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This is the story of how one signature dish made me book an entire trip to Stockholm. It all began in Oslo back in October last year, at a special event initiated by Mikael Svensson of Kontrast. At that point, I had no idea I would be dining in a castle seven months later. Görvälns Slott is an old manor in the municipality of Järfälla just outside of Stockholm, dating back to the early 15th century. Today, Görvälns Slott is a boutique hotel and restaurant, and a destination that food travelers should get their eyes up for. The dinner at this castle was the main target for our foodie trip to Stockholm in May this year. It’s where we spent the first night before we embarked on a full tour of the Swedish capital.
The Head Chef: Stefan Ekengren
Stefan Ekengren is the head chef at Görväln Slott. He’s also the only chef I know that writes a blog. Check it out. Almost a year ago, Stefan served us an onion soup at the Chef’s Dinner at Kontrast. Sounds simple enough, right? Not for chef Ekengren. It came in a mortar, with a disc of bread as a lid that we used the pestle to break. Once crushed it revealed the soup underneath, which consisted of a pork broth, several types of onions and now also the crunchy pieces of the malt bread. We all agreed it was the best dish of the night, and the best onion soup we ever tasted, and I decided there and then that I would visit this chef’s restaurant wherever it was located!
The Ride: Uber Black
Fast forward a few months and the seats were reserved. Strategically booked in a much warmer season, when it’s lovely in Sweden. We took an Uber from Arlanda airport and drove straight to the city center of Stockholm for a quick lunch at Mathias Dahlgren – Matbaren. In order to get to Görvälns Slott, we considered taking the bus, but it felt wrong to arrive at a castle by such petty transportation. Thus, another Uber was ordered and by sheer luck, we got an Uber Black as a bonus! I love when that happens.
The Castle Gardens
How often do you get to dine in an old manor, or sleep and live in the luxurious surroundings of a bygone era? At least that’s not the average vacation for us. Hence, our plan was to get to Görvälns Slott as early as possible to get the most out of the day. We walked in the castle gardens, picked flowers, relaxed in the grass and was struck by the beautiful view.
The Royal Cocktail Bar
After licking some sun outside, we venture into the main castle building and up to the 2nd floor. Each room was decorated with a separate color scale, but all in a modern kind of Baroque style. In the far northern corner, we found a cocktail bar! The mixologist behind the bar, Adam, asked which kind of flavor profile we were looking for. We both wanted something refreshing, acidic and not too sweet. To sit on the castle balcony and zip to a cocktail in the warm summer weather is one of the best moments this year. Decent cocktails. Perfect surroundings.
The Grand Deluxe Room No. 32
There was never a doubt in my mind when I checked the website of Görvälns Slott. I wanted us to have the Grand Deluxe room no. 32 in the north wing. The room is equipped with a huge bed, a bathtub, a fireplace and the perfect view of lake Mälaren outside. It’s not all antique decorations at Görvälns Slott, though, which would have been even cooler in my opinion. Obviously, it would also have been a helluva lot more expensive. We found peace and quiet in our room – and a bottle of sparkling wine! The perfect warm-up for the dinner that awaited us.
The Dinner in the Gallery
Finally, it was time for the main attraction: the dinner in the gallery of Görvälns Slott. We walked outside the north wing and headed for the main building, but got distracted by one of the most beautiful sunsets of 2016. Inside the gallery, the menu was presented in a golden picture frame. Behind us, the wall was completely covered in paintings! I guess the idea of the gallery is to present the guests with art wherever they look – especially on the plates, of course.
Our sommelier and waiter this evening, Rebecka Lithander, welcomed us and showed us to our table. She would become a very good friend during the course of the meal since she served us the most wonderful wines. A good mix of natural and traditional wines, with a slight lean towards natural wines it seemed. That suited our palates very well. We loved her liquid recommendations to go with the dishes of Stefan Ekengren and the rest of the team in the kitchen. A great gang of chefs, by the way. I recommend to follow them on Instagram and Snapchat, if they allow you, for a great behind the scenes look at the life in a restaurant kitchen. Check in particular the sous chef Martin Lindmark, Niklas Ekholm and the Finnish guy.
Stefan started the show by serving us a selection of snacks. Among them the most crispy and perfect Hasselback potato I have ever tasted. Topped with “löjrom” (vendace roe), sour cream and dill. The kitchen continued with a warm, green tomato soup poured over oysters and turnips. Then, small pieces of white asparagus with toppings that made it look like sushi. There was a lot of action going on tableside. So far the presentations were A-level.
After a very tasty dish of herring and caviar, the new version of the mortar and pestle dish arrived. The seasonal variety was a broth made of different weeds from the garden: nettles, angelica, lovage, ground elder and garlic-mustard. Stefan had named it “weed sandwich.” The moment the smell of that broth reached my nose I knew that the long journey to Järfälla from Oslo was all worth it – just to have this signature dish once more.
Our sommelier, Rebecka, had served us the French cider “This Side Up” to go along with the weed soup. A nice pairing! Looking at the menu we realized the meal was just getting started. This was gonna be a tough ride, both in terms of the amount of food and the volume of wine. A great example of a first world problem, by the way, as you can always choose not to finish everything. I am just bad at that.
What’s the longest you’ve traveled for a signature dish? Please leave a comment below.
Please note: Stefan Ekegren is no longer the head chef at this restaurant.
This was part of a sponsored trip with Visit Sweden. The sponsor had no influence on the content of this article. I received no monetary payment. The post contains an affiliate link to booking.com.