Forget meatballs and pickled herring. The restaurant scene in Scandinavia has never been as animated as it is today; you’ll find an enticing combination of old and new, of innovation and tradition, and of laid-back bars and elegant Michelin-star restaurants. Scandinavia’s many eco-friendly initiatives extend to the wine and food world, too, with a focus on sustainable, locally sourced ingredients and natural and biodynamic wines.
Stockholm In Sweden, 70% of all wines are sold through Systembolaget, the Swedish off-trade monopoly. While the monopoly stores mainly provide big brands and bag-in-box wines, restaurants and bars, particularly in the Swedish capital, offer great alternatives, with creative lists full of small-scale wines from all over the world.
In recent years, there has been an explosion of new wine bars in Stockholm, creating an energetic wine scene. One venue is Ambar (ambarvinbar.se), a cosy wine bar near St Eriksplan square in the city centre. Run by Englishman Damon Young, the warmly lit bar has a laid-back vibe and has become a second home to many locals. The wine list is eclectic, specialising in natural wines, with a particular focus on orange wines. Young and his staffalso prepare a small selection of delicious Asian dishes in the tiny kitchen, and both the food and wine list are good value.
‘Stockholm’s wine scene has exploded over the past few years, with new wine bars popping up all over, many with a unique approach,’ says Young. ‘We have become an active community, supporting each other rather than competing against one another.’
Less than 2km away is Babette (babette.se), a busy neighbourhood bistro that is elegant yet relaxed – and never disappoints. Sit at the counter and watch the chefs produce simple, flavourful dishes. The menu changes daily; look out for the irresistible gourmet pizzas with creative toppings. The long and carefully sourced wine list is varied, featuring artisanal wines from around the world, from Jura to Oregon, and Hungary to Tasmania. Babette’s owner-sommelier Fredrik Lundberg is on hand to guide you through the list, and he talks passionately about everything from different grapes to producer profiles.
To anyone who wants to take a deep dive into Nordic cuisine, there are two places with a firm hold on Stockholm’s culinary scene. The first is Hantverket (restauranghantverket.se/en) in Östermalm, one of the most affluent areas of Stockholm. The award-winning head chef Stefan Ekengren offers a simple, more rustic take on artisanal Swedish cuisine, resulting in a range of clever, unpretentious dishes. The chanterelle sandwich with roe, spiced cheese, sour cream, leek, dill and rye bread is a must-try. There are both classic and niche wines on the drinks list, which also features two large sections for Swedish cider and craftbeer. The service here is passionate and genuine.
The second is the sophisticated one-star Michelin restaurant Agrikultur (agrikultur.se) on Roslagsgatan. For those seeking a Michelin-star meal, there are nine restaurants to choose from in Stockholm. At Agrikultur, the interior design is Scandinavian minimalism at its most stylish, where every corner could be featured in a design magazine. Nonetheless, the ambience is warm and welcoming. Chefs Joel Åhlin and Filip Fastén enjoy contrasts – something that shows in everything they do.
In the open kitchen, with its Aga and woodfired oven, the ambitious team makes traditional Swedish dishes with a twist, offering imaginative combinations of vegetables alongside a small selection of noble cuts, all sourced from local, sustainable suppliers. The wine list, however, is fairly classical, and is centred around a small number of producers. Head sommelier Jon Bergqvist explains: ‘I like to build a wine list based on a few selected areas and try to get a depth in both producers and age before broadening it out.’ Lovers of Burgundy, Rioja and Montalcino will not be disappointed. For example, you’ll find a selection of vintages of Brunello di Montalcino from Stella di Campalto going back to 2004.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
My top 20 South American Bordeaux blends
Argentina, Chile and Uruguay have a shared formula for fine wines, taking inspiration from the Bordeaux tradition. These wines are excelling today, thanks to increasingly refined winemaking methods and exceptional vintages
2019 revisited Bordeaux in bottle
After tasting more than 800 newly bottled 2019 wines, Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent is full of praise for the vintage’s consistent and expressive wines, with successes on both Left and Right Bank
Southern Rhône 2020
Following on from the northern Rhône 2020 report in our last issue, we delve into the year’s southern Rhône releases, based on a tasting of more than 1,200 wines. This vintage’s wines should be quite accessible when young, and there are some particularly noteworthy whites
South African Sauvignon Blanc 10 top producers
Sit up and take notice: South Africa is blazing a trail in the New World, making site-expressive Sauvignon Blanc. The local winemakers’ respect for their terroir has seen a growing number turning out Sauvignons that speak confidently of their origins. Here are 10 names to watch
FIVE OF THE BEST IRISH WHISKEYS
Popular with drinkers around the world, Irish whiskey has experienced mixed fortunes in the past and the category nearly died out altogether a few decades ago.
Its year-round sun and dramatic coastline mean it’s already a much-loved beach holiday destination. But this southern Portuguese hotspot is upping its game, providing plenty to tempt wine lovers inland for a taste of something different
THE JUNIPER HUNTERS
A small number of British distillers are choosing native juniper rather than popular imported European options to make their gins
Judy Joo's Ultimate KFC
This spicy Korean Fried Chicken dish features in a new book celebrating female chefs on the British food scene. We’ve matched it with wine styles that can take the heat
My life as a personal wine consultant
It isn’t a job you’ll see advertised, so what does it take to become one? Right place, right time? Experience, qualifications, hard work, connections? All of those and more, it turns out
A heavy price
Making glass bottles lighter is an easy way to reduce wine's carbon emissions - yet it remains a weighty issue for the industry, with many producers yet to make changes
Bless This Mess
"Stumbling toward self-knowledge in The Worst Person in the World."
"Being an artist means for me bringing one's artistic vision into everyday life. It means harnessing the moments of inspiration and creativity but also trying to embrace all aspects of the process when it means adversity and hard work. With my art, I would like the viewer to be carried away into another world and encouraged to create and shape his or her individual story. I hope my art provides a moment of respite for the viewer and perhaps inspires the thought, "What if?".
The Culture Club
CAN OUR NUMBER ONE COMPANY MAINTAIN ITS EMPLOYEE-FRIENDLY WORKPLACE THROUGH THE PANDEMIC AND A GROWTH BOOM? WE THINK SO
A 350-MILE OFFSHORE ISN’T EVERYONE’S IDEA OF RELAXATION, BUT SWEDEN’S GOTLAND RUNT PROVED THE PERFECT TONIC FOR NIKKI HENDERSON
When you are an ant, the stakes are always high. There are those who would eat you—birds, snakes, bigger bugs—and those who could trample you and your environment in a single sneakered step. These enormous beings may not mean you any harm, but it is impact, not intention, that matters most.
JANNE SCHAFFER REMEMBERS BEING IN THE STUDIO AS THE ABBA GUITARIST.
SWEDISH POST-HARDCORE MASTERS FIND THE FUNK, THE PUNK AND THEIR VERY ESSENCE ON THEIR LATEST RELEASE, WAR MUSIC
PETER LEHRKE AVOIDED THE VIRUS AND BEAUTIFULLY TIMED HIS NOW ANNUAL VISIT FROM BRISBANE TO JAGUAR LAND ROVER'S ICE EXPERIENCE DEEP IN SWEDEN'S FROZEN WILDERNESS. HE WRITES OF THE THRILL AND INCLUDES HIS IMAGES.
FOLLOWING HER PASSION FROM SWEDEN TO L.A.LANDED SOFIA MATTSSON IN PORT CHARLES.
Where Waters Meet
David Oscarson celebrates home, family, and another of his Swedish heroes: the sculptor Carl Milles.