Just alongside the Canal on Aboulevarden in Aarhus is Mølleparken, a little, recently redeveloped park that is a total hidden gem, just off the main drag. It is just over the canal from the Centre for Contemporary art and very near to a bunch of nice cafes. A beautiful place to stroll on a sunny day!
On the edge of Sibelius park lies Cafe Regatta – quite possible the most novel cafe I have ever been in, if not in the world. And I’m fairly certain it is where Santa goes to lunch. The cafe itself is a tiny little shack, that is actually over the waters edge, chock full of all things finnish and christmassy and generally exciting.
As it is such a small wee cafe, there is a huge outdoor part. With a fire to sit around, a little picket fence, eclectic painted, wooden, mismatched chairs and extremely snowy surroundings, it was just the most amazing and unique atmosphere. I just couldn’t get enough of it! Lovely food and coffee too at pretty decent prices. It has an extra magical quality to it, looking far to small to possibly house a cafe from the outside, like it is some kind of Harry Potter cafe.
I was pretty excited that I was one step closer in my quest to find Santa, but I must have just missed him. Best get a little closer to the North Pole next time.
Cafe Fatoljen in Sodermalm was another excellent food recommendation, where we learned of another Swedish culinary delight – baked potatoes filled with a delicious shrimp-y, mayonnaise-y concoction. Really getting amongst the Swedish food! I accidentally ordered a salad thinking I was getting a sandwich, but it was amazing, and some welcome relief from all of the sometimes foods we had been eating!
Immediately behind the counter you can see the chefs whipping up amazing cakes, and the staff (or at least the one waitress we interracted with) were lovely. The waitress pointed out menu items, educated us on the very swedish baked potato dish, and prescribed a tea by the (appropriate) name of “Really Good Tea” for a member of the team who was feeling under the weather.
The décor was nice too, a wee touch of Andy Warhol, and Jimmy Hendrix watching over us as we enjoyed the lunch deal: anything on the menu plus a coffee or tea for 90Kr. It was places like that which really made me wonder how good the expensive places in Stockholm must be!
Café 60 was one of the few cafes I have ever seen that can get away with throwing a whole bunch of unrelated crap in a room, with no clear design or theme, and still look great. The theme was carried on with the food – it was practically lined wall to wall with every possible type of sandwich, pastry, handmade chocolate, dessert and cake you can imagine, and many more that you never would have. You could tell it was the sort of food where the focus was on the quality, rather than making sure the cakes and pastries look exactly how they are meant to, a la most other bakeries around. We didn’t actually get round to trying any of the amazing creations, as we were there for the amazing breakfast deal: 25kr for a coffee or tea, a juice, a piece of fruit and pretty decently sized sandwich if you are there before 10am. I definitely recommend it to anyone wanting a decent cheap breakfast. There were a million and one menu options if you wanted to upscale a bit for a few more kroner too.
Stockholm is famous for a most delicious tradition: between Christmas and Easter, bakeries all over town make Semla, best translated as a cream bun, although that description does them absolutely no justice. Semla are quite incomparable to anything else I have come across, which definitely makes them a necessity to try.
Like restaurants in Japan, as spring draws ever closer, bakeries will display Semla replicas in their windows and there is an annual competition to determine which bakery makes the best ones. These ‘buns’ are a sweat bread-y pastry, (seeds from vanilla pods visible in the dough), with a hole carved out of the bun which is then filled with cream and sometimes a vanilla almond paste, before the lid is replaced and it is dusted with icing sugar. They may not look like much initially, but dam do they taste good!
In my quest to eat my way across Europe, I felt it only appropriate that I track down the winning Semla. It was at a bakery called Tossebageriet in the trendy district of Ostermalm. It was quite the beautiful walk on the way there, with tree lined streets and the sun shining gloriously. The bakery had a whole collection of other amazing treats, but I had my eyes on the prize!
This particular Semla was delicious, and one of the ones filled with an amazing vanilla almond paste. I could absoltely see why this bakery was the 2012 winner and I thoroughly recommend anyone looking to experience Stockholm’s best food to try one.
One of our café recommendations in Stockholm was ‘Sturekatten’ which I’m fairly sure translates to the fat cat. Based on the Danish word for big/large (Store) and the cats all over the signage. This was yet another scavenger hunt of an adventure, as the café turned out to be quite the hidden gem, off in a side street with minimal signage. After google maps sent us in a totally unnecessary circle, we found the place. We only knew we were in the right spot as a result of our detailed instructions “You will feel like you are walking in to someone’s loungeroom.”
As we walked up an old wooden spiral staircase, the description was perfect. With doilies on tables, potted plants, delicate teacups and mismatched antique chairs, we knew we were in the right place. The waitstaff were all in the cutest Victorian style lace aprons, and there was a range of different rooms you could sit in, with majestic curtains and rustic window frames separating them.
The food at Sturekatten was amazing, and we felt it was the perfect time to try a truly Nordic lunch. While smörgås, or smørrebrød, as it is called in Danish, is very common in Denmark, it wasn’t until I was in Sweden that I thought it would be a good opportunity to give it a go. Smörgås is typically on a slice of rye bread (two slices is far too much to consume in one go) and piled with toppings. A very common version of this Nordic delight is a generous helping of mayonnaise, slices of egg and a ridiculous heap of shrimps. smörgås or smørrebrød is usually well decorated, commonly with cucumber slices and at this particular place also had caviar.
It was a delicious lunch, and the cabinet of food looked amazing – it was really hard to pick just one thing!
Another particularly swedish trend was on display here also. When you pay for a coffee at many cafes, you then help yourself to a coffee at a tea/coffee stand. A bit of an honesty system and refills are encouraged, but the sacrifice is a lack of espresso machine. No flat whites in this part of the world!
Fun fact: the term smorgasbord (buffet) comes from smörgås.
Gamla Stan, or the Old Town, in central Stockholm is quite possibly one of the most beautiful spots in all Stockholm, and if I’d been to more places I reckon I’d be extending that area quite considerably. Until then, I’ll stick to what I know.
Stockholm has been called the Venice of Scandinavia, and it is easy to see why in Gamla Stan. The city is made up of a number of islands, one of them being Stadsholmen, where Gamla Stan is found. Every square inch of land on Stadsholmen is taken up by stunning old-style architecture, with the buildings as close to the edge of the island as possible, with only the minimum amount of cobbled pathways separating them.
Gamla Stan dates back to the 13th century and includes the Royal Palace, the Stockholm Stock Exchange building and the Cathedral. Unlike the Old Town in Aarhus, Gamla Stan isn’t an open air musuem or collection of relics and replicas, but instead many of the medieval buildings are still in use as cafes, restaurants, bakeries, antique stores and bars. There is something very romantic and magical about walking through the town in the evening and seeing the cafes full of people, enjoying the music at candle-lit tables. It is like being transported back in time, but with hygienic streets and food safety standards.
Whilst in Sweden, it was highly important to indulge in a lovely tradition called “having a Fika.” Fika loosely translates to “coffee break” but it is vitally important that your fika is long and relaxed – no nipping down to the coffee cart to grab a takeaway caffeine fix. Instead, a fika is about sitting, relaxing, chatting (it can be a break from work or a date) and most often having something sweet, like a Swedish cinnamon roll. A most endearing social trend.
It seems to me that it is just putting a name to something we do in New Zealand quite a lot. If you aren’t going out for drinks, you will generally catch up with a friend over coffee. My Canadian friend thought it was an amazing tradition, but being from such a high-strung, business focussed continent, she was astounded at how much productivity must be lost sitting down and having a coffee in Sweden (a 1-2 hour fika is supposedly a normal part of the working day). We concluded any time lost was made up by all the J-walking they do in Sweden.
In Sweden, we had many a fika. The best was probably at a cafe called Saturnus, another adventure Emelie sent us on, off the beaten track to find the biggest and best cinnamon rolls in all of Stockholm. They were amazing, but only the boy of the group could finish one. We were suitably impressed.