This is the first of two articles related to restaurants in Stockholm, both of which have Michelin-starred parent restaurants: Speceriet and The Flying Elk. -JRS
Speceriet is an offshoot of the fine-dining establishment Gastrologik, which has earned one Michelin star and positive reviews in numerous publications of note, among them the New York Times. While Speceriet does not bill itself as a “wine bar”, it absolutely fits that trend, which is to say, smallish restaurants serving a focussed menu suited to sharing and an accent on wines. As I wrote of Bar Brutal in Barcelona: “Common characteristics include: open kitchens; prices around the middle range; a relaxed, more casual atmosphere; professional, yet approachable service; an emphasis on natural wines; and, often, a younger demographic, both staff and clientele.”
These restaurants I like for their accessibility and affordability—not to mention, the option to eat many different plates of food. When the food is great, I love them—and the food at Speceriet is top-notch. The restaurant serves a concise menu of captivating food, thoughtfully conceived of and skillfully prepared. This is “lull-in-the-conversation” food; food so delicious that it derails discussion at the dining table, leaving you wide-eyed, in wonder—and wondering how you might politely and fairly divide the rest of the plate.
Before I continue, a quick tip about ordering in restaurants: If you are in an unfamiliar setting and want to test the waters, start by ordering just one or two plates for the table. If you’re happy, order more. This saves you from committing to an entire meal and avoids disappointment—during a recent dinner at Mrs. Robinson’s in Berlin, for example, I failed to do so and ended up stuck with a bad meal and a big bill. Small-plate restaurants make this easy, obviously, but even in more traditional contexts, you could order only an appetizer, for instance. Food for thought. (OMG get it?!?)
Speceriet sits in a well-to-do neighbourhood in Stockholm and occupies a small space filled with long, communal tables and total seating for maybe two dozen or so. (In the warmer months, they also have some tables outside, on the sidewalk.) Ceilings are low, space is somewhat close—but cosy, more so than cramped. Comfortable, casual.
The menu comprises some eight or so mains and three desserts. Savoury courses range from SEK 155 to 225, most floating around the SEK 165 mark. Dessert options go for SEK 100 each. (For reference, one-hundred Swedish Krona equals about ten Euros or fifteen Canadian dollars.)
On the night, bread and butter began the meal, both of excellent quality, the vivid square of butter topped with Maldon salt or fleur de sel. Good bread with good, salty butter: not a terrible way to kick off a night. I’ll add that, while I feel it is perfectly fair to charge for bread (which many restaurants do nowadays), this came with no supplement. A nice touch.
The first course, a crudo: raw rose fish with very thinly sliced apple and tender spruce needles. Dots of “peaso”—essentially a miso made from fermented peas—spotted the plate here and there. This dish marked both an exercise in restraint and a showcase of balance: the cool, clean and simple fish a canvas for the acidity and fruitiness of the apple slices, the gentle, vegetal note of the spruce, the rich, deep umami of the “peaso”. Perfect. SEK 165.
A tartare of lamb hit similar heights, served with an oyster cream, pickled cucumber and nasturtium (of course): another graceful, adeptly composed course. The shellfish cream provided the fatty contrast to the lean meat, the classic addition of pickles the requisite acidity. Faultless. SEK 165.
The highlight of the meal: humble mushrooms, two varieties of which (a type of bolete from Hällestad and fresh Enoki) came atop a puree of rutabaga and apple, surrounded by a broth. The larger mushrooms (similar in texture and flavour to porcini) were poached or braised and then seared, ending up rife with deep flavour; the smaller, raw Enoki offered a light, textural contrast. Sweet and rich, the puree had a glorious texture and taste, while the spectacularly savoury broth brought the dish together. A phenomenal plate of food—and a testament to the skill of the Speceriet kitchen. SEK 155.
A final example: grilled beetroot, ox jus, bitter greens. I’m not sure what the kitchen did to the beets, but my guess would be sous-vide poaching before grilling. In any case, think meat, particularly game: tender in texture, deeply mineral and slightly sweet in taste. The idea was to wrap the sliced vegetable in the bitter lettuces—a Swedish take on ssam. This plate did not soar like the others, but was nonetheless compelling and satisfying. SEK 155.
When it comes to wine, Speceriet offers plenty of choice: they have a larger, cellar wine list and a smaller inventory with a number of more affordable options. On that latter list, wines by the glass range from SEK 115 to 180, and bottles from SEK 460 to 990. My friend and I shared a bottle of Tenuta Baroni Campanino Umbria 2015; at about SEK 700, it was a well-balanced, medium-bodied, organic wine with good acidity and minerality. Speceriet also serves beer, liquors and several custom drinks.
Our meal, which consisted of seven plates plus the bread, wine and two glasses of beer, came to about SEK 1700 (about CAD 250), taxes and tip included. That’s an exceptional price for food of this calibre, and you can eat for much less if you skip the bottle, stick to a glass and order only two plates, for example. A bargain, as fine dining goes.
This meal merits status as my top meal of 2018 thus far—I would imagine it will easily rank among the top ten by year’s end. Spectacular, and highly recommended.