We push open the oak door of the new Frantzén at Klara Norra kyrkogata 26 in Stockholm. The facade is elegant and slightly mystical. Last year, the founder and owner, Björn Frantzén, decided to close down his two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Gamla Stan in order to relocate. A move that reportedly cost him 75 million Swedish kroner (SEK). At last, the year-long hiatus has come to an end.
– Welcome to Frantzén, smiles a young lady in the reception area on the ground floor.
She offers to hang our coats, then shows us through the next door, which glides open in a smooth movement. We stare down a dimly lit hallway with brick floors, dark walls, and complete silence.
– Press The Restaurant button in the elevator, we are instructed.
All we can hear as we walk down the entrance hall are our own foot steps. There is no light in the elevator, but we can spot two buttons and the lower one reads The Entrance. Hedda presses the top knob. Lights turn on as the door slides shut. Gentle music flows from the speakers. It’s the sound of Buffalo Springfield.
– There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear …
We are headed to the top floor of this completely renovated 19th-century building. The penthouse floor has been turned into a sleekly designed lounge area, complete with a terrace where guests can enjoy their aperitifs to an impressive view of Stockholm’s rooftops. Frantzén’s front of house team is expecting us and greet us warmly upon arrival. Head sommelier Anna Rönngren guides us across the carpet-clad floor over to one of the hand-carved wooden tables and velour-draped sofas next to the fireplace.
Apparently, the new Frantzén is five times larger than the original venue that was situated in Stockholm’s medieval city center. The lounge has an extravagant, yet cozy, living room feel. At the far end is a kitchen area where chefs are busy preparing our amuse bouche.
– Welcome to my new home, says Björn Frantzén, who suddenly appears next to us.
We shake his hand. He looks focused and ready. Despite the soft opening a few days prior, where big chef names like Eyvind Hellstrøm, Bo Bech, and Niklas Ekstedt attended, this is the big day. The world premiere for a paying audience.
– I’ve built my dream restaurant across three floors. You’ll start and finish here in the lounge. I hope you like it.
We hope so too! In fact, it feels like a celebration, so I end up choosing the Krug Grande Cuvée from Rönngren’s Champagne trolley.
– Ah, the King of Champagnes, she says.
I don’t ask for the price. How often do you get to drink such great labels anyway? Better close my eyes and pray for luck, right? Shortly after, Anna brings us the menus, which, at least, reveals all the other costs we should expect.
Juice pairings are SEK 900 and wine pairings are SEK 1650. We choose one of each to share. Less alcohol and a slightly cheaper bill combined make a win-win. The evening’s tasting menu will set us back SEK 3000 per head. If I should compare that to some other great restaurants we have visited recently, the price tag is equal to that of Sweden’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant Fäviken. The last time I booked a table there, I almost canceled when I saw the price tag. In the end, we decided that the experience, as a whole, was worth it – but just barely.
3000 Swedish kroner is also roughly equivalent to the price of the set menu of Saison in San Francisco – but they add a ridiculously high service charge on top, making it one of the most expensive restaurants in the world. Scandinavia’s three-Michelin starred restaurants Maaemo in Oslo and Geranium in Copenhagen cost NOK 2600 (SEK 2650) and DKK 2000 (SEK 2550) respectively. Clearly, Frantzén is aiming for the stars!
Anna Rönngren pours the Krug Champagne into large Bordeaux Zalto glasses – with Frantzén’s own logo – to ensure that we get all the aroma when we stick our noses in. I love it! Even the coasters at Frantzén are beautifully made of some polished crystal stone. A quick succession of three snacks follows, with my favorite being the Kalix löjrom (vendace roe) wrapped inside a cigar of crunchy potato strings. Björn’s take on the Swedish classic råraka.
We would have loved to relax and enjoy our time in the lounge for just a few more minutes, but the polite staff wants us to move along for other activities they have scheduled. Maybe I spent too much time photographing. Before we go downstairs, however, we get to visit the lounge kitchen. Here, the evening’s produce is showcased by Frantzéns head of R&D. I spot crayfish, king crab, and caviar, at least.
– It’s Gold Selection Caviar. The same that Alain Ducasse uses, Viktor Westerlind explains.
It sure looks sparkly and nice. A final snack is enjoyed at the kitchen counter. The small tartlet with scrambled eggs from guinea-fowl topped with truffle shavings tastes delicious. We wash it down with more of the Krug Champagne. Yes! We get refills!
The main dining room is surprisingly small for a restaurant five times the size of the previous one. We count 23 seats in total, but as many as two thirds of the guests are seated at the huge bar that surrounds the open kitchen. This is going to be intimate!
– The four bar seats at the old Frantzén were always the most sought after. Now, we want more guests to get that great experience, restaurant manager Carl Frosterud explains us.
Two waiters place a big wooden tray in front of us, filled with a range of smaller and bigger ceramic plates and bowls. Crudo is the first course of the evening, and the style of serving reveals a Japanese theme in Björn Frantzen’s cooking. Scallops and pickled Japanese turnip (small white radish) are thinly sliced and folded into a rose-like shape that is served on ice. The last time I saw something similar was last year at Hertog Jan in Brugge, and I ranked that as my favorite dish of 2016. However, as a whole, Frantzén’s creation reminds me even more of a serving we had at restaurant Saison in San Francisco.
– You lift the scallop rose with your chopsticks and place it on the cream made of scallop roe. Use the salt, lime, and horseradish to adjust the flavors as you please, our waiter explains.
Pretty, tasty, and fun to eat. What’s not to like? A much better dish than the similar one we had at Saison. Drink pairing is a sake, the good kind, and the non-alcoholic juice smells of wood and smoke. My mind immediately takes me back to Fäviken for some reason.
Next up comes a highlight of the meal – one of many it would soon turn out. Björn Frantzén himself places a tray in front of us.
– This is Swedish silver eel. We glaze it with a tamarind caramel and roast it over the open fire, he tells us.
Björn slides the eel off a grill skewer. He gives it a final glazing and cuts the eel into smaller pieces, which he mixes with pickled chanterelles in a bowl.
– We serve it on top of a chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard), with enoki mushrooms, and chives.
He carefully cuts the mushrooms with a pair of scissors, sprinkles the herbs, and places the small bowls in front of us. The taste is rich in salt and umami, but well-balanced by the sweet, caramelized tamarind flavor and the acid from the preserved mushrooms. We want more, but the serving size is designed to leave us longing.
A sudden switch from Asian to French cuisine, as Frantzén pulls out the Gold Selection Caviar we saw earlier. Preserved in banana leaves, which, once again, reminds me of Saison. The perfectly baked wild turbot is bathed in a sauce of fermented white asparagus, before the caviar is placed on top, and, finally, a few drops of browned butter with roasted seaweed. Clearly, Frantzén doesn’t plan to go down the strict New Nordic path anytime soon. It’s refreshing to see such a playful mix of Nordic, French, and Japanese.
The fourth course is vegetarian. Again, one of the chefs prepares an element in front of us, which seems to be a recurring theme at the new Frantzén. It makes perfect sense, though, as we are all seated around the kitchen. “Hommage satio tempestas” is another standout dish. Seasonal vegetables, some grilled on the open fire, others pickled, deep-fried or even raw, make for an amazing plate. Top three of the meal! At Hertog Jan they served a similar course called “A walk through the garden,” but many chefs do their twist on the same.
Finally, we arrive at the part of the meal I had looked the most forward to. The only dish that I knew about in advance, because it’s a Frantzén classic and all the chefs posted pictures of it during the soft opening. Truffle toast or Frantzén’s fattiga riddare. A butter-fried brioche topped with aged cheese, 100 years old balsamic vinegar, and a mountain of black truffle. It’s just as delectable as it sounds and looks. Prepared, plated, and presented by Frantzén’s head chef Marcus Jernmark.
We also enjoy the spicy king crab and the veal sweetbread, cooked ever so elegantly, with a liquorice glaze. Björn’s love for France becomes particularly evident when it’s time for canard a la presse – possibly the epitome of high-end French cuisine. Duck, grilled and served with a sauce made from the blood of the carcas, which is pressed through a medieval-looking torture chamber.
And just like that, with a final palate cleanser of duck broth with tofu made of peas, we conclude the savory servings. A short break gives us time to visit the restrooms which are equipped with Japanese toilets that open and close automatically, and even has an instruction manual for all the weird buttons.
– We mix hot and cold, the waiter says when she brings out the dessert.
To be precise, she means spicy and cold. Cool ice cream of raw Swedish buffalo cream with birch oil, vanilla, and a meringue hat – once again shaped as a flower. Beautiful work by the pastry chef. On the side, we get tiny, pointy, wild strawberries with a Sichuan pepper glaze. That’s the hot part. However, it is more sweet than spicy to my palate. Regardless of the idea, I completely love this dessert, and could easily eat a bowl more of the ice cream. Actually, I’ve been spoiled with good ice creams this year, first at Maaemo and Kontrast in Oslo, then Vollmers in Malmö, Mirabelle in Copenhagen, Aloë in Stockholm, and, now, at Frantzén. The pure flavor of raw milk is indescribably good. The sea buckthorn juice is the highlight of the night when it comes to drink pairings. A liquid so perfectly balanced in sweetness and acidity, and with that wonderful flavor of the tropical Nordic berries. All guests should get a taste of that, even if they order the wine menu, in my opinion.
Restaurant manager Carl Frosterud guides us back to the lounge upstairs, where we are served a selection of petits fours. Macarons, chocolate truffles, and the most perfectly made cardamom bun – the pride of Swedish fika culture. The Champagne trolley is replaced by a tea and coffee wagon. A dedicated barista makes us coffee with a new drip system that uses V70, that’s a 70 degrees angled drip station, in stead of the classic V60.
– The coffee is from El Salvador. Roasted by Johan & Nyström, the barista tells us.
We sip our coffee. It’s delightfully sweet and fruity. No bitterness to be traced. That’s when it arrives. The Cube. Frantzén’s Instagram-killer. Every chef needs one these days, and this is his. A total of 27 small dices packed with different flavors, stacked on top of each other to form a Rubik’s cube. After an intense photo shoot, we pluck it apart and choose or favorites. What a fun way to end the meal.
This time we press the lower button in the elevator. Door shuts. Light dims. Music plays. It’s James Brown, and it’s funky.
– 1 2 get down! Paid the cost to be the boss …
You have to hand it to Björn Frantzén – the man has a sense of humor. The song says it all. Now, you’re going down, and you’ve just paid the cost to be the boss. The question remains – was it worth it? That’s always going to be a personal verdict. At Saison, I had to draw the line. Frantzén, on the other hand, while still expensive, gave so much more joy in return. The wine pairings were not that much to my liking, with a lot of sweet stuff like sake, Tokaji, and Madeira early on in the meal. I’m sure there was a good idea behind it all, but it just didn’t appeal to my palate. If I can choose freely, I even skip dessert wines altogether.
I don’t know if Björn Frantzén will get his third star this year or the next, but with the new Frantzén he proves that he deserves it. This place is worth a special journey, and I would love to go again. I’m rooting for Stockholm!
Did you already visit the new Frantzén, or are you looking forward to going? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.