March is perhaps the most depressing month of the year – or at least the second, after November. But when it’s depressing weather outside, what better than to book a nice cozy restaurant to cheer up your weekend. Here are a few recommendations, from three different price classes, that I have visited in the past month.
Bargain – Rinos Bodega
This is a casual tapas restaurant and bar by the same owner as Älvsjös gift to Stockholm’s food scene, Aloe. Rinos is in the cellar of the same building as the prized restaurant. It has a very relaxed feel: quirky decor like stuffed animals and pin pall machines. In the bar they have a large screen playing movies from the 80’s, like Star Wars and Pretty Woman. The menu is tapas-like with mid sized plates like Asian tartar, Tom Kha Gai, fish tacos and Calamares. The recommendation is three to four dishes per person, all dishes are 125kr which is actually a steal for Stockholm. Additionally the beer and wine lists are fairly interesting. I would have hoped for some more funky stuff though, like orange or nature wines. I think they would have matched well with the food. Rinos is quite far from the center of Stockholm, but it is worth the tube and the buss ride, even in freezing weather.
Mid-range – Portal
I think we have booked a table at this restaurant at least six times, but always had to cancel – for various reasons. Finally we made it there, accompanied by great expectations. Portal is the restaurant of Clas Lindberg, winner of the Chef of the Year award and one of the few who have managed the kitchen at the Nobel banquette. The feel of the restaurant is warm and European – it is the perfect little place to sneak into, to escape the cold weather. For a few minutes, I forget I am in Sweden, and that it’s minus 15 degrees (Celsius) outside. We are greeted with a wine list by the glass and a warm smile. The selection is not very innovative, but the quality is solid: champagne, some white Bourgogne, Pinot Noir and one very curious Sangiovese that is lovely and light. The style of food is French(y): grilled seafood, quality meat and vegetables from the restaurants own garden; lemon tart and Pavlova for dessert. Execution is very good, but a bit unexciting. The only real minus were the other quests at the restaurant. It was Friday evening, and it seemed that people had forgotten what normal speaking volume is – several tables around us had some kind of shouting competition going on. Or maybe noise just travels fast in the tall space. All in all, very recommended for a cozy meal when its cold outside.
Splurge – Mathias Dahlgren Matbaren
This is one of my favorite restaurants in Stockholm. Mathias Dahlgren never lets you down – thus his star is well deserved. Matbaren is a semi-casual bistro in the center of Stockholm. The space has a cozy and unpretentious ambiance (rare for a star chef). Tables are for those who reserve early, and the bar seats available for last minute bookings and walk-ins. The kitchen is open – all food is made right there in the same space as guests dine, and Mathias Dahlgren himself can be spotted walking around chatting and checking how things are going. The menu is varied with medium sized dishes of meat, fish and vegetables. After the opening of Dahlgrens vegan restaurant, Rutabaga, next door, even Matbaren has beefed up the number of meat and fish -free dishes. It is about half-half and I find the vegetarian options often more exciting. The wine list at Matbaren is awesome, but its not cheap. A glass of house champagne 200kr, which I am ok to pay for if it’s something new (or if its Selosse). The wine list by the glass is always interesting. Dahlgren seems like a fan of good Chardonnay and light reds, so we are a good match. There is also a specialty wine list with more expensive bottles that can be accessed with the Coranvin. This is a real treasure chest, but prices by the glass start from 250kr. Additionally the sommelier always keeps some extra bottles of interesting wines behind the counter that cannot be found on the list, so make sure to ask what “else” is open.