TASTEscape: Stockholm

TASTEscape: Stockholm

by Niklas Ekstedt 14 January 2020

Beautiful Stockholm boasts one of the most exciting, progressive food scenes in the world, and plenty more besides. We joined Swedish chef Niklas Ekstedt for a tour around his home city.

Niklas, a pioneer of Nordic gastronomy and open fire cooking, has been a prominent figure in raising the profile of Scandinavian food globally.

Niklas, a pioneer of Nordic gastronomy and open fire cooking, has been a prominent figure in raising the profile of Scandinavian food globally. After spending time at el Bulli, The Fat Duck and Chicago’s now closed Charlie Trotter, in 1999 he successfully opened his debut restaurant Niklas at the age of twenty-one, followed by Niklas i Viken in 2003. After his food show Mat aired on Swedish national television, he felt it was time to return to his roots.

Growing up in Järpen, a small village in Jämtland in the northern part of Sweden, Niklas spent long periods outdoors exploring the Stockholm archipelago where he found himself drawn to woods and expanse of birch trees. He started researching ancient cooking techniques and extensively read eighteenth-century cookbooks on Sweden’s pre-electrical cuisine. He decided to launch a restaurant that would pay homage to this period in history, but also to his childhood and heritage. His open fire restaurant, Ekstedt, launched in 2011 and showcases his bold, primal and radical return to ancient cooking. Ekstedt doesn’t use electricity nor gas and instead makes excellent use of a fire pit, a wood-fired oven and a wood stove. Gaining a Michelin star in 2013, the restaurant continues to be one of the top gastronomic destinations in Sweden.

Author of six cookbooks, Niklas has published three in the UK including Scandinavian Classics, Food from the Fire and Happy Food. He has made appearances on Saturday Kitchen, This Morning and Classic Mary Berry, and at festivals such as Meatopia, Wilderness and Taste of London. Most recently Niklas has organised Foodstock, a new festival celebrating the Nordic culinary arts.

A spearhead in the progression of Stockholm’s exploding food scene, Niklas' innovative recipes and techniques have had a profound impact on the culinary scene worldwide.

Despite being one of the smallest cities in Europe, Stockholm has a lot to offer to visitors. From museums and art galleries to sports and concert arenas, the city is bursting at the seams with cultural pursuits, and that's not to mention Stockholm's culinary scene – undoubtedly one of the best in Europe.

Sweden may not have the same prestige as France, Italy and Spain when it comes to food, but Stockholm is a worthy destination for foodies. Sweden’s long coastline provides a huge variety of fantastic fish and seafood, and the large forests are home to an amazing spectrum of game, wild plants and native meats. In my opinion, you can find some of the best food in the world in our waterside capital.

Read on for my selection of things to do while you’re here – I've included a few restaurants, bars and other interesting attractions that I think showcase the best of Stockholm's food and culture.

Pay a visit to Agrikultur

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No trip to Stockholm is complete without a visit to modern Nordic establishment Agrikultur. Set up in 2016 by renowned chefs Filip Fasten and Joel Ahlin it’s still largely unknown outside of the city, but their approach to Swedish ingredients is really starting to turn heads in Stockholm. Known for pushing the boundaries of culinary tradition, Fasten and Ahlin use seasonal produce and daily market ingredients to create their exquisite tasting menu. I have cooked with them a couple of times now and I love sitting at the counter and looking into the open kitchen.

agrikultur.se

Eat at Gastrologik

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Another burgeoning new restaurant I would highly recommend is the two Michelin-starred Gastrologik. Anton and Jacob are pushing the boundaries and exploring a contemporary ‘New Nordic’ style of gastronomy. Their food manages to remain truly Scandinavian while using exceptional natural and organic produce in new and innovative ways. There is no set menu; the ingredients that are in season dictate what food is served.

gastrologik.se

Taste Nordic/Japanese fusion cuisine at Ichi

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It’s hard not to be inspired by the creativity of Saori Ichiara, head chef of Ichi Restaurant. Ichi originated from a one-off collaboration dinner at their sister restaurant Barobao (also in Stockholm). Since then it has grown to become one of Stockholm’s most well-respected new establishments.

ichisthlm.se

Visit Taxinge-Näsby Castle

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Just outside of Stockholm (about a forty minute drive) is the small village of Taxinge. Here you can visit the famous Taxinge-Näsby Castle. The picturesque area around the castle provides guests with plenty of greenery perfect for a pleasant stroll. While in the area I’d recommend guests also enjoy the simple yet innovative set menu at Taxinge Krog. All produce used at the restaurant is grown in the vicinity of the castle and the restaurant itself is an old converted country store seating only twelve guests. Founder Gustav Ohman cooks most of his vegetable-based dishes on the barbecue with the help of his mother. If you don’t fancy the short drive home you’re welcome to stay in a small caravan out the back of the restaurant, which at night transforms into a mini-hostel.

taxingekrog.nu

Get a food education

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Recently opened Restauranglabbet provides a more educational foodie experience than your average restaurant – the name of the restaurant translates to ‘restaurant lab’ and that’s exactly what this is. The restaurant is split into two separate sections – the all-day café serves up healthy, seasonal comfort food, whilst the food innovation area explores and educates about sustainability and food through lectures and classes.

restauranglabbet.se

Take a stroll around Vasastan

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Roughly one-third of Stockholm is made up of greenery. If you're looking to enjoy some of Stockholm's natural landscape, head to Vasastan – a residential neighbourhood known for its beautiful parks. Here you’ll find L’Avventura – an old theatre which has since become a restaurant, serving Italian food as captivating as the venue and atmosphere. Soak up the beautiful high ceilings, stucco mouldings and ornate wall paintings, all whilst indulging in their signature pineapple flambé.

lavventura.se

Have a glass of wine in Tyge & Sessil

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Last up on the list is my very own Tyge & Sessil. Far-flung from my eponymous open fire restaurant Ekstedt, Tyge & Sessil is a more casual affair, serving sharing plates and lots of wines by the glass. We have a wine list of around 300 wines, all low intervention and from lesser-known regions, and there’s a small menu of simple, fresh Nordic sharing plates and bar snacks to go with your glass of choice.

tygesessil.se

Still have time to spare?

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A light installation at Odenplan underground station
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The serene lakes of Tyresta National Park

Ninety out of Stockholm’s 100 subway stations are adorned with art – why not stop occasionally and take a look around? Make the most of your journey not just your destination.

Only twenty kilometres outside Stockholm’s centre lies the Tyresta National Park and Nature Reserve. Throughout the park’s 5,000 hectares you will find primeval forest, clear lakes and a large number of unusual plants and animals.

Stockholm Palace, also known as the Royal Palace, is the official residence of the Swedish Royal Family. As well as the Royal Apartments, there are also three museums inside that are open to the public.