|the seating area in the Bolinder Palace|
A smörgåsbord is typically Swedish and is
a meal served buffet style with multiple courses of both cold and hot food. I
was keen to indulge in one reasonably blow-out meal in Stockholm and trying out
the smörgåsbord at the Grand Hotel is reputedly the best way to fully
appreciate the experience in the city.
They’ve provided a little excerpt on their website titled ‘The art of enjoying
a smörgåsbord‘ to whet your appetite:
- Everything is
delicious, but start with your favourites. It’s easy to overdo it
- Make sure to
make room for all the courses. Make several trips to the table, taking a
clean plate each time
- Start with the
herring dishes, traditionally served with hot new potatoes, crisp bread
and cheese. Accompany it with the perfect libation, a cold beer or home
- Then it’s time
for the gravlax with hovmästare sauce. Don’t miss the smoked salmon with
- Now sample the
salads, egg dishes and charcuterie
- On to the hot
dishes! Don’t miss our home made meatballs with lingonberry jam
- For dessert we
recommend a little of everything, but he fruit salad is a must. Finish off
with a cup of coffee and an ice-cold punsch. Skål!
|the buffet area|
The smörgåsbord is
usually enjoyed in the Veranda restaurant but as it is under renovation between
February – September 2013, we were instead served in the Bolinder Palace. And
I think we were all the more fortunate for it – an opulent and spectacular
setting for a lunch with the sun shining through heavily dressed floor to
ceiling windows, seated on red velvet chairs and gazing up at frescoed ceilings.
The Grand Hotel has provided five
star luxury since 1874 and is situated on the waterfront overlooking the Royal
Palace and Stockholm’s old town, Gamla Stan. The Grand is also home to Mathias Dahlgren’s Michelin star restaurants one of which was my initial first choice,
but even the lunch time menu prices were well out of reach of the budget I was
willing to spend, and far greater than the cost for a London Michelin lunch in
comparison; this is Stockholm after all.
A key factor to bear in mind
before embarking on the journey that is this extended meal is to understand
that it consists of several courses, so if you want to fully appreciate and
sample everything on offer, you need to go in hungry. Very hungry. The buffet
area was housed in a separate room just off the main seating area with tables
laden with everything you could imagine and would want to put into your mouth –
herrings served in more ways than you could envisage existing; salmon both
cooked and cured waiting to be picked off large silver platters; numerous
salads and egg dishes; an array of charcuterie and cold cuts; hot dishes including the ubiquitous
meatballs; all of the sauces, dips, pickles
and creams imaginable; and a separate table creaking under its own weight of
desserts from cakes to compotes and marshmallows to bavaroise.
|Matt thinking carefully
about his next plate
My plan was to attempt to on-board a very
small piece of absolutely everything in order to sample all of the flavours on
offer, and this started with a first course of herrings served eight ways. This
included pickled, with mustard, in a terrine, with eggs and roe, cooked in
sherry, curried, and with wild garlic. With a little pile of finely diced red
onions and some rye (don’t fill up on the bread!), these were delightful. There
wasn’t a single way of herring I didn’t enjoy – a very successful first plate.
|First plate – herrings served eight ways|
Next up were the salmon and fish cocktails – salmon terrine, hot smoked salmon, cold smoked salmon, poached salmon, gravadlax, a cocktail of prawns and scallops with mango and cucumber, eggs with prawns and aruga caviar, and likely a few more I can’t recall. I had eaten so much salmon on this trip already (including a load for breakfast) that I decided to forsake trying all of these to save room for the rest of the buffet, and so my plate for this course was relatively conservative but with everything on it still being quite lovely.
|cold smoked salmon|
|eggs with prawns and aruga caviar|
|Second plate – a conservative amount of
salmon and fish cocktails
Our third trip to the buffet bar had us reaching for the salads and cold cuts. You’ll notice my plate tells a story forgoing salad for meat – a necessary decision when stomach capacity is quickly dwindling. On my plate I arranged slithers of veal carpaccio with parmesan; cold grilled chicken; smoked lamb self-carved from a whole leg; watercress cream encircled in Tvarno ham; cold roast herby lamb with a very garlicky cream; and a prawn, caper and egg cocktail that really should have been taken with the last plate, but who’s watching. Quality meat is what it is and everything on this plate was very pleasing to the palette.
|Third plate – charcuterie and cold cuts|
By this point I had reached my fill of savoury dishes and was determined to reserve any remaining space for a coffee and the sweet-shop setting of desserts looking completely appetising – I had reached the point in a meal when it was now time to move onto the sweet options. I was pleased to see that Matt was still going strong and he happily launched into his fourth plate of hot dishes including chicken in morel sauce; roast veal with spring morels; grilled char with chive sauce, Janssons frestelse (a traditional Swedish casserole made of potatoes, onion, pickled sprats, bread crumbs and cream), hot asparagus with poached eggs, meatballs (of course), and prawn crepes which Matt particularly enjoyed.
|Fourth plate – hot meat and fish dishes|
Now I don’t have that much of a sweet tooth, but I more than a little excited by the display of consumables on offer for this course. Almost every type of dessert you could possibly want to devour was up for grabs and I commend my own sterling effort to try as many of them as possible. These included: a sweet and tart rhubarb and strawberry compote topped with a light and soft meringue; pistachio and coconut marshmallows; tiny milk chocolate boats filled with ganache and with a shard of something sticky with sesame as a sail; crispy toffee popcorn; white chocolate buttons with yellow centres to look like eggs; milk chocolate Easter egg shrapnel sprinkled with pink sugar crystals; biscotti with nuts and raisins half dipped in dark chocolate and with the most incredible crumbly texture – one of my favourite things on this plate; dark chocolate tea cakes with a nutty base housing a wonderful light meringue; cubes of rocky road with green glitter balls; squares of fudge; dark chocolate cookies with soft middles; home made chocolate lollipops; a coconut bavaroise with mango salsa; and believe it or not, quite a bit more.
|Fifth plate – a spectacular array of desserts|
|we all stole the cookie from the cookie jar|
Top trouser buttons were discreetly undone about thirty minutes into the meal and by the end of this marathon session of eating, we were understandably fit to explode. The waiting staff were exceptional and the clientèle relaxed and in the throws of full enjoyment. The smörgåsbord is usually SEK 445 (£45) per person for lunch and SEK 475 (£48) for dinner. If you visit during a holiday and they have a certain theme for their smörgåsbord as we experienced (an Easter theme), then expect to pay the evening prices at lunch. Regardless, those prices for at least five courses of full plates is exceptional value in the city of Stockholm, considerating a plate of meatballs in any normal restaurant will set you back a good £20 on its own. So while this may initially look like a high-end lunch, you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck than most places in town. And what a sublime way to enjoy the tradition of a smörgåsbord in all its splendour.
|The Grand Hotel, Stockholm|