16 April 2009

P.A. & Co., Stockholm, Sweden

You may believe that Stockholm is the capital of that welfare state placed in the middle of the European Nordics whose blond, tall and fit population only drive Volvos and Saabs, stare in front of the TV watching the Nobel awards ceremony, enjoy commenting the royal family gossips, are able to screw and unscrew thousands of times the same IKEA do-it-yourself furniture and support their ice-hockey national team, the whole of it admired and respected while having a shot of Absolut Vodka (or two!) and listening to ABBA hits. You may also think that there is nothing to eat up there...

Surprise, this is not exactly the case!

Believe it or not, Stockholm is a great city to eat and to have fun (at the same time), a town with plenty of lively restaurants and a good choice of atmospheres, cuisines and prices. As The New York Times put it in an article, ‘Stockholm’s restaurant scene is overheated’...

A short recent visit to this beautiful city was enough to realise that people like going out (a lot!) regardless on whether they go to a recently opened place or to a well known address, on whether the restaurant is in the trendy, elegant Östermalm or in the somewhat bohemian neighbourhoods of Södermalm and Kungsholmen, and whether it is a mainstream address with wi-fi internet connection and some couches to lay on with the lap-top or a posh Michelin starred restaurant with clients aged 50 and more with a shiny Porsche waiting at the door.

For those who would not expect it or simply do not know it, please bear in mind that Sweden and Norway are the countries where most of the recently awarded cooks in well known international contests come from.

In my opinion, this is certainly not because these cooks may be able to only prepare eels, salmons and herrings like anybody else in the world, which is indeed true, but because of their creativity and their confidence in providing something different and tasty yet remaining well rooted to their culture and culinary sources.

Such creativity blossoms a bit everywhere in town, not just in restaurants like the well known "Sturehof", the "Riche", the "Muggen" (a midday informal café with wooden tables and candles everywhere serving simple and a bit too cooked yet tasty pasta and a glass of Jacob’s Creek shiraz – cabernet, the same place where Stieg Larsson advised to have lunch in his bestseller ‘Millenium’), the "Brunnsgatan 1", the "Gondolen", the "Grill", the "Kungsholmen" and "The Veranda" (Grand Hotel), but also the "Mathias Dahlgren", the only Swedish restaurant to have ever been awarded a two Michelin stars ("Edsbacka krog" was the first one). By the way, the chef Mathias Dahlgren is only 40!

"PA & Co." was discovered absolutely by chance when a blond woman clerly in her late fifties and with a hint of Pippi Langstrumpf hippyness stopped pedalling her bicycle next to me in the middle of the street and asked me if I needed some help. The map I was handling may have given her the impression that I was lost.

When I told her I was looking for a restaurant where I could try good Swedish specialities she immediately recommended to head to the somewhat hidden "PA & Co.", an informal place with a clubby atmosphere, small tables and wooden chairs, a couple of chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, a lot of candles (remember we are in Sweden!), a single board with the menu on the wall (only in Swedish), and filled with a clientele ranging from cool intellectuals to media, literature and fashion types.

The reindeer terrine covered with bacon on a mushroom sauce and lingonberry jam, smashed potatoes and sliced cucumbers in a side dish might not be a very original choice if you are a Sweed, but it was very very good! (as was the starter - fish eggs on a crispy potato basis -, the jazzy music and the service).

Do not try to go without booking.

Rating: 6.5/10

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