Shortly after our visit to the new Restaurant Frantzén the establishment received the first Swedish Michelin three-star rating that´s been in the pipeline for so long. Very well deserved and not entirely unsurprising. Nordic gourmet dining doesn´t really get better than this. While very happy for the chef and his team it´s still slightly disturbing. How will an ordinary guy like me ever get a reservation at this exceptional place again?
For some time now Stockholm has had it´s superstars when it comes to Michelin-style dining. One and two stars has been awarded but still no three-star establishment. Surprisingly Oslo and Copenhagen has beat us to that honour. That doesn´t mean that Stockholm hasn´t had (and still has) a series of genuinely outstanding restaurants.
One of the chefs fighting for the ultimate approval has been Björn Frantzén, with his small but extremely high-end restaurant in Stockholms Old Town. Going forward for this maverick chef included a prolonged closure of operations, while planning and designing a new centre for culinary excellence in the middle of town. Much more space on several floors, but still with a severely limited number of served clients per day.
Getting a table at this establishment literally means waiting online for the exact moment of the release of tables for the next month. A few minutes and it´s all booked. How I managed to get a reservation on a Friday night in January is actually beyond me. It might have had something to do with the chronically post-christmas empty wallets of the Swedes, and the fact that the place doesn´t seem to have been widely registered by gastronomically interested tourists yet. This is undoubtedly about to change and securing a reservation will probably only get harder.
The restaurant is situated in an old estate on the Klara Norra Kyrkogata in central Stockholm. A part of town previously known as a bohemian stronghold, as well as a sanctuary for artists. The actual property has been developed with the help of a considerable cash infusion from a domestic investor, and is worthy of it´s own story.
Our night at the new establishment began by ringing the doorbell of the stylish but deceptively simple street-level entrance. The door was immediately opened by an affable member of the staff, doing something I´ve never experienced in a Michelin restaurant before, namely shaking our hands and introducing himself by his first name. This was something that was continued all through the evening, as a stream of new faces appeared to guide us through the sensory rush of having dinner at the new Restaurant Frantzén.
After having our coats taken care of we were shown the way through a dimly lit corridor to an elevator, the overall impression of entering the restaurant in some respects reminiscent of our earlier visit to the fantastic Alinea in Chicago. A slightly disorienting experience that raised expectations of what was to come.
The first stop was the living room, with small groups of armchairs and sofas, as well as a cozy fireplace. Here small groups of guests were served wonderful amuse-bouches at a leasurely pace, before being treated to a display of the ingredients of the dinner to follow. After that we were led to the main dining room, where most of the magic was performed. A large L-shaped table facing the open kitchen where all the final preparations were done. Never a dull moment while watching the peerless dishes getting their last adjustments, often not finished until right before you at your table.
What followed was an incredible meal where every course was special and different from the others. Top notch produce, modern techniques never getting in the way of classical cooking, and a combination of aesthetics and taste not surpassed by any of the great restaurants we´ve previously visited in Sweden or abroad. For this particular evening we had decided to go totally alcohol-free, and got to try a series of in-house produced beverages characterized by lots of thought and innovation. Definitely recommended even if you´re like us not non-drinkers.
After this wonderful dinner we were again led to the living room for a seemingly endless row of desserts, pralines, sweets, fruit and a finish of coffee with a freshly baked cardamom bun. Absolutely stuffed to the gills, all we could do was relaxing by the fireplace and enjoying the end of a perfect evening.
While always being great and with ambitions way higher than most, the later incarnations of Restaurant Frantzén in the Old Town sometimes felt like a machine a little too well honed. Extreme gourmet dining perfectly choreographed to last for 2½ hours before the next batch of customers arrived made a certain bitter aftertaste taint the experience.
Nowadays it´s just an all on assault of all your senses. A whole night´s worth of perfection with extra everything. Regardless of the amounts of stars eventually awarded to this wonderful place it´s unique in every way. Things doesn´t get better than this. I can´t wait to go back and do it all again.
Here´s the menu in Swedish, please use Google translate or something similar to bring you up to speed.