Matbaren, Stockholm

Mathias Dahlgren is one of Stockholm’s culinary leaders, with two Michelin starred establishments, both within the iconic Grand Hotel. Overlooking the waterfront, this prestigious, palatial hotel has been an important presence in Stockholm for over 130 years and is steeped in history and tradition.

The indulgent and smart Matsalen restaurant has two stars and is considered one of Stockholm’s top culinary establishments. The menu features experimental Swedish fare, innovative and delicious, and an impressive wine list. But if you are after something a little more casual, Matbaren is the perfect option. Known as ‘the food bar,’ this quirky eatery which also has a Michelin star, has been designed by Ilse Crawford and reflects the fun nature of the dishes created in the kitchen.

After a morning of energetic sightseeing, we were excited to be trying Matbaren for lunch. The dining room is eclectic, full of light and colour. Almost every table was occupied with animated guests chatting away and enjoying their plates of vibrant, fragrant food. The layout of the restaurant is economical and tables are set with brown paper menus which list the wide variety of dishes. This menu can change daily as it is based on the Scandinavian ingredients available.

Bread is concealed within a dated paper bag on the table – we tucked in straight away starving from all the walking. There were several dishes that really appealed to me on the menu, but I opted for the intriguing “Steamed bun BBQ style” brisket, smoked and pickled peppers, onions. It arrived in a blue and white Chinese bowl, two overflowing steamed buns, stuffed full of tender caramelised meat, spicy mayonnaise, fresh crunchy salad leaves, tangy pickled onions and peppers, and garnished with crispy fried onions. The smell, sight and taste was a sensory delight, and all talking at our table stopped as I concentrated solely on the food in front of me, enjoying every moment despite making an enormous mess! My mum, rather more healthily, tried the Variation of cabbage and winter truffle with lemon and black pepper. It was presented in a less organised fashion, but was cooked to perfection and tasted divine, the richness of the truffle paired with soft buttery cabbage.

For the sweet course we tried the Baked wild chocolate from Bolivia with sour cream, toffee ice cream, nuts and the Sabayonne of biodynamic lemons with vanilla ice-cream, meringues, olive oil. The chocolate pudding was dense and luxurious topped with a sticky toffee sauce and accompanied with contrasting silky ice-cream on a bed of crushed nuts. I adored the Sabayonne which was flavoured with strong citrus and yet carefully balanced with the sweet crumbly meringue and comforting vanilla ice-cream.

Before we left we had just enough time to enjoy a strong blend of Scandinavian coffee with chocolates and homemade Madeleines. I was already plotting which dishes I would try on my return visit! Matbaren is the best of both worlds: Michelin star standard food with a laid-back ambience.

More information and book a table here.

Many thanks to Visit Stockholm for their help with this trip.

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