A Night Out at the Apothecary

You might remember a few weeks back I mentioned we went for dinner at Pharmarium, a restaurant built in an old apothecary specializing in pairing cocktails with food. I have been somewhat fascinated with the concept. I like cocktails and I like food, why would they not fit together? Sadly there are not many restaurants that pass with flying colors in this area. Perhaps the best one I have been to is HKK in London that did a wonderful (non-alcoholic) juice flight with their tasting menu.

A cocktail bar serving food, that’s how Pharmarium markets its self. Emphasis clearly on the drinks, but also with an interesting menu. I have visited this restaurant several times and left happy. The space is decorated like an apothecary from the 18th century (the space used to be an apothecary) and there is a scent of herbs and spices in the air. As a Finn I immediately associate the lingering aroma of smoked birch tree to a Sauna. Oh my God I miss having a good Sauna. One would think that the Swedes would get it, but they don’t really have Saunas in apartment buildings in the city. If it were my choice we would have a Sauna or two just in our two bedroom flat. Back to Pharmarium: it is murky inside with light coming from candles and lanterns, perfect for creating a warm and cozy atmosphere. It feels great stepping inside from the crispy (read sh*t cold) weather outside.

The menu has a set of interesting cocktails and mid-sized dishes. This time the waiter suggested to order three to four dishes per person to fill our tummies, but we knew better from previous visits (and also from what the staff previously suggested) and settled with two to start with. The dishes are not all the same size, and some of them would easily go as a main course, at least for me. The chefs suggestions for food-cocktail pairings are in the back of the menu, but the staff are also very knowledgeable and will mix something special if you cant find anything to your liking on the list. There are also some nice beers and wines if you are not up for cocktails with the food, but I must say the drinks are the reason to come to this restaurant, the food comes second, so if you do not buy into the concept you may be better off going somewhere else.

We ordered some pulled pork tacos (Vietnamese style), charcuterie, sweetbread and snails with bone marrow. The food was mediocre, which was a surprise, as my previous visits have been much more positive. The hazelnut sauce in the tacos was way too overwhelming (could barely taste the pork), and the sweetbread was rare (WTF, we even asked if that was the intention of the chef and it was). I liked the snails and marrow and the charcutrie board, but they were nothing special.

But the drinks, they were wonderful. Original, tasty and well presented (as you can see from the pictures). Btw. check out the quality of the pictures (not edited). They were taken with my friends Samsung Galaxy S5, and boy am I jealous. I really had great expectations for my iPhone, but the Samsung was a clear winner in dim lighting. Thank’s Kaisa for letting me use these! Now back to the drinks. My favorite was the Dream Catcher. Some Gin, Lillet Blac, cucumber and rose cordial mixed together with Garam Masala house bitters. It came in a cute little bottle; and when opening the cork I finally understood why the whole restaurant smelled like a sauna. The aroma flowed like smoke out of the bottle making the whole experience quite exciting. Not to mention the drink was served warm. We also tried the Gin & House Tonic, Roses & Gold and the 5th Element. The GT and Roses and Gold were very good, but exactly what I always go for at a cocktail bar: fresh lemon and ginger notes mixed preferably with some bubbly. But the 5th Element, that was something different. Served in a copper cup, it was like a liquid dessert.

Yes, we had a fun evening out. I was a bit disappointed at the food, so I am not sure if I will have dinner there again. However, I am happy to pop by for some drinks (and a charcuterie board) any time. Another very positive note is that Pharmarium contributes nicely to the revival of the night life in Stockholm’s Old Town. Today (as opposed to a few years back) there are numerous really good places for wines, beers and cocktails. Gaston, 19 glas and Burgundy all offer interesting wines. Cocktails can be had at Pharmarium, TweedCorner Club and Pubologi. The Flying Elk as well as to some extent the new No 53 (more on that in a coming blog post) offer nice beverages as well. I am looking forward to seeing what else will pop up in 2015, as the charismatic Old Town has many great spaces, and plenty of visitors to fill up restaurants.

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