The weather that evening was vile – all stormy and windy and with a windchill below zero – and I didn’t want to venture far from my hotel. I was staying in the Scandic Alvik and while there’s a good supermarket and good cafes nearby, there are few restaurants in the area. It’s in a good spot though as the train gets you into central Stockholm quickly but that night really was something; I needed somewhere to eat close by. I did note a cute restaurant at the end of the street by the water on Google maps and heck, that restaurant – Sjöpaviljongen – turned out to not just be by the water but on the water. They found a table for me right by the open fire (I must have looked like a drenched rat) and I am forever grateful to them for it. Service was exceptional that evening and I was made to feel most welcome.

Open Fire!

The selection of bread that was brought over was divine. My favourite was a sweet-ish dark bread that was utterly divine with lashings of the accompanying whipped butter. I could have eaten the whole lot if I didn’t have lots to look forward to.

Bread and Butter

My first course of Råbiff på svenskt gårdskött, ramslökskräm, betor, kapris och sommartryffel (Steak tartar on Swedish meat, ramsons, beetroots, capers and summer truffle, 165 SEK) was beautiful, all delicate little things tossed together with contrasts in every bite. Slivers of fried potato gave the whole mixture a lovely little crunch.

Råbiff på svenskt gårdskött, ramslökskräm, betor, kapris och sommartryffel

I was extremely happy with my Sjöpaviljongens fisk- och skaldjursgryta med aioli (Fish- and shellfish casserole with aioli, 199 SEK) – again another little break from cream. There was salmon, cod, another white fish I couldn’t identify, shrimps, crayfish, and mussels all mixed up in this tomato based broth with fennel, onions and dill. A little slurp of soup, a little dollop of aioli on my fish….mmm… I’m salivating just thinking about this.

Sjöpaviljongens fisk- och skaldjursgryta med aioli

It was lovely and cosy in there and I wished I didn’t need to head back to hotel! The photo below shows you the inside and its coziness reminded me of many of the traditional Swedish restaurants I visited when I visited West Sweden a few years back.

Sjöpaviljongen

I loved the place so much I returned later that week for another dinner, this time with colleagues. And this time the weather was gorgeous (such a change less than a week later!) and we had drinks prior to the meal on the deck on the water. We could look out upon the calm waters across to Kristineberg (another Stockholm district).

This time I started with Toast Skagen med kalixlöjrom (Toast with a mix of prawns, dill and mayonnaise and a fish roe topping, 129 SEK), quite a common classic Swedish starter.

Toast Skagen

I was really looking forward to my main course of Biff Rydberg med rå äggula och senapsgrädde (Biff Rydberg with egg yolk and creamy mustard, 259 SEK); I was thinking about it all day since we had to choose our dishes in advance for such a large group. This was fabulous – a kind of luxurious version of the classic Swedish pyttipanna, which is a hash of potatoes, onions, and meat. And here there was fried potatoes, fried onions, fried pieces of fillet steak and a raw egg to hold it all together. Oh, and a butter sauce. Delicious.

Biff Rydberg

A final photo of the restaurant!

Sjöpaviljongen

If you go, do make a booking if you can – the best way to contact them is via their email address on their website.

Sjöpaviljongen
Tranebergs Strand 4
167 40 Bromma
Stockholm
Sweden

Apparently Friday nights are taco nights in Sweden. There’s some understanding (thanks to a clearly ridiculously successful marketing campaign) that Friday nights are for cosy nights in with tacos (or pizza) and junk food; there’s even a word for it – Fredagsmys (cosy Friday). Swedish tacos are … very different from Mexican tacos and perhaps are more similar to those eaten of the Old El Paso kit variety here in the UK. Actually there are some clear differences from these as well as this hilarious Reddit post illustrates.

Anyway, I thought of this tradition as I munched away on some excellent Mexican food in Sweden. We’ll rewind to half an hour prior to proper tacos – after a few days of butter and cream, I couldn’t face another very rich cream-laden Swedish meal. I contemplated the highly rated vegan Chinese place near my Airbnb flat but when I saw the reviews for La Neta, a Mexican joint just a little further walk away, tacos tacos tacos consumed my mind.

The restaurant on Barnhusgatan is tiny – it’s a basement joint with a large kitchen (I believe they make their tortillas on site) and shared dining tables and a counter by the window. Queue at the till, place your order, find a seat, and pick up your order when your buzzer goes.

I had one each of the tacos on offer that day: Tacos de Pastor (marinated pork with pineapple), Suadero (a slow cooked beef), Bistec (grilled steak). They were 22 kr each and were served on homemade corn tortillas.

Tacos

Of course, tacos are not complete without a salsa bar – and I’m glad to report that La Neta had a little one! I added the chopped onions and coriander and helped myself to the green and red salsas on offer. From what I can see on Instagram, their salsas are made fresh each day. They were perfect – the tacos and the salsas. The meats were all tender and flavourful and tacos just looked right. An aside: I read recently that La Neta was opened by two natives of Monterey, California, both of whom missed the Mexican food they could get easily back home – these were legit tacos.

Tacos and Salsas

There were quesadillas too.

Quesadillas

had a Rajas (poblano chili, courgette, corn, onion and philadelphia – 28 kr) …

Rajas

… and a Choripapa (potato, chili, onion and chorizo – 28 kr). Both were excellent and of note was the Mexican chorizo which was totally on point.

Choripapa

My Mexican dinner hit the spot – and fret not, I went straight back to trying more Swedish foods after my palate was refreshed here. There are freshly made tortilla chips and larger tacos in flour tortillas too. And you can even buy their freshly made corn tortillas by the kilo. I love this place!

La Neta
Barnhusgatan 2
111 23, Stockholm

There’s a second branch on Södermalm.

The first thing that comes to mind when Sweden is brought up is probably meatballs. Or Ikea. Or Ikea meatballs. Of course, on a week-long trip to Stockholm (for business and leisure), there’d be plenty of time to try the real thing. I had my first meatballs on this trip at Meatballs for the People, a meatball-loving pub/restaurant located in the trendy area of SoFo (south of Folkungagatan) in Södermalm.

Untitled

I visited for lunch and there was a short menu of traditional Swedish meatballs, a Caesar salad with rooster meatballs, and an open-faced meatball sandwich. One of the first for me please! This was also my first experience with the lunch deals in Stockholm. I placed my order for my meatballs and the total price with a drink came to about 130 SEK. I waited for my lunch, there were little stations around to help yourself to homemade pickles, bread (and knäckebröd) and butter, and after your meal, biscuits with coffee. Lovely!

Swedish Meatballs!

My bowl of beautifully tender meatballs came with a little hill of mashed potatoes, lingonberries, pickled cucumber slices, and plenty of the usual cream gravy. I loved the lingonberries, clearly just fresh berries cooked gently with a little sugar; they made for a sweet-tart pop beside the creamy gravy and potatoes. Highly recommended!

They also sell their meatballs (quite a few varieties from what I could see that day) to have at home.

Meatballs for the People
Nytorgsgatan 30
116 40 Stockholm
Sweden

I love thin crust pizzas. Not the thinner than deep pan kinds but the really, really thin ones….the ones we had at Pizzeria La Montecarlo in Rome. While the cracker thin crust I recalled wasn’t exactly achieved at Pizza Union, it makes a good attempt at these thin crust Roman-style pizzas. And they’re extremely budget friendly!

Pick Up

The most expensive pizza on the menu at Pizza Union is £6.50; the cheapest is £3.95. For that price, you get a large thin-crust pizza that is plenty for one for a meal. If you need dessert, there’s a sweet dough ring with mascarpone and nutella (I didn’t try it but it looked amazing) or gelato from Oddono’s. We started with drinks and olives while we waited for the buzzer to go off, letting us know when to pick up our pizzas.

Olives and San Pellegrino

My Calabria, with mascarpone, spicy n’duja sausage and rocket, was excellent with plenty of each ingredient. The n’duja gave a lovely punch to the crisp pizza. Again, not the thinnest but thin enough. If you’re expecting soft, fluffy Neapolitan-style pizzas, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Calabria

Blai’s Regina, with parmesan, ham, mushrooms and olives, was a classic and I think the layer of melting cheese worked well with the crisp base. Oozy cheese, crispy base. Yes.

Regina

For dessert, we shared a tub of gelato (£2.50) which was generously filled though a little denser than we like it – unlike freshly scooped. But like everything else on the menu, it’s very good value.

The place does fill up quickly on a Saturday night (when we went) but with lots of communal tables, you’re sure to find a seat; the pizzas also fly out so turnaround is quick. I like it very much.

Pizza Union
246-250 Pentonville Road
King’s Cross
London N1 9JY

There’s a second branch in Spitalfields.

We were wandering around Covent Garden when I recalled a restaurant that a friend had recommended to me – On the Bab. We trotted over there for a light dinner early that evening and found it absolutely rammed with Korean and Chinese students. They sure can sniff out a good place for a meal!

And good it was, selling the kind of Korean food that’s a little bit junky, a little bit trendy, and a whole lot of popular. Korean fried chicken has to be on that list of course. This was their Yangyum chicken – sweet spicy (small – £5.5). Larger orders on other tables seemed to include extra salads. The chicken was good though a little swamped by the sauce. I enjoyed it though.

Yangyum Chicken - Sweet Chilli

Bab Twigim – Korean style kimchi and cheese arancini (£3.8) were very moreish and contained that very trendy combination of kimchi and mild melty cheese. Cheese (this mild stuff at least) does seem quite popular in Korea, showing up on all manner of spicy dishes.

Kimchi Arancini

Kimchi and cheese egg muffin (£3.5) came highly recommended from my friend and whatever I was expecting, it sure wasn’t this! This had been made in some mould with the kimchi and again that mild melting cheese (similar to an American mozzarella) had been cooked within a soft pancake-like batter. Excellent.

Kimchi and Cheese Egg Muffin

On the Bibimbab (£7.5) didn’t come in a stone bowl but was still very tasty with its multitude of ingredients. Of course, a hot stone bowl would have made it all better…

On the Bibimbab

In all, a solid place for a Korean meal in an unlikely location – Covent Garden. The only downside is how cramped the restaurant is, with neighbouring tables really pushed up against each other. But still, I’d like to try more from the menu! There are two other branches in addition to the Covent Garden one.

On the Bab
36 Wellington Street
Covent Garden
London WC2E 7BD

I’ve been procrastinating writing up my lunch at Hoppers because…well, it was a very meh meal. I’ve been looking for an occasion to go as I knew we’d need to queue for a table but I was really looking forward to our Sri Lankan/South Indian meal once a date was set. We waited for ages on a Saturday lunchtime for a table as we were four people – things moved quicker if you’re just two. When we finally sat down, it was at one of the tiny tables at the back and I hope they’ve been improved since our visit in late January. Drinks came quickly though watch out as the juices really are minuscule.

Drinks

Our starters were a mixed bag. The Bonemarrow Varuval, Roti (£5.5) looked brilliant and while the curried bone marrow was indeed amazing, the accompanying roti was somewhat hard and chewy. Well, that didn’t stop me spooning the marrow directly into my mouth.

Bonemarrow Varuval, Roti

Mutton Rolls (£4.5) were excellent and served with a spiced ketchup-like sauce.

Mutton Rolls

Lamb Kothu Roti (£8.5) was fine – quite a nice kothu roti though this could have done with a bit more of the roti!

Lamb Kothu Roti

String Hoppers, Kiri Hodi, Pol Sambol (£4) were generally very good. The kiri hodi, a coconut milk gravy, was lovely but the pol sambol, a fresh coconut sambol, didn’t have the freshness and flavour I expected.

String Hoppers, Kiri Hodi, Pol Sambol

Chicken Heart Chukka (£4.5) was amazing – this spicy stir fry of chicken hearts, chicken bites, tomatoes and beans hit the spot.

Chicken Heart Chukka

Our plates were cleared and trays then arrived with our main dishes – the hoppers and dosas and the curries too. Hoppers! Here’s a Hopper (£3) with a Black Pork Kari (£5.5). The pork curry was excellent and had us (ok, me) scraping the bowl clean.

Hopper

Here’s an Egg Hopper (£3.5) with the chutney set – Pol Sambol, Seeni Sambol, Coriander Chutney (£1.25).

Egg Hopper

And here’s a Dosa (£3) with its chutney set – Coriander Chutney, Tomato Chutney, Coconut Chutney (£1.25).

Dosa

And here’s a Podi Dosa (£3.5) – it’s a dosa but with podi on its inside surface. Podi is a spicy powdered mixture of chili powder and lentils that is lovely and here it was fiery hot. Fish Kari (£6) was good but not as good as the pork curry.

Podi Dosa

Unfortunately, it was the curries that were the stars rather than the hoppers, dosas or chutneys. Their namesake hoppers were tough rather than crisp at the edges. Likewise, the dosas were hard and chewy. The chutneys were generally ok but weren’t as flavourful as the sambols I’ve had from other Sri Lankan restaurants and takeaways.

Now this is the part of the post that is like the nostalgia bit…for desserts are no longer available at Hoppers. We were told that the kitchen is very small and desserts were going to be removed from the menu for them to concentrate on the savouries. Well, we took that opportunity to share a roasted rice kulfi

Roasted Rice Kulfi

… and a Sri Lankan classic, wattalapam. Both were excellent! The wattalapam was smooth and sweet while all the bits and pieces and jellies and fruit and rose flavouring with the kulfi made it a fun eat.

Wattalapam

Overall, it was a mixed bag which is such a shame. Well, on second thought, it’s saved me from queuing again for yet another trendy restaurant in central London!

Hoppers
49 Frith Street
London W1D 4SG

We both happened to have the Valentine’s weekend free and thought we’d have that weekend away for a bit of a mini-break. We chose the town of Arundel with its magnificent castle though our timing was entirely wrong – the castle doesn’t open to the public before Easter! Still, there was plenty of walking through Arundel Park (bordering the South Downs), various antique shops to browse, and many excellent cafes to while away the time.

There was also one excellent dinner at The Parsons Table, run by a very experienced couple who spent time in London and Canada before returning to the UK to start their own restaurant.

I loved the space, which was apparently the former stables of the castle. The restaurant has only been open for a couple of months, tucked away between little boutique shops, and it’s larger than its exterior suggests, with tables spaced generously apart. Do book ahead; all the tables were taken that Saturday evening, which wasn’t a surprise given the occasion. I had chosen this restaurant based not only on reviews but also that they didn’t force a Valentine’s set menu on everybody that weekend. The only concession to Valentine’s seemed to be a big vase of red roses and a small selection of extra dishes only available that weekend. We mixed and matched selections from their regular menu and this Valentine’s one.

Warm bread and butter was set down after we ordered. Slices of sourdough and a rosemary bread were brilliant. Good start.

Bread and Butter

Pulled Ham Hock Croquetes, TPT Piccalilli were beautiful. These perfect spheres were chock full of shredded ham with the tangy pickles perfectly matching the croquetes’ richness.

Pulled Ham Hock Croquetes, TPT Piccalilli

Quail Ravioli with Mushroom Juswas off the Valentine’s menu. These fat parcels were clearly homemade and were served with a good amount of wild fungi.

Quail Ravioli with Mushroom Jus

Slow Cooked Beef Cheek (Bourguignon) was a special that day that had nothing to do with Valentine’s day…. They just happened to have some nice beef cheeks in, I guess! And I’m glad we ordered this as that beef check was just melting away and its gravy was perfect with the pureed potatoes and vegetables. A couple of lardons and mushrooms were the nod towards the Bourguignon style.

Slow Cooked Beef Cheek (Bourguignon)

Pan Roasted Loin of Sussex Coast Cod, Saffron and Cured Tomato Risotto, Padano Cheese was from the regular menu. The combination sounded like perhaps an odd mixture – I don’t think I’ve ever had fish with risotto or risotto with tomato. But it worked as the tomatoes provided the acidity for the fish.

Pan Roasted Loin of Sussex Coast Cod, Saffron and Cured Tomato Risotto, Padano Cheese

Again from the Valentine’s specials was the Assiette of Desserts, a selection to share for two. There was a chocolate ganache tart, a slice of lemon tart, a white chocolate cannolo on poached rhubarb, and a scoop of rum and raisin ice cream. Everything was excellent but of particular note was the cannolo with rhubarb. I’ve only just recently learned to appreciate rhubarb and these tender pieces were superb.

Assiette of Desserts

With Blai’s post-meal tea also came a couple of perfectly crumbly buttery biscuits. I think I may have scoffed them both!

Biscuits

The bill for all the food (but not service) came to a very reasonable (approximate) £60. I’m not sure what I expected from Arundel but they’re lucky to have such a fabulous place on their doorsteps.

I definitely hope to return … perhaps later in the year to see the castle too!

The Parsons Table
2 & 8 Castle Mews
Tarrant Street
Arundel, West Sussex
BN18 9DG

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