Legendary Burgers at Oljebaren

Stockholm is the city of food trends and there is nothing more trendy than a good burger. To be honest, getting hyped about a burger is a bit passé, but I don’t believe it will ever really go out of fashion. If you want to get a yummy burger in Stockholm, there are several good places, Oljebaren being one of the traditional ones. This gastro pub will however close it’s doors in November, so you should hurry to have a bite before it is too late.

Oljebaren is located in the heart of Vasastan close to the St. Eriksplan station. The front of the bar does not demand much attention, but when peaking in it invites to stay. The restaurant has a spacious ground floor (cramped with tables) and a small upstairs. There is a long bar with seating, so one can also enjoy a dinner with a view over the action. Even on a Monday the bar was fully packed with people. The ambiance is cozy and gives a home-kitchen kind of feel. We were a party of three with a pushchair and the staff really made a great effort to cramp up in with all of our bearings. I must say the helpful attitude made a good impression on me.

I can see familiar bottles on the wall
I can see familiar bottles on the wall

The wine list was actually quite interesting, even though I would have assumed that this is more of a beer place. They had a cava by the glass, Pere Ventura Primer Brut Reserva, for 85 SEK. This was a very pleasant surprise as Pere Ventura is the brother of Oscar and Xavier Ventura, whom are behind the Llagrima d’Or and Peret Fuster cavas that we sell (they have quite a large family). The taste was fresh with green apple, citrus and orange blossoms. Good value for money I would say. The other bubbly by the glass was the Drappier Carte d’Or for 99 SEK. I really like the style of the house of Drappier so this is, to my opinion, a steal for champagne in Stockholm.

The burger in all it's glory
The burger in all it’s glory

The burger was, well, fantastic! The beef was perfectly medium rare, the home-baked bread soft and all other fillings (like the sauce and Gryerge-cheese) fresh and of high quality. The burger came with lovely sides of crunchy fries and fresh coleslaw. No party tricks or glamour, just an honest traditional burger. As a companion to the burger we ordered beer. The list was good as is normal in Stockholm (the Swedes like their Micro-brewery beer) and we ended up ordering some Dugges Saison and Brew Dog IPA’s. It is a shame this place will close, but luckily there are many other burger places in town. I however recommend to visit while you still have the chance.

Art and Afterwork at Magnolia

It is Thursday and I should be writing to you about cocktails. Well I hadn’t thought it as far as I should have, as I am all out of cocktail ideas. Or yes, I have many places on my mind that I could review, but I have no pictures to spice up the post. So perhaps I need to admit defeat and give up the cocktail Thursday tradition. For now. But no worries cocktail fans, I will still write about it, but just not as frequently as I have before. Today I thought about writing a small review about a place I visited recently, Magnolia Café in Södermalm (Stockholm)

It was just a small afterwork event. I was on my way to dinner with a friend, when we decided to stop by a Yelp Social for a pre-drink at Magnolia Café. For those of you who do not know Yelp it is a community with online reviews of mainly restaurants, bars etc but also a lot of local business. There is also a lot events being arranged. Agnes, the Yelp Community Manager in Stockholm, told me that this is a place she often comes to sit with the laptop and that they have small tapas and some cava on offer. There is also an art gallery in the other room and they sell some cool T-shirts and other artsy stuff.

The AW offer was four tapas accompanied by a glass of Jaume Serra Brut Nature cava for 100 SEK (12 Eur). Not bad at all here in Stockholm. The tapas were nothing special but they looked yummy and were made from good ingredients. That is really all you need. There were only three options of tapas, all slices of baguette with toppings. I chose two with chanterelles, one with chopped fresh olives and one with cream cheese. As anticipated the fresh chanterelles were the best. The cava was dry with a hint of minerals. It did not have much complexity and there was this metallic character to it. Nevertheless it was enjoyable as an AW drink with some salty finger food. I would not buy a bottle of it, but the glass was empty pretty fast (so I must have liked it a little bit at least).

The ambience is pleasant, slightly quirky, and the café is located just off Hornsgatan close to Mariatorget. Its a nice location with not too many tourists finding their way to the side street. The art on the wall gives character and the service is extremely friendly. I highly recommend stopping by for a tapas or two (or four and a glass of cava).

Bloody Mary Bliss at Geronimos FGT

I must confess, I have never been a true fan Bloody Mary. Tomato juice and celery, not my favorite combination and I have not always been convinced that it actually does much to balance (or hide) the flavor of alcohol but sometimes rather enhances it. However, as I have discovered with many drinks (and foods), it is not until you actually taste it ‘well made’ before you realize that you have been wrong all along.

A few weeks back, I received an invite from my friends at Yelp to join them for some cocktails an early evening at a bar, Geronimos FGT, in the old town of Stockholm that is, trying at least, to build a name for themselves with among other things an excellent Bloody Mary. Despite the choice of drink, I went, as it is the good company that was most important. Also, I heard some rumors that Geronimos Bloody Mary is well worth a try. The bar is underground, decorated with stuffed mounted animals and other ornaments from the prairie. There is a lot of space to sit down and even a nice chambre séparée, so this place is good for groups. A stage in the corner suggest that there are also bands playing now and then. All in all a nice looking bar, not perhaps my style, but still nice.

The entrance
The entrance
The stage
The stage
Chambre Separée
Chambre Separe
Some mood lighting
Some mood lighting

The menu is some sort of mix fast food Mexican and American food with some inspiring details. There is slightly more effort put into using herbs, spices and good produce than at the your average taco stand. However it is still simple enough dishes for an honest after work meal. We ordered one Bloody Mary special (a Bloody Mary with a hamburger sticking out of it – yes, you read it right, a hamburger), some tacos and a burger. We also tried the Mexican Mule (a tequila-version of a Moscow Mule). The cocktails were great! The Bloody Mary tasted like a spicy gazpacho and the Mexican Mule was fresh with lime and ginger. To my disappointment, the Bloody Mary started tasting a bit too diluted after a while, I think it had a bit too much ice in it and it was perhaps not properly mixed as the alcohol flavor came through strongly at times . Next time round I will have a Virgin Mary as I think it will actually be tastier. The food was as expected, good but not great. Value for money wise it is ok for Stockholm, but be aware that some of the dishes (like the tacos) are quite small.

Tiny Tacos
Tiny Tacos
The Bloody Mary Special
The Bloody Mary Special

All in all mission accomplished: my feelings towards Bloody Mary have perhaps softened a bit and I am curious to try out some more if I see potential. So please don’t be shy to share all of your favorite Bloody Mary hangouts in the comments box. I heard of some place in New York that had a stick of crispy bacon accompanying the celery in the Bloody Mary. That sounds awesome! What comes to Geronimos, I might be back. Taco Tuesdays, with 25 SEK tacos, sounded like something that could tickle my fancy.

Cocktails at the Black Swan, Singapore

It is cocktail Thursday again; and even though it’s soon two months since our trip to Asia, I still have places to review. Today we have something cool for the banker types, the Black Swan in the Central Business District (CBD) of Singapore.

We were originally headed for the Powder room, which is a separate lounge inside the Black Swan. It is run by the same owner, so the cocktail list is pretty much the same. Unfortunately we were misguided by false information on their website and the Powder room was not open on a Monday. So we went for the second best thing, the bar at the Black Swan itself. It is a pretty venue, so I didn’t mind, as long as I got my cocktails. The Black Swan is located in a 1930’s Art Deco space, the former home of the Kwangtung Provincial bank, so it is worth visiting just for the look of it.

The drinks list is original, not your average Mojito but not as innovative as some of the other places I have reviewed (like Operation Dagger). I went for a Pie in the Sky with apple, rhubarb, orange bitters and some bubbly; and M for the Salty Sea Dog with house spiced-rum, ginger syrup, orgeat, fresh pineapple juice and angostura bitters. Both drinks were good, but perhaps a bit uninspiring after the week of crazy innovative cocktails in the speakeasy scene of Singapore. The prices were not that bad though with 19 SGD being on the lower side of what we had paid for our drinks in the past week. A friend of ours who came to help with the sampling opted for a beer as he was not too fond of the sweet flavors clearly dominant on the drinks list. Fruity is not for everyone.

You can also order food at the bar, and they seemed to have some Happy Hour oysters on promotion. We had just had dinner (and I don’t really like oysters anyway), so we skipped the snacks this time, but in general I like having the option to eat something in between my cocktails. Perhaps next time I can try out the food menu.

We were not that impressed, so we skipped the second round of drinks (and headed for Hong Kong 28). I am not saying the drinks were bad, but they were just plain boring in look and flavors compared to everything else we had had that week. In general the bar is nice, and I could imagine sitting there with colleagues after a long day at the office (if I worked in Singapore). This is definitely the place for groups as there is much more space than in many of the other cocktail spots in the city. However there are better places if you look at quality or creativeness of drinks, so depending on the company the Black Swan would perhaps not be my top choice.

Happy Hour at Verre

Singapore has many wine bars, but not an abundance of wine bars with good selection of wines. Or perhaps more accurately at least not that offer wines at a decent price. You can’t believe how many times we just saw “red and white wine” written on the menu, nothing about the name or grapes, just “red and white” as if it was just one drink (like Coca Cola). We are curious, but not that curious that we would have ordered a pig in a bag. On the other side, there were restaurants with some excellent wines for horrendous prices that really took away the joy of ordering a glass. Verre is a great contribution to fill in the gap. It is a wine bar/restaurant located in the semi-touristy expat area of Robertson Quay with a good selection of wine at decent prices.

Verre has both nice outdoor seating area as well as a fairly large dining room. It was never very busy when I was there and we were able to get a nice table without reservations. Service was always friendly and fast which earns Verre a big extra plus from me.

The wine selection still makes me smile. I counted 8 reds and 8 whites by the glass and 1 sparkling. That’s pretty good in comparison to some wine bars here in Stockholm or London. The prices are very reasonable to start with and their happy hour it is really great value for money (from 4-7 pm on weekdays and 4-6 pm on weekends) with buy 1 get 1 free offer on the wines by the glass and some beers. Their champagne by the glass is for example the excellent Guy Charlemagne Brut (a review of their vintage 2008 click here ) and at 18 SGD for 2 glasses it is excellent value for money. We also tasted an interesting red, 2010 Miette (mix of Shiraz, Grenache, Mataro) from Barossa Valley, Australia (review here).
The selection of wines by the bottle is also good, a lot from France but also from other parts of the world.

Verre also has a European inspired food menu with dishes like Boeuf Bourguignon, some pastas and and even pates. M tried a  Chicken pasta, but did not think it was anything outstanding. Not an issue as we came mainly for the wine anyway.

All in all one of my favorite spots in Singapore. I hope to be able to visit again soon.

Bubbly After Work at the Porcelain Shop

Friday again and time for after work! I love after work! Just the thought of it energizes me through a day of meetings and emails at the office. I actually love my job, but I love after work even a bit more.

Royal Copenhagen has been on the list of to-do’s for a while (since I moved to Stockholm). It’s a Café in the bottom floor of Mood Gallerian in connection with the Royal Copenhagen porcelain shop. The focus of the café is on Smörrebröd, a type of open-faced Danish sandwich that is just topped with heaps of meat, fish or other ingredients; but they do good coffee as well and have an interesting wine-list. The list is not very long, but they do seem to have a good taste when it comes to bubbly.

This specific time, we tried two of the champagnes (that we hadn’t tried before): Chateau del’Auche Cuvee Selection NV and Colin Cuvée Alliance NV, both decently priced under 130 SEK (in Stockholm this is a bargain). I must admit, I forgot to take notes, so my memory is failing me when it comes to the aromas and tastes, but I remember not thinking that much of them, neither good or bad. The Colin was a bit less flavorful than the Chateau del’Ache, so if you go and want to try the champagnes, start with the Colin. They also have a wonderful cava on the list: Cava Xenius Brut NV from Penedes.  If someone asks me where they should go for a glass of Cava in Stockholm, this is one of my top recommendations. The wine list rotates, so there is often something new to try.

There are also some wonderful dishes on the menu. I went for a Swedish meat pancake. What a wonderful concept I must say: A pancake topped with (a lot of) crispy bacon and some lingonberries on the side for freshness and acidity. The Danish sandwiches, Smörrebröd are also very good with different toppings: salmon, veal, and they have some other small snacks to fend away hunger. Value for money-wise, it’s as they say in Swedish “lagom” (medium). I think 75 SEK for a glass of good cava and ~120 for a glass of champagne is definitely not a rip-off.  The porcelain however, phooh, its expensive. Pretty, but not sure it’s worth the money. Porcelain is not really my style anyway. However, as a present, maybe, it would be something I would consider for a person who appreciates more old style romantic décor.

The only thing that really bothers me about this place is the service. Its friendly and professional, but for some reason amazingly slow, each and every time. And it’s when you realize that you are late for your next appointment, and you just want to pay fast and go, that’s when they screw up your bill, twice. And this is irrespective of person, it just seems always to be like that, regardless who is working or how many customers there are. Table service is not so common in cafes around here, so perhaps that is it. Otherwise, Royal Copenhagen is a great place to stop by when you are shopping or just hanging around in the center.

Wineweek 4

And its Sunday again! December is flying by and our company is still waiting for registrations. So this is the time to accept that our precious Llagrima d’Or will not be reaching customers for the festive season. It’s a shame, but it was to be expected. I can totally understand the entrepreneurs who talk about the frustration of bureaucracy. And its not the actual amount of paper-work, its the waiting. There have been several reasons for the delays we have faced: long queues, sick-leaves and the latest was a software meltdown at the Swedish tax agency. Are we unlucky, perhaps, but its unlikely; there seems to be a pattern here. We have day jobs, so this company is not going to be the bread-winner in our family (yet); but what about those people who give up their jobs (or don’t have jobs) to start a company. Our case may not be the typical one as we are starting up a business in one country and then registering it as a distance sales company in another country, but one can really wonder if it should take as much as four to six months to get all the paper work in order. Well, this post is not a cry out to the politicians (I can’t even vote here yet), it’s just a little thought I had especially when hearing how politicians tend to say they want to make it easier for people to start their own business.

To happier things. We finally extended our office wine-space with two new cabinets. We have previously relied on a Climadiff that fits 142 bottles. Well in reality it doesn’t fit as many, as bottles of sparkling wine tend to take more space (and I am a sucker for nice wine-boxes). But since the summer, we have been stocking the increasing amount of wine on the floor in cardboard boxes. Actually I have been so confused about what we have lying around that M was able to hide all the wine-calendar wines right in front of my eyes, in those cardboard boxes. Well, now our wines are in a proper order and storage, and there should be some space left for more. At least for a while.

Other events this week included the arrival and tasting of our Port wines from Viera de Sousa, a young, interesting winemaker from Sabrosa (Portugal); Champagne after-work at Royal Copenhagen in Mood Gallery and some Perrier Jouet as our Friday bubbly. More about those in the upcoming week. Wishing you all a happy and relaxing evening!