I’m back from Stockholm, and although it rained the entire time I had a beautiful apartment and the best of company. The ever-present grey drizzle was compensated for by the long hours of daylight and old cobbled streets of Gamla Stan, as well as the fact it provided plenty of opportunities for fika, Swedish for coffee-and-pastry break. The two days were equal parts exploring in the rain and warming up in Shoreditch-worthy coffee shops with cinnamon or cardamon buns, staring out through the steamed-up windows at the blur and bustle of the streets in between sips of scalding coffee. We even braved a rooftop bar, and stoically nursed cognac and champagne cocktails under our umbrellas, for the sake of a hazy view of the Stockholm skyline.
The city has a very modern, trendy vibe — essentially, it’s a city of hipsters. There were more man-buns and braces than I’ve seen anywhere outside of gentrified East London. My American friend and I felt even more basic than usual, both sporting Adidas Originals and black skinny jeans and instagramming every cinnamon bun via our iPhones. In the evenings we put on heels and white blouses and red lipstick in our chic Östermalm appartment, only to find ourselves at an outdoor rave under a freeway followed by a smoky underground house scene, where our fellow clubbers were mostly bearded, tattooed, and high on drugs. We stayed out long enough to feel we’d made an effort, and made some equally clueless Argentinian friends along the way, then gave up and got an uber home.
Most of our daytime meals were fika-based, although we did also visit a fantastic vegetarian/vegan buffet called Hermans, overlooking the river, and the aptly named SHLM Brunch Club to get our açai bowl/green juice/avocado toast fix (I did say we were basic). Generally, though, we tried to eat as ‘Swedish’ as possible, and our dinner spots deserve their own mention.
On the first night we ate at the highly rated Lilla Ego in Vasastan, and weren’t disappointed. Our hipster waiter wasn’t fazed by the fact that we were a) late and b) presented some potentially problematic dietary requirements; they served me exquisitely cooked and presented dishes comprised of foraged chanterelles, beets, potatoes and fried onions, followed by wild berry sorbet, and accompanied by traditional bread and a fantastic wine list.
The second night we dined at Pharmarian in Gamla Stan, a dimly lit old pharmacy where each dish had a corresponding cocktail to maximise the tasting experience. Again, I opted for a foraged mushroom based dish and an onion based dish, all locally-sourced. The former came with the most elaborate rum and coke I’ve ever had — they make their own coca cola with cinnamon, vanilla, cardamon, citrus, salt, neroli and guarana — and the latter with a floral blend of Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon, Cypress, gooseberry, pomegranate, hay, citrus and marigolds. Everything was fantastic.
We were told that our timing was unfortunate, as usually the city sees sun and warm temperatures in August. Once or twice we got a glimpse of blue sky and sunshine and what Stockholm can be in summer, but in some ways I preferred the grey clouds and rain. It gave a sense of what long Scandinavian winters must be, when the sun only shows the city its face at 9 in the morning and has set again by 3. And besides, cinnamon buns will always taste better in the rain.