Stockholm restaurants – Matbaren at the Grand Hotel, and Frantzen/Lindeberg

I have no photos from San Pellegrino 'Rising Star' of 2011, Frantzen/Lindeberg, as it's a very intimate place and it didn't feel appropriate to start nerding over the food in that way during my recent meal there. It was great though. Quite earthy, very New Nordic (lots of marrow bone, pork fat, raw horse meat, the omnipresent and always welcome sea buckthorn and wild garlic, etc), though perhaps a bit dour at times (though they have their own kitchen garden a little way out of the city, I think they were still struggling produce-wise with the long winter).

These guys are definitely hot on the tail of René at Noma, and when I spoke to him, head chef Bjorn Frantzen was refreshingly honest about their race to beat him to the third star (they got two stars in two years: the third is going to be a good deal tougher though, I suspect). There was a steely determination about the place. You could smell the ambition, sense the tense striving in the air.

That was perhaps exemplified by one dish which they seemed especially proud of and which contained 30 different ingredients, including hyssop, sea urchin, chioggia beet, scales from a bream and various 'heirloom' vegetables. It was very beautiful, but seemed a bit silly to me, really. Like I said, quite show-offy. But I guess that's what those weirdos from Michelin are looking for, along with the posh cologne in the toilet and the bone handled Laguiole cutlery.

I did take some pictures at Mathias Dahlgren's Matbaren at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm. This is Dahlgren's informal place (as opposed to Matsalen next door, which also has two of those precious stars), and it was absolutely terrific. Light, colourful, fresh, masterfully executed food. The kind of stuff you can happily eat every day – unlike F/L which, for all its merits, is a very intense, once-a-year kind of experience.

This was Dahlgren's take on sashimi, with reindeer and salmon and avocado. Super.


This was the beetroot and Jerusalem artichoke with truffle, watercress, hazelnut and a terrific cheese from the Jura in France. I'm a sucker for toasted hazelnuts in just about anything.


Mathias kindly arranged for me to try his stunning oyster and beef tartar with beef tallow emulsion (the genius touch, that). Sublime.


This was a squid and shrimp Asian-broth type thing. 


Erm, sorry can't remember what this was ("Call yourself a food writer, what kind of cockamamie, you ought to be ashamed…", and so on). Oh, yes, just remembered, it was an astonishingly great pressed pig's head, or head cheese, with grated mushroom and punchy mushroom dressing. As good as any charcuterie from a Lyonnaise bouchon.


This, I think, is steamed coalfish in a mushroom emulsion with trout roe. It was the only bum note of an otherwise hugely enjoyable meal (my best in Stockholm, by a whisker): way too salty (as, oddly, were so very many dishes I tried in Stockholm, leading me to develop a new theory which I am calling Geographical Saline Determinism which, very briefly – because you must understand this is a very complex and important new culinary theory which I invite research organisations from around the world to participate in – but, basically, I think Swedish people's tastebuds are a bit frozen and need waking up more than those of the rest of us).

Or it could just be, as the chef told me, that the coalfish is salt-preserved.


And a totally magnificent bitter lemon cream dessert with meringue, honey, olive oil and vanilla. You'll note the olive oil there: though all of them generally abided by the familiar and fashionable 'seasonal, local' mantra, none of the restaurants I ate at in Stockholm went as far as Noma in banning non-Nordic ingredients (an approach which, incidentally, has led to Redzepi and co having to answer absurd allegations of Nordic fascism in the Danish media this last week or so, despite the fact that he is half Macedonian, doesn't have a fascist bone in his body, and most of his kitchen are foreigners).


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