sunny day (or probably any day) is stunning and worth a visit regardless if you swim or not.
When in Sandhamn make you sure to visit Sandhamnsbagerier for a nice island fika. According to Sandhamn tradition you ’should’ have one of their seglarbulle buns, which is pictured above. It wasn’t that amazing to be honest, but their sockerkringla was amazing.
We had dinner at Sandhamns Värdshus, established in 1672. A massive shrimp sandwich and a Vålö island spicy lamb sausage on Swedish thin bread. Both were really tasty, and prices were good.
Two dishes, a shared bottle of rosé was approximately 800 sek, which is pretty good on a fancy island like Sandhamn.
Sandhamn-Lidö with Waxholmsbolaget
From Sandhamn, M/S Sunnan takes you to the ’northern archipelago’ with multiple stops on different islands on the way to the final destination of Arholma. Lidö, which we were headed to is almost as far, and the trip there was about 3,5 hours.
Fortunately there is a bar/café onboard and you can entertain yourself with a cold beer while watching the beautiful archipelago pass by outside. Price for a beer was approximately 75 sek for a 50 centiliter beer, which was quite a deal I’d say. Ticket for the Sandhamn-Lidö trip was about 130 sek per person. Not bad either for such a long trip.
Lidö Island: food, views and an old cannon
We arrived the island of Lidö around 7 pm. The jetty where the ferry arrives is right in front of Lidö Värdshus where we were staying. Lidö Värdshus owns pretty much all the accomodation options on the island, and as far as I understood it there is only one family living permanently on the island, which run Lidö Gård, a farm which for instance supply Lidö Värdshus with meat from the island. Very much farm to table.
We had our first dinner there immediately after arriving and found the quality quite good, especially considering the island location. Prices were a tiny bit high, but not horribly and food was delicious and service friendly and efficient. There are menus online but I think our check for a shared starter, two mains and a bottle of wine was around 1100 sek.
Our second night we took a short walk to the nearby guest harbour and ”Oasen” which is Lidö Värdshus’ casual café/restaurant/bar/mini market. They also happen to sell pizza, but they are only open until 18.00/6 pm so keep that in mind if you’re having dinner. We had two pizzas and a beer each which was about 400 sek in total. The pizzas were quite good to be honest, and had creative toppings such as creme fraiche and new potatoes. No gourmet experience, but tasty.
Our first night we stayed in a private room, with a shared bathroom. In our building there was four rooms per floor and one bathroom. In addition to this there are several bathrooms in the main building that you can use. I don’t love a shared bathroom, but both room and shared facilities were super clean and comfy, on the other hand you pay a price equivalent to an ordinary hotel room.
Our second night on the island we had booked ’Kärleksstugan’, in Swedish: “the love cottage”. It was a cosy little hut, approximately three meters from the water and with amazing views over the channel separating Lidö and the mainland. As with the other room, there is no bathroom and you have to walk the 100 meters or so to the main building to use one. The main problem for us however was that there is no indication to other guests that this is a guest room. Being close to the ferry pier, people constantly stroll past looking in through the windows, which gave us minor heart attacks several times when a face suddenly appeared in the window while we sat inside watching the water. Not super relaxing. At check out we told the staff about it and they sounded like they took it serious, so hopefully they’ll put up a sign or similar for future guests.
What you find on Lidö is calm. There is almost no other people and you can walk around easily on relatively good roads and paths. There is no car traffic on the island, but you might run into the odd tractor or staff golf cart. We walked around most places and for instance visited the WW2 coastal defence gun on the north-east side of the island which probably was the most worthwile trek since the views from there were quite amazing. Compared to Sandhamn you get a feeling of that you’re (almost) in your own island paradise.
Then, to emphasize that feeling after a day of walking, you can pay to rent a sauna or hot tub for an hour or two. We rented the sauna which was slightly expensive at 350 sek an hour, but in the end definitely worth it, as the feeling of sitting in a super hot private sauna and then (after a short sprint) throw yourself in an ice cold Baltic Sea was quite spectacular.
Lidö-Räfsnäs-Stockholm with Romina ”passbåt” ferry and bus
After two great days on Lidö we decided on getting back to Stockholm using public transport to save some time and money. You can catch the ferry back to Stockholm from Lidö, but that takes around five hours and requires a change on another island.
From Lidö there are several ”passbåtar” or commuter ferry crossings per day with m/s Romina to nearby Räfsnäs via island of Tjockö (cost for ferry around 55 sek per person), from where you can catch the SL bus to Norrtälje or Campus Roslagen, from where you can easily (same stop) change bus to one bound for Stockholm. This takes approximately two hours.
This is a paid article in collaboration with Julbordsmäklarna.
I recently visited Operaterrassen, a sort of fancier julbord– julbord being Swedish for a Christmas buffet – the literal translation being ‘Christmas table’, that you eat during the Christmas period, which roughly stretches from the 1st of December until Christmas Eve on the 24th.
Booking Operaterrassen using Julbordsmäklarna.se I found and booked my table at Operaterrassen with Julbordsmäklarna, an easy and convenient online service that allows you to browse through and find your prefered pick among around 300 different julbord around Stockholm – and also nationwide in Sweden from 2020. Also, Julbordsmäklarna does not add any extra charge on top of the regular price.
Operaterrassen Operaterrassen (or the Opera terrace) is located in the Stockholm Opera, built in 1773. It is pretty much in the very heart of Stockholm, and being up two stairs from street level, feature stunning views over Blasieholmen and the Grand Hotel, Stockholm’s old town and the surrounding water.
Vegetarian options While Operaterrassens julbord is heavy on meat and seafood, there are a few vegetarian options. This is probably not your first pick for a julbord as a vegetarian and even less so if you’re a vegan. There are a couple of different salads, cheeses, breads, omelettes, cabbage and sauces, and of course the desserts, that lack meat or fish (to my knowledge).
Old school but very friendly service We had our personal waiter, an older gentleman that possibly was the genuinely nicest waiter I’ve ever run into. Super relaxed and friendly in a very much non-posh way – as you may fear a little in places like Operaterrassen that has been around for a long time.
Seven rounds of Swedish Christmas food Our waiter suggested that to fully appreciate the dinner experience, he recommended that we took “seven turns”. I’ve never done that, but hey, when in a super old restaurant – stick to tradition!
Round one: herring and condiments
Herrings; fish roe (much tastier than it might sound) with sour cream and finely chopped red onion; prawns in mayonnaise, and a carraway crispbread I rebeliously nabbed from the cheese table (that’s round 5!).
Round two: Mixed seafood
Two kinds of salmon: gravlax and smoked salmon. The gravlax was amazing and came with a very nice hovmästarsås, a mustardy sauce we put on salmon in Sweden. There were also eggs with shrimps and a bunch of pretty little potatoes that were separately brought to the table.
Round three: coldcut meats and condiments
Waldorf salad; smoked reindeer; pork roll; Christmas ham with coarse mustard; pickled veggies; kale & orange salad, and beetroot salad. There was plenty more in the buffet, but this was what I tried.
Round four: warmitems
Prince (pork) sausage; meatballs; Jansson’s temptation with potatoes, cream & anchovies; mushroom and kale omelette (so good!); red cabbage, and finally pork ribs with the best ever apple sauce. Super traditional flavours, but really well made and delicious.
Round five: Cheese
I’m sorry dear reader, but I failed both our friendly waiter, myself and possibly you at this point: I did not really have room for cheese. The cheese table looked good though, although quite small.
Round six: Dessert
This was the highlight of the evening. It wasn’t hugely assorted, but everything I tried was really good. The ostkaka, Swedish baked cheesecake was great with cloudberry jam and whipped cream. The ris á la malta, a creamy cold rice dessert was super smooth and surprisingly light. The cake, a quite clever version of Swedish Princess cake with the usual plain cream replaced with licquorice cream, and more traditional raspberries. Nice combo, and I’m not really that keen on licquorice usually.
Round seven: Christmas candy
Since I did not take any good shot of the finishing Christmas candy, I’ll leave you with this menu from Operakällaren downstairs from 1898. I can report, however, that the candy was very nice. I had marmalade candy, ‘mint kisses’, knäck (chewy, nutty toffee), chocolates and even a candy cane. Then I couldn’t fit anymore food in, and had to give up.
I really liked my visit to Operaterrassen and would happily go back. If you’d like to read more about julbord in Stockholm – have a look at Julbordsmäklarna’s list below of Stockholm’s top 20 julbord.
(Sorry about the blurry picture, Northern lights were much harder to photograph than I had anticipated. But what an experience!)
Anyways, last weekend we took the SJ Nattåg 94, also known as the Arctic Circle Train, from Stockholm’s Central Station to Abisko in the far north of Sweden to hopefully see some Northern lights (or Aurora Borealis).
We had booked a private 2nd class compartment onboard the train for the 17 hour trip from Stockholm to Abisko turiststation, a mountain station hotel located pretty much in the Lapland wilderness – that has its own train station. Very convenient.
The compartment onboard the train was quite tiny and a bit worn, but sufficient, private (key card access doors), clean and once settled in actually quite cozy.
While the compartment is small in length, you have a fair bit of height to use as can be seen on the top bunk shot above. The standard setting is three passengers per cabin/compartment, but for roughly 400 SEK (~50 usd) you can pay for the compartment to be totally private, which we did.
Since they do not have a restaurant onboard, we opted to buy our own stuff to eat onboard. They do have a bistro carriage though with sandwiches, beer, wine, snacks and so on however.
But we instead went to Urban Deli, a fancy Stockholm supermarket/deli/bar/restaurant and bought take-away stuff from there. Particularly compartment-made sourdough baguette canapées with Urban Deli’s Skagen shrimp salad was deeelicious. We also had steak tartare, truffle chips, charcuterie and cheese, to be on the safe side. And we might, or might not have brought a bottle of wine onboard.
STF Abisko Turiststation mountain station
Our main reason to visit Abisko was to see Northern lights, or Aurora Borealis. According to my research and themselves, Abisko is one of the best spots in the world to watch it. We checked into one of the hotel rooms in Abisko turiststation (they have dorm style accomodation too) which was small, clean and quite nice. There was no TV, but the wifi worked relatively well if you by some reason get tired of watching mountains.
Public spaces are very nice, with for instance several fire places where you can relax after hiking/walking around the stunning surroundings. They also have a small convenience store and the lobby sell beer and wine. Views are great and everywhere.
We also had a delicious dinner at the famous on premise-restaurant Restaurang Kungsleden that has been awarded by Swedish food guide The White Guide. I won’t dive into details but we had their 440 sek three course dinner: Västerbottens cheese pie, wild boar steak with root veggies and juniper gravy as well as soft gingerbread cake with vanilla ice cream and blueberries. Menu changes each night. The food was nice, not spectacular, but given the location definitely above average. Also good wines and friendly service.
We also had breakfast in the same place which was included in our visit and very good quality. Home baked breads, butter, cheese, salami, vegetables, local stuff like cloudberry butter milk, eggs, bacon and stuff like that. Not a huge assortment, but well made.
Aurora Sky Station (we thought)
As mentioned, our plan was to spot Northern lights. To be extra sure since we only stayed for one night, we booked the Aurora Sky Station mountain top viewing point which at 700 sek a head is indeed pricey. We knew it was a calculated risk as it may close due to unforeseen events, but their website stated it was open 90% of all nights. Unfortunately we were there on a 10% night and the station was closed due to winds. Instead of a refund they made a “plan B-programme” with a guide taking us on a short walk, then giving us a 1980s presentation (the material – the guide was good and tried his best) and finally we sat in a house next to the hotel around a fire and had some coffee and local delicacies. Not remotely close to being worth 1400 sek for two.
However, fortunately, the Northern lights decided to show up and we got a magnificent show of pretty much the entire sky being filled with dancing, moving Northern lights for a good hour (best pic at the start of this post). So all ended well.
Arctic Circle Train Abisko-Narvik (in Norway)
24 hours after getting off the Arctic Circle Train, we jumped back on for the last leg, from Abisko to the Norwegian city of Narvik. The reason for taking the final hours of this trip was that it was supposed to be one of the prettiest train trips in the world, and that we cheated and flew home from Narvik as we had to work the next day.
The train trip was really spectacular, especially after crossing the border to Norway, with views over fiords, snow-clad mountains, tiny villages with red and white cottages and snowy valleys. After about two hours ride from Abisko, we arrived Narvik, where the city was pretty much closed down, being Sunday. We strolled around for a bit before catching the Flybussen airport bus for a 1,5 hour trip to Evenäs Airport from where we flew home.
Hadn’t I spent all my annual leave earlier this year, I would’ve liked to stick around for a few more days, possibly to go on some whale watching, another ‘bucket list’ thing I haven’t been able to tick off the list.
After thinking of visiting for a year or so tonight it was finally time to visit Restaurang Hantverket in Stockholm. Below is what we had.
Nibbles: first a tuttul flatbread with ”slarvsylta” of pork knuckle and homemade butter. Also Hantverket’s possibly most instagrammed dish; deep-fried Hasselback potatoes with dill, bleak roe, sour cream and spring onion, and also “Struva” with whipped duck liver pâté, parmesan cheese and port wine.
Thinly sliced beef with Jerusalem artichoke, gruyère cheese and hazelnuts.
Fork-mashed potatoes with smoked roe, browned butter, crispy chicken skin and dill.
Blackened salmon with pumpkin, ginger, salmon roe and orange.
Pudding of spruce, roasted buckwheat, pine sorbet and birch powder. Three kinds of tree in a dessert sounds equal parts scary and intriguing to me. Fortunately this one was really wood… I mean good, sorry. ?
A really delicious and quite affordable dinner at Restaurang Hantverket. Added bonus was unusually friendly staff, nice setting and great smelling soap in the washroom. 4,5 hasselback potatoes out of five.
Price 3 nibbles, 3 medium sized dishes, 1 dessert and three drinks divided on two persons clocked out at 1000 kronor.
Just a short update since I had a really nice fika (coffee and pastry) experience at Mr Cake, a newly opened bakery/pastry shop/café in Stockholm.
Mr Cake is a collaboration by famous bakers Mattias Ljungberg and Roy Fares, and serves Swedish fika with an American twist. Naturally I had to pay them a visit. Since they did not serve cronuts (they only do on weekend according to the staff) I took their recommendation and tried a red velvet croissant, and my fika company took a cinnamon roll with frosting a la Cinnabon.
The red velvet croissant was extraordinary delicious. I had a sample of the frosted cinnamon roll and it was great too. When the lines have died down a bit, I shall return for cronuts and cake.
Update: Now I’ve had the cronuts (on a Friday), and they were delicious.
According to rumours they do not have the cronuts (at least last weekend) ready when they open, so maybe arrive a bit later if you’re after them.
I visited Pontus in the Air, Stockholm Arlanda airport’s sort of fancy restaurant, on the way to Bologna recently.
It’s a welcome addition to Terminal 5 (post security) where there are not that many good options for a good meal.
Pontus in the Air is named after owner Pontus Frithiof who runs a couple of restaurants in and around Stockholm city, for instance the local branch of Burger & Lobster. The ambition is to serve good quality food to travelers, be it breakfast or dinner. They, in contrast to the other airport eateries have their own kitchen, and they also have a quite large wine cellar.
Lots of fancy wine
Since they don’t have a menu of their wine online, a took a shot of the current (July 2017) by the glass wine list which you can find below.
We had the burger, and the shrimp sandwich, as well as a decently priced half bottle of Henriot champagne. Both were actually great. The burger was juicy and cooked to a perfect medium while the shrimp sandwich had a good pile of fresh, sweet shrimps with a tasty smokey mayo. Fries are always important, and Pontus’ did not dissapoint, especially not when dipped in the to the burger accompanying truffle mayo. There was also supposed to be fresh truffle on the burger, but I couldn’t taste any. My guess, probably due to summer truffles which are usually quite tasteless in my mind.
A nice place for a relaxed pre-flight meal or drink
Pontus is a very nice place to pay a visit to if you don’t mind to fork out a little. It’s not that much more expensive than other food and drink options in the airport either, and compared to what I’ve tasted – far better. Until 2017-12-31 I learned (and used succesfully) that you get 10 percent off the bill with the ‘code’ “travel news”. I mentioned it to the waiter before ordering and he went to check with a colleague and then took 10 percent off our total bill, simple as that.
Recently spent three days on the beautiful island of Gotland, just a short flight south east of Stockholm (or a shortish ferry ride).
[Since many of you visiting search for the English name for salmbär, I thought I’d make it easy for you: it’s dewberry. :)]
Since my time on the island was quite limited, a food agenda was needed. Even though the island of Gotland and its main city Visby (where the airport is) are quite small in population numbers (all island is approximately 60 000), the number of visitors from both mainland Sweden and abroad means there’s plenty of good restaurants, at least during summer. In fact popular mainland restaurants such as Surfers (despite what the name might imply they serve Sichuan food) and Supper (South American:ish) have local branches in Visby. Below is what I managed to shovle down during my short trip.
First up was a Sichuan dinner at medium prized Surfers. Dishes are all 88 sek (2017) or roughly $10. We were advised to share 6-8 among the two of us. Everything was really tasty and service was great. There was quite a wait for a table so a reservation is adviced, at least in July when we went.
Spicy (really spicy) fried chicken in red chilli oil.
Prawn meatballs with coriander, lettuce leaves and a tasty dipping sauce.
Five spice ribs. Falling of the bone tender, sweet and spicy at the same time. Mmm.
Pork belly and coriander salad. Sort of like a banh mi without the bread.
Scallops in XO-sauce. Fishy in a good way. Perfectly cooked scallops.
Sesame chicken with cucumber and deep fried tofu. Delicious.
Creperie & Logi
Lunch at Creperie & Logi. Awesome crepes or galettes with in above case skagenröra meaning a mix of shrimp, mayo, dill and usually creme fraiche. Also there was cheese, bleak roe, rucola and lemon. Sooo good. Price was about 200 sek or $22.
Café Gula Huset
When on Gotland, a Gotlandic saffron pancake (made with rice porridge) served with whipped cream and salmbärssylt (dewberry jam) is sort of mandatory. We had ours at Café Gula Huset (the yellow house café) and it was awesome. Can’t remember the price more than it was not hideously expensive.
By chance I spotted Mille Lire on Instagram a short while before leaving for Gotland with a comment such as “Best pizza on Gotland”. Being a huge pizza lover, I naturally had to pay them a visit. Mille Lire comes from the Italian phrase for “some change” asked by the owner to his mother so he could get some pizza after school while being a child back in Italy (if I recall correctly). According to Google it means something like a “thousand dollars” though. The prize of a pizza at Mille Lire is actually close to that (oh well), being almost borderline excessively expensive with 160 or so sek for a pizza. But it is also indeed very good. And, you also get a 20 sek reduction if you do take away. I had a ‘Norcina’ with provola cheese, mozzarella, tomato and fresh salsiccia which was molto bene.
After pizza, what comes more natural than ice cream, right? A visit to Glassmagasinet in Visby’s harbour treated us to some nice local ice cream. Above is one scoop each of chocolate-peanut, and local flavours saffron and honey. Trivia is that Glassmagasinet is Europe’s largest ice cream bar, at least according to themselves. It’s not a huge place however, so the crown should be relatively easily up for grabs.
My last day on “öijn” as mainland Swedes affectionally ridicule the local pronounciation of “ön” meaning “the island” was on the 4th of July which is sort of a big day in a land slightly west (as in an 8 hour flight) of Sweden. Hence, a burger felt appropriate. More so because the venue was named Brooklyn (which is basically where you end up after the 8 hour flight). The burger at Brooklyn Visby was surprisingly good to be honest and came with fries and a nice truffle dip. The bread was made in a local bakery and the meat perfectly cooked. Prices were okay with roughly 120 sek for a burger. Minus points for forcing us to a dark corner bar table despite the place being nearly empty (and stayed that way till we left).
And finally there was Supper. As in supper at Supper. At Supper (sorry), which is a restaurant with a party vibe the focus, as so many places these days, is on “share food”. We were advised to share four to five dishes on the two of us and decided to go for four. Food is sort of South American-Mexican-Tex Mex-y and relatively decently priced.
Pork belly tacos.
One of Supper’s signatures, their sweet potato fries that are crispier than anywhere else I’ve been. Topped with coriander and parmesan cheese they are delicious.
Tuna tartare with avocado, soy sauce mayo and cassava crisps.
Steak tartare made with chopped flank steak meaning it was a little bit tougher than regular ground tartare (but still delicious) served with peanuts, mustard seeds and mayo. Worked like a charm wih the not-included sweet potato fries.
Supper’s chilli had been slow-cooked for five hours in beer and chocolate and came with a pretty little ‘egg’ of whipped (?) sour cream and corn crisps. Like the rest of Supper’s food it’s very tasty even though it’s not terribly creative.