The first thing to appreciate about the Spirit Museum Restaurant in Stockholm is that it doesn’t actually specialise in spirits. Disappointed? You shouldn’t be, because the natural wine list is something else; we were sold on the place after just a sip of a cracking bottle of organic Fontanasanta Manzioni Bianco. The second is that the standard of food here far exceeds that of any museum or gallery restaurant I’ve ever been to. To top it off, the restaurant’s summer location is an alfresco affair, set outside the museum in a charming waterside location on the island of Djurgården. There’s a covered roof in case of rain and plenty of blankets on offer should a chill set in. It’s hard to imagine a prettier scene within a capital city – and it’s fair to say I had high expectations. Head chef Petter Nilsson, recently returned from a 15 year exile in France running La Gazzetta in Paris and Les Trois Salons in Uzès is a well-known name on the international avant-garde cooking scene and a chef with proven pedigree. Always a fan of concise menus, this particular list of dishes comprised of a look and feel very much in keeping with Swedish culture. Without hesiatation, we opted for the Salted herring with leeks, potatoes and salted butter. Widely used across Scandinavia, herring remains an understated member of the sea, rendered delicious in the right hands. I was intrigued to see how Nilsson could elevate this humble, traditional dish, and in fact my mind was blown by the result. Finely riced potato covered a mound of creamy, salt-sweet herring and leek, every mouthful of which made my palate sing, Simple, but a winner.
Main course soon followed; 36-month old ribeye to share (locally reared and slaughtered) cooked on a grill and served with simple accompaniments. I’m usually a stickler for fillet (yes, some may consider it flavorless and a bit dull) but after such a stunning starter, I was ready to risk it – and I’m now converted. Expertly cooked – charred outside and rosy in the middle – this beef offered a completely different taste experience to my usual lacklustre fillet. The meat was beautifully marbled with fat and worth every extra calorie per mouthful. Nutty little rosemary potatoes and red shallots sweated until sweet were served alongside the meat on a rustic plank, the perfect foil for such a standout piece of beef. At this stage I feel as though I ought to mention the service, which at very least rivaled, if not overshadowed the quality of the food. Warm, welcoming and most importantly, informative. we were guided through everything from the cultivation of the grapes that made our organically farmed wine to the aging process of the 36 month old steak. This insider knowledge really brought each mouthful to life, and the staff at Spirit Museum advised us with charm and style. A light semi-freddo of blueberries with aniseed meringue was the final touch to a superb meal, the hint of anise a properly Swedish touch in an otherwise international dessert. As they say in Sweden, “läcker” – or plain delicious to you or me.