Early June we had a short family visit to Norrköping, Sweden.
As my brother and his wife had become parents for the first time a month before 👶🏻🍼, we spared them a home invasion and let them catch their breath and some 💤. We took a hotel and just visited them a couple of times and explored the city and surroundings. As our hotel, the quaint Strand Hotell, was located in the old city center, Gamla Stan, only served breakfast, it was an ideal opportunity to sample some of the downtown restaurants. Below you will find our impressions of the city and the following restaurants: Butlers, Stadsvakten, Enoteket, and The Lamp.
Butlers Bistro & Wine Bar
Strolling around the first evening, we decided on Butlers Bistro & Wine Bar (Gamla Rådstugugatan 48).
Butlers describes itself as a high-class restaurant, without being luxurious, available for a wide range of people. A modern bistro, serving in a rustic style, emphasizing the classic Swedish & French cuisine, with a focus on meat (and wine, of course). The focus on meat was evident from the fact that there was only one vegetarian option on the menu and some nibbly things as a starter (so much for the ‘Vegetarian-Friendly’ classification on Tripadvisor…)😉
I chose the “Plankstek”, a classic Swedish dish of meat served with Pommes Duchesse and vegetables that are oven-baked on a wooden plank. This dish had its popularity peak during the 1970s, but I saw it on the menu of many restaurants as a prime example of the hearty “husmanskost”, the Swedish traditional home cooking. You do need to have quite an appetite as I couldn’t finish even half.
First fried root vegetables are placed on a wooden plank (usually oak for better durability), and Pommes Duchesse is piped onto the plank in a decorative way. Then the plank is placed in a high-temperature oven until the mashed potatoes have a golden brown color. The plank is taken out of the oven, and the meat (such as pork fillet, flank steak or fillet of beef, marinated in red wine and then seasoned with paprika, white pepper, and black pepper) is served together with pepper sauce and béarnaise sauce. For garnishes, there are usually buttered carrots, fried tomatoes, boiled cauliflower, bacon-wrapped asparagus, and mushrooms sautéed in garlic butter. The fun thing is that within these general boundaries, a lot is possible (even a halloumi based vegetarian version).
The food was tasty, and all the meats were excellent; the hamburger patty was nice and juicy. The only minor critique was that the herb butter on the beef was incredibly salty. In hindsight, it should be noted that the English menu does not contain any wine pairing suggestion. Therefore, I recommend that you explicitly ask for both Swedish and the English menu as well as the full wine list. If not, you’ll have the short (picture) list on the table with only the entry-level wines. We already thought that you shouldn’t be calling yourself a wine bar with only 20 or so wines, but the full one is quite impressive. We chose a nice bottle of 2014 Pinot Noir of McManis Family Vineyards (Central Valley, California, USA) for SEK 475.
Due to the long holiday weekend given the Swedish National Holiday (June 6), it was tough to get a booking at restaurants on Monday and Tuesday. We ended up in Stadsvakten, the restaurant of the First Hotel Central (Nya Rådstugugatan 16), where we stayed when my brother got married in 2015.
We started off with a shared plate of mixed sashimi.
There was no specific kids menu and ended up choosing a weird combination of sharing at the same time the Stadvakten’s Cheeseburger (with cheddar, beer braised onions, aioli & French fries, SEK 195) and an off-the-menu serving of crèpes with strawberry jam…
From the impressive wine list (with a new addition of special wines, think Penfolds Grange, being available per glass courtesy of the Coravin system), we choose a great bottle of 2012 Pinot Noir by Ken Wright Cellars (Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA, SEK 890).
Enoteket (Laxholmstorget 3) is also a familiar place as my brother’s wedding reception was held there. This Italian restaurant/wine bar is located in the middle of Industrilandskapet (the Industrial Landscape), the revamped and well-preserved industrial area of Norrköping along the banks of the Motala River. The city was the textile capital of Sweden, with 70% of the textiles were woven here by the mid-1800s. The old wool spinning mills and cotton factories were last used in the mid-1970s, but have been preserved and converted to a mix of museums, businesses, restaurants, residential areas, and student dorms. Really worthwhile to walk around here!
They have a particular ordering system with tags that is somewhat strange at first as you won’t have a waiter coming to your table to take your order. They sit you down with the menu and some brief explanation thereof, and once you have decided, you go down to the bar with the tag to order both food and drinks, which is recorded on the tag. It also acts as a homing device for the waiters as they will know where you are sitting and can bring the food to you (just don’t wander about with the tag in your pocket…). If you want to check out, the cashier will read out the tag and print the receipt. Splitting the bill is quite easy, too, as you can each get your own tag.
Although a wine list was available, playing around with Enoteket’s Wine Machine was much more fun. You purchase a credit that is loaded on to a (separate) chip card, and you can choose any of the 36 wines in 3 servings: tasting (37,5ml), half glass (75ml) and a full glass (150ml). If the credit on the card is used up, you can quickly recharge it at the checkout, and any credit that is left remains so you can take it the next time you visit and continue to use it. As we were obviously not going to be regulars, we got a SEK 500 credit, and any unused credit could be returned. Needless to say, I managed to spend the entire credit (although there was some puzzling to get it all the way to zero…)
Besides being able to sample 7 different wines, the best thing is that the price of the serving size is calculated back from the price per bottle, so the price per glass is never inflated. Our highlights were the 2012 Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Valley, California, USA) and the 2016 Mondeuse Rosé from Clendenen Family Vineyards (Santa Maria Valley, California, USA)
After a couple of days of steaks and burgers, we yearned for some pizza, and they didn’t disappoint; they were delicious!
The Lamp Restaurant
The Lamp Restaurant is part of the Lamp Hotel for which five 19th century premises in the Hospitalsgatan in the Gamla Stan were transformed into a hotel, including its own bar, restaurant as well as a deli counter.
“It’s not always easy to find a hotel with a top-notch in-house restaurant. But look no further than The Lamp – a shining exception.”
A bold statement on their website, but luckily they lived up to it. In my experience, restaurants in hotels, especially those targeting the business segment, often lack culinary inspiration and/or suffer from lackluster execution. Not to mention that food and drinks are vastly overpriced. Hordes of businessperson looking at the obligatory sports games on a flat-screen TV and/or their phones don’t add to the atmosphere and seldom attract locals. Therefore, we were content to find the restaurant was completely packed on a Thursday evening.
The menu is a mix of Swedish dishes with an Asian twist and straight-up Asian cuisine (think potsticker dumplings, sashimi, Korean chicken rolls, etc.) and plenty of vegetarian options.
A nice atmosphere, friendly and capable waiters, overall great food at a price level that suits the quality and a very nice wine selection (which invariably is quite expensive in Sweden).