Good Will Hunting, Breaking The Waves, Mamma Mia!, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: these are a few of the iconic movies Stellan Skarsgård has starred in over the course of an extraordinary career that shows no signs of stopping. Clearly, Hollywood loves Stellan Skarsgård. But what does Stellan Skarsgård love? For one thing, his hometown: “Stockholm is, to me, the most beautiful city in the world—at least in the summer. But even during the dark months, when it cuddles up to survive the winter, it has its charm. The city is built on an island where the Baltic Sea meets the lake of Mälaren and everywhere there’s water and a beautiful view.”
He explains: “Scandinavian cuisine has, in the last few years, risen to international fame. We have become famous for being able to serve even moss and bark in a more than edible way. You can find fantastic food of all schools in the three capitals of Scandinavia. The common idea is to give a lot of care to local, organic produce and then compliment it by stealing shamelessly from other cuisines.” The second thing Skarsgård loves is restaurants. Fun fact: he’s a total foodie, and when not on set, he’s more than likely to be found at a fine dining establishment in town. Given those two passions, we naturally asked Skarsgård to share his favorite Stockholm spots, which he did:
“One of my favorite chefs in the world is Mathias Dahlgren, with his unpretentious and precise way of making the simplest ingredient reveal its unknown beauty. He has a two-star restaurant beside Grand Hotel, which is fantastic, but since I’m always hungry and need immediate satisfaction, I usually turn to his one-star restaurant next door, Matbaren, which serves medium size dishes of wonderful food at the pace you want.”
Led by British design guru Ilse Crawford, Matbaren exudes warmth with communal tables, sturdy oak walls, and playful red chairs. Chef Mathias Dahlgren was among the first in Stockholm to debut affordable fine dining with Matbaren in 2007—though the price cut doesn’t come at the expense of the food. Focusing on natural, seasonal ingredients, Dahlgren sources produce through close relationships with farmers and fishermen around the country.
The seasonal menu is made up of small dishes meant to order one at a time, a la carte. Look for the tender lamb from Sörmland, Southeast Sweden, accented by salted lemon and fermented chili. Order the melt-in-your-mouth soft steamed pork buns with jalapeños, or the well-executed Scandinavian ceviche made from cod and smoked salmon, salty and fresh from Sweden’s West Coast and topped with Nordic wasabi horseradish and sweet elderflower. If chanterelles are in season, order them without haste.
If you’re unable to book a reservation, some seats at the bar are reserved for walk-ins, and offer a full view of the kitchen. Just be sure to arrive early to get one.
“Two of Mathias’ brilliant young chefs, Adam Dahlberg and Albin Wessman, have now, after a few years of hard work, opened their own place: Adam/Albin, which shows the genius of their palates.”
Shiny concrete floors, a large wall mirror, Thonet chairs, and wooden communal bar tables create a cozy, modern bistro feel here. Chef duo Adam Dahlberg and Albin Wessman first made a name for themselves by serving ramen noodle soups once a week for lunch. Now, their fine-dining restaurant Adam/Albin is one of Stockholm’s best, and their initial vision remains—to serve the ingredients they love eating themselves, inspired by international kitchens, but rooted in their Swedish heritage.
Five courses are served with an introductory snack, but instead of a set menu, guests choose their dishes. Flavors are unexpected and fun, such as dried crisps made of root vegetables and licorice—the earthy tones go well with the saltiness of the licorice—a playful take on a peculiar Swedish custom.
Another winner is caramelized langoustine. The soft meat is salty from the ocean, yet with added sweetness for a successful take on a very traditional dish. It’s paired with tender Iberian pork cheeks, tangy ginger, crunchy cucumber, and crispy potatoes.
“For extremely delectable beef you should experience Göran Svartengren’s rustic yet precise cooking at Svartengrens, where you can indulge in perfectly handled meats from old dairy breeds that give a richness of flavor you seldom experience.”
Meat lovers worship at this temple to locally raised, sustainable beef and venison. The murmur of intelligent conversation and delectable smells wafting from dishes served at long blonde-wood tables.
The chefs do everything from scratch here, from making sausages, to smoking and dry-aging their beef on hooks in the basement, to foraging and pickling fruits. Meat is clearly the star, but the five-dish tasting menu—our suggestion—gives the sauces and vegetables their due, too.
If you’re ordering a la carte, know that meats are served plain and simple. Round out any cut with a memorable side—the pointed headed cabbage with onions, Manchego cheese and new potatoes, topped with a divine chanterelle sauce and black currant jelly, may even outshine dry-aged counterparts. Don’t miss the best Crème Brulee in Stockholm for dessert.
“I always take visiting friends to the Boros bunker, a historical site that houses an incredible contemporary art collection. They give you a private tour, and within an hour you’ve had your culture hit.”
And one final suggestion from the stylish Swede: “Drink at Kvarnen, one of the oldest pubs in the city.”
Nowadays, Södermalm is mostly shopping and nice homes, but when Kvarnen opened here in 1908, it was an island populated by the poor and working class. The restaurant’s mission was to provide inexpensive, traditional cuisine to that neighborhood. Traditional Swedish food, beer, and social action remain the focus here.
Between rooms, Kvarnen’s atmosphere is best captured in the woody, Czech-style beer hall, where you can find draughts and bottles from Czech (and increasingly, Swedish) microbreweries, as well as wines by the glass. But really, it’s the vibe you’re drinking in.
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