All I really want to do is take a vacation where I sit on the beach and do nothing for a week but for some reason, I keep getting talked into cold weather vacations. I can’t really complain, I’d rather go someplace cold than no place at all, so when a Swedish friend in New York asked a few of us if we wanted to spend New Year’s in Stockholm a few years back, we jumped at the chance. I will have to dedicate a real post to the trip but most of it involves snow and it’s just too soon for me to think about that right now!
While in Stockholm, we stayed at a fabulous boutique hotel, The Rival, owned by a former member of ABBA. It’s a really great place to stay and I will get to that in another post but while we were there, we made it a point to stop by The Grand Hotel for lunch one day. At that point, the Grand Hotel was nice but a bit dodgy and a little musty. A place your grandmother would enjoy but not anymore. The Grand Hotel has undergone a huge renovation and so have the restaurants. Mathias Dahlgren has opened two restaurants in the famed hotel and they are getting rave reviews not only for the food but for the decor, designed by the renowned British interior designer Ilse Crawford.
The gilded screen in the photos above was created by Studio Job and depicts culinary tools, Swedish icons and Viking ships and marks the entrance to the restaurant Mathias Dahlgren with a great flourish. It reminds me of all the wonderful cut wood crafts that you can find in the Scandinavian countries.
There are actually two restaurants, the first is Matsalen (“The Dining Room”), seen above. It is more formal yet also very simple and elegant. Just what you would expect for a Swedish interior, even if it was designed by a Brit.
In the more formal restaurant, Ilse Crawford chose finer finishes and products, including a Carlo Scarpa chandelier. Crawford says she “was drawn to the idea of a new Swedish kitchen that would be global and local without being, you know, fushion. I’m not a historicist. But I like the idea of DNA, and what was interesting was to find the Swedish roots, things that are incredibly evocative of the context, and take them forward.”
Matsalen also has reupholstered Grand Hotel chairs and a table designed by Carl Malmsten, one of the most famous furniture makers in Sweden. An interesting note is that the designer was apparently brought up in the house that is now the restaurant and made the table for his family in 1926 which means the table has never left the building!
The floors are a grey oak herringbone and the other tables created by Crawford have curvaceous iron bases and there are velvet covered Chesterfield sofas as banquettes.
In the more casual restaurant, Matbaren (“The Food Bar”), the cooking is more basic and classic and the decor is robust. “We used solid public spaces – feeling materials – zinc, oak paneling that gives you the feeling of a Stockholm bar, a tile floor adapted from the stairwell floors in the building (actually an adjacent 1878 residence annexed by the hotel),” says Crawford.
There is also a mix of Swedish and global she says citing the juxtaposition of rough 18th-century tables and with Jorn Utzon’s Tivoli pendant lights and red can-bottomed chairs by Vico Magistretti. Chef and owner Mathias Dahlgren claims the design is reminiscent of a typical Swedish farmhouse kitchen.
All I know is that after seeing this amazingly beautiful restaurant, I have to plan a summer trip to Stockholm. One when the sun is shining for almost the entire day and there is no snow on the ground!
Photos courtesy of The Grand Hotel