There’s some things proverbial when many of us think of Sweden. Is it blond hair and blue eyes? Is it that hospitable and friendly nature? Ikea perhaps? Or maybe Swedish meatballs or princess cake? Whatever it is, I'm sure many of us have preconceived ideas of Sweden.
I managed to spend time in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, and try out some of the local produce. Of course the infamous Swedish meatballs were on the list but Sweden has much more to offer. With fish plentiful, gamey meats such as reindeer as well as other meats such as beef and pork, an assortment of breads and pastries, and a variety of vegetable including a very staple potato, there's plenty to eat in Sweden.
Apart from the food, I found Stockholm to be a nice relaxing city where you could eat, laze around, go visit the many tourist attractions from old town, visit parliament and the palace, wander off to the museums and reproduced cultural parks of yesteryear, or even shop.
Bakfickan – meaning “hip pocket” - is situated behind the Opera House, and offers restaurant quality food in a not excessively expensive theatre café style setting. The restaurant shares its kitchen with the more expensive Operakallaren which helps give it its restaurant quality food, but at more affordable prices.
With both al fresco and indoor dining, I chose to sit outside to enjoy the going-ons in the city. Sitting down, my waitperson, apart from having those cliché Swedish blonde good looks, was fantastic with a very friendly personality and was also cheerfully helpful.
To go with meals, Bakfickan offers a variety of complimentary bread. My waitperson came out with a basket full of bread before she recommended that I try the “hard bread” which looked a bit like our crisp or rye type of bread/crackers, although with a taste that was between crackers and bread. The hard bread did seem a tiny bit stale though, but perhaps it was meant to be that way.
Meatballs with Cream Sauce, Potato Puree, Lingonberries and Pickled Gherkins – SEK149
This dish of well-known Swedish tradition was quite possibly the best I’ve had. The meatballs were all nicely shaped and had a great uniform and soft texture. Even the outer layer didn’t have that harder, drier, and oily texture that is typical of “common” Swedish meatballs that are available in Sweden and even Ikea globally. The taste of the meatballs were excellent, full of flavour and freshly made. My only issue was that it was a tad salty for my liking but this was offset by the condiments.
The cream sauce added to the meatballs. It tasted like a light, creamy gravy that was made from scratch and complimented the taste of the meatballs. The lingonberries were very sweet and together with the pickled gherkins gave good varying taste combinations and contrasts that made me enjoy each meatball.
Accompanying the meatballs was potato puree which seemed more like a mash with a mild butter taste - though in contrast to and in my opinion as a good base against the meatballs, it had a milder amount of salt.
Just to put things into perspective, I thought I might comment on Ikea meatballs in comparison. Even the nice waitress as Bakfickan admitted that whilst Ikea meatballs are in a different league to the Bakfickan’s, Swedish people might eat Ikea meatballs when travelling overseas when they’re feeling homesick.
Unfortunately I couldn’t bring myself to get a photo of Ikea’s meatballs to show the contrast against the ones available Bakfickan. However, a few comments were that the Ikea meatballs were comparatively hard, dry and oily on the outside, the shapes were definitely not as consistent nor were the meatballs as big, the texture was nowhere near as smooth, and the flavour was much simpler with salt being the main source of flavour. The sauce with the Ikea meatballs was also a creamy mushroom sauce which tasted powdery and in my opinion doesn’t really go with the meatballs that well. On the side, you do get lingonberry sauce which was like the jam version served with meatballs which was different to the fresh lingonberries. However, the Ikea meatballs are significantly cheaper than the ones in Backficken (even adjusting for Swedish prices) so it becomes a quality versus price issue.
French Apple Cider
Jakobs Torg 12
This restaurant is mentioned in the Michelin guide and deservedly so. Situated in Östermalms Saluhall (which is like a gourmet food hall in a pavilion like building) and effectively evolved from originally being a fish market (which still remains), Lisa Elmqvist is no fine dining establishment but perhaps you could say its a bit like a licensed upmarket version of Miss Mauds in Perth (with much, much better food).
Seemingly very popular with locals and tourists alike, there can be a line to be seated at Lisa Elmqvist, but the fresh fish and good meals served seems to ensure that people keep coming. The restaurant has table dining, as well as seats up around the bar area.
With your meal, Lisa Elmqvist provides you with complimentary bread and butter – the breads varying from white to dark, as well as Lisa Elmqvists own special seed and grain bread which you can buy by the loaf to take home.
Butter Fried Fillet of Pike Perch with Creamed Wild Mushrooms – SEK295
The pike perch was a white fish with a soft and nicely textured flesh, and without a strong fishy taste. The fish was butter fried such that it felt like it nearly melted in the mouth as much as fish could, without being undercooked. The use of butter certainly helped too with the flavours and fat (- fat is flavour!).
The creamed wild mushroom sauce which was effectively a creamy fancy mushroom sauce was really good. The wild mushrooms were an assortment of wild mushrooms with tastes and textures like straw mushrooms that worked well with the fish that made this an enjoyable overall dish. Just to note though, the same mushroom sauce seems to be used in a few meal items.
Served with the main meal was a generous bowl of small boiled potatoes with dill which were cooked till the potatoes were soft yet held their form, and were a great potato side to the fish – even though I’m not a big potato eating person and would have preferred something else.
This café offered French cuisine, supported by offerings including frog’s legs, snail, and an assortment of other French sounding dishes. The venue seemed reasonably popular and felt like an upmarket but non-pretentious café. As always, the service was friendly though there was a few staff running around doing their own thing and seeming a bit busy to pay attention to everyone who needed service.
As with most Stockholm restaurants, complimentary bread was provided. However Bistro Berns offered olive oil to go with their white bread as opposed to butter.
Fillet of Char with Blue Mussels, and Fennel Salad – SEK229
The char had a pink coloured flesh and seemed like a cross between the textures of intricate boned fresh water fish (without the bones) and meatier salmon flesh (without the strong salmon smell and taste. It was steamed and cooked through just right that it seemed moist and soft, and yet not undercooked.
The blue mussels were considered “blue” due to its shell colour. The mussels were relatively small in size compared to what we get in Australia and similarly, the meat in the mussels was also not a lot to get excited about. Apart from its size, the mussel meat seemed a tad on a drier and tougher side though still highly edible so I am sure it was cooked right. Accompanying the blue mussels was a mild tasting foam that gave some added flavour as well as welcome moisture to break up the otherwise dryness of the fish and mussels.
The fennel salad had red onion and herbs mixed in. Also accompanying the dish were potatoes that were boiled, crushed, buttered and mixed with parsley.
Warm Chocolate Cake – SEK75
The warm chocolate cake was accompanied by homemade ice cream and berries. The chocolate cake was heated to order (the dish and the cake were warm) and the centre of the cake was soft – a bit like a chocolate fondant.
The berries were fresh, and the ice cream creamy and nicely vanilla flavoured. The only issue is that the clashing temperatures between the warm cake and the cold ice cream meant you had to eat the ice cream fast or eat it excessively melted. Preferring not to eat ice cream melted, I tried to get through it fast but unfortunately still ended up mixing a bit of melted ice cream with the cake.
At Berns Salonger
Berzelii Park, Näckströmsgatan 8
SE-103 27 Stockholm, Sweden
SE-103 27 Stockholm, Sweden
Gamla Stan Café Jerntorgith
As I said before, I find prices in Sweden and Scandinavia for food generally higher than in Australia. However, this find in Gamla Stan (old town) at the old former iron market venue offered surprisingly reasonable priced coffee and cake. This was also possibly evident through their clientele not only including tourists but locals including on the occasion I went, there was a table of local young blue collared workers having milkshakes.
Hardly a big establishment, this “café” was reminiscent of your typical breakfast and lunch café/coffee shop you get in Australia with coffee, cakes, a light made to order menu, and simple but comfortable casual indoor and al fresco seating. The venue also overlooks the square of the old Jarntorget.
Cappuccino – SEK25 and Carrot Cake – SEK35
I noticed the barista pressed the coffee very hard. The coffee was quite bitter and strong and dark. The froth was decent and uniform and held well. The smell was also a strong bitter smell.
The carrot cake itself had bits of carrot in it but didn’t seem to strongly resemble the “normal” carrot cake we get here in Australia. The cake was lighter in colour and texture, was only mildly sweet (in a good way), and had some crunchy bits in it too. One of the largest differences in this carrot cake was the noticeable and strong presence of cinnamon – which unfortunately wasn’t my preference.
The carrot cake was topped with a cream cheese like icing that was strong in lemon taste – a bit like a lemon cheesecake.
I noticed this café whilst walking down the very nice and relaxing Kungsträdgården. The location is right in the middle of the gardens and opening its doors in the 1800s, I am told the café itself is the oldest original café in town.
The café itself serves café style food but as I passed this in the middle of the afternoon, I only stopped in for a drink. The café has al fresco dining overlooking Kungsträdgården, inside dining, as well as a bar area complete with dedicated bar staff.
Tropical Drink – SEK29
There’s not really much to say about this, except it was a nice refreshing non-alcoholic drink made with a combination of juices and mixers put together on the spot by the bartender. After a bit of walking on a warm Stockholm day, this was a welcome stop.
Kungsträdgården, Stockholm, Sweden,
Monday to Friday – 11:30am to 10pm
Saturday – 12 noon to 3am (Sunday)
Sunday – 12 noon to 6pm
Some memories of Stockholm
Jarntorget (area for the old copper and iron trade)
Marten Trotzigs Grand (narrowest steps in Gamla Stan/Old Town)
Overlooking the Palace and Parliament
Stockholm Palace with Guard in Swedish Blue (and yellow)
Vasamuseet - Housing Sweden's Maritime warship that sunk on its maiden voyage
Vasterlanggatan - a pedestrian street in Gamla Stan (Old Town)