On first meeting, Stockholm and I did not get along all that well. Overall, the city felt a little cold for me…both in a literal and metaphoric sense. It probably did not help that the encounter occurred during the winter months, as I have never really been one to enjoy the cold. Even less so when it means that leaving the safety of the indoors with wet hair [please note that nothing feels like a bigger waste of time to me than using a blowdryer] deems it frozen solid within a matter of minutes.
…Less again still when it means that wearing high heels on any given night out is more or less a guarantee that we will not be getting in anywhere. Apparently girls that slip across icy streets like Bambi born five minutes ago are not exactly the type that are welcomed into evening venues with open arms. “I am not drunk, I am Australian and I do not understand this weather!”.
Over two years have now passed and Stockholm and I have gotten to know each other a lot better. I have even started to know my way around certain parts of the city and have a select few places on hand that I can recommend and which I regularly visit whenever I am in town. Check me out! I am pretty much a local.
Of these, one of my absolute favourites has to be The Flying Elk. Located in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan, or old town, this fun little gastropub is the sister of Two-Michelin-Starred Frantzén and works to combine Swedish culinary tradition with British pub culture. The place is cool and relaxed and the food is fantastic. Plus any dining establishment that includes the likes of Layla in their playlist gets a big tick in my books! Nailed it.
With a long trip to come the following day (more on that later) I made an early dinner reservation at The Flying Elk before happily settling into a sun-drenched banquette with a cucumber and rose pepper gin and tonic (155 SEK). After all, there is nothing like a nice, strong bowl of G&T to help settle on common ground when it comes to menu selection.
Eventually agreeing on a small variety of snacks and starters to share, we got underway! First up were these deceptively simple-sounding rhubarb macarons with foie gras (60 SEK per piece). Each sphere provided a perfect liver-heavy bite, with the layers of flavour also hiding dried pomegranate, pickled strawberries and 100 year old balsamic vinegar. Swoon.
One of my favourite aspects of the Swedish table is their abundant use of fish roe. I absolutely love those poppable little gems! So when I saw vendace roe from Kalix (190 SEK) on the menu, I knew I couldn’t pass it by. Served on cauliflower and spelt langos alongside lightly fried pork belly, sour cream, browned butter and pickled onions, these were good. However, I must say that I find simple is best when it comes to this classic…just let that roe shine!
I cannot go to The Flying Elk and not order the dish that made me fall in love with the place in the first instance: the signature diver scallop (205 SEK). The sweet and supple bivalve is served with truffled scrambled eggs, shoestring fries and smoked brown butter. A generous dusting of fresh black truffle finishes the whole thing off. What could be better than all of those things coming together on the one plate? Nothing. And that is why it is my favourite.
Another dish I can never bypass on any menu anywhere, the last of our starters simply had to be the hand-cut tartare of seared veal with mustard pickles (155 SEK). Served with aioli, thyme, aged cheese, scallions and toasted rye, this gave the less traditional version I had the day before at Urban Deli a run for its money. Both were stellar.
Onto the mains! Knowing that the following day I would be downing a lot of food (again, more on that later), I chose to run with a lighter menu option…idiot. With a good mix of roasted zucchini, artichoke and yellow beets, coupled with chervil, goats cheese and an orange and pistachio vinaigrette, the green asparagus salad (225 SEK) sounded more interesting than it actually was. It sadly lacked acidity and was nowhere near as good as it had the potential to be.
Mock me as you may, I do find that a bit of greenery can in fact make for a varied and often delicious main. For example, take the one I had at The Farm in Byron Bay, Australia. Based on this, it only makes me more sad when I get a disappointing salad. [And do not tell me that the words ‘disappointing’ and ‘salad’ go hand in hand].
Much more exciting was the 37 degrees celsius cod with beurre noisette and pickled herring (315 SEK). Flaky hunks of moist flesh were served up with onions prepared in four differing ways, trout roe (yay!) and new potatoes with salted butter and dill. A baked egg yolk from Sanda Farm topped everything off.
I agreed to make a diversion from my regular standing and finish on a sweet note with the Eton mess (105 SEK). Following a loosely traditional approach, this was composed of Swiss meringue with toasted white chocolate, strawberries with lemon verbena and a vanilla and ginger buttermilk mousse. Relatively straightforward and very tasty, this ticked all boxes in my books…as far as post-dinner delights go, anyway.
For me, awarding a place the title of ‘second home’ is based on a number of factors, the most obvious being the presence of family and friends, as well as an overriding sense of comfortability. It is also based on a feeling. If a place does not feel like home, then home it is not. Lastly – and this is almost definitely just a me thing – I require a familiar set of places I like to frequent. The places I love to spend time in. My go-to places.
Despite our rocky beginnings, all things considered, Stockholm has very much risen to assume its title of being my second home. And from the get-go it has been places like The Flying Elk which enabled me to slowly warm to the city. In fact, these days, when Stockholm and I are apart for longer periods, I even find that I start missing her.
Although I will probably still be giving her a miss during winter time.