If I could do this trip over again, I would have allowed for more time in Sweden. With only two days, we barely got to scratch the surface, but what a surface we scratched. From an afternoon and night on the quiet island of Oaxen in the archipelago south of Stockholm to a day and a night in the vibrant city of Stockholm, we experienced two sides of Sweden and two of the country's very best restaurants, both on The San Pellegrino World's Fifty Best List.
We took a morning flight from Oslo to Arlanda Airport outside of Stockholm, where we rented a car to take us to Oaxen, the home of Magnus Ek's idyllic restaurant, Oaxen Krog. We got there early enough to check in and relax on board our hotel for the evening, the spectacular small ship The Prince van Orangiën. Owned by Ek and his lovely wife Agneta, the early 20th century ship has been refitted to provide intimate, luxury accommodations for guests of the restaurant. The combination of Ek's beautiful, forest-rich cuisine and serene surroundings were sufficient to help me feel more relaxed almost immediately. Waking up the following morning to actual sunshine and the ship's breakfast delivered to our cabin helped even more.
Unfortunately we didn't have time to linger and needed to head back on the 9:30 ferry to make the most of Stockholm on our one day there. An added bonus was being accompanied on the ride to Stockholm by my friend, the legendary Food Snob, who we had run into at dinner the evening before.
We spent a glorious day sightseeing in Stockholm, walking around the city and finally finding a real food market, the Östermalms Saluhall. The market combines wonderful seafood, produce and meat retailers along with a number of small restaurants selling prepared dishes for immediate or take-away consumption. We tried some fish soup, a shrimp salad sandwich and a shrimp and crayfish salad between us. Washed down by an invigorating Swedish pear cider, it made for a fine snack.
The better part of the afternoon was spent at the incredible Vasa Museum. If one has any interest in history whatsoever and one finds oneself in Stockholm, this unbelievable connection to the past should not be missed. The Vasa was to be the foremost Swedish warship of its time in the early 17th Century, built to battle Poland during the 30 Years War. Elaborately decorated and heavily armed, it was constructed at a cost of about $40 million of today's dollars only to sink on its maiden voyage even before it left the Stockholm Harbor. Found and removed from the depths in the 1950's, it moved into a specially built Museum approximately 20 years ago. Both the sensationally well preserved ship itself as well as accompanying exhibits were outstanding.
On the first truly sunny day of our trip, we left the museum and walked past an enticing Gröna Lund amusement park to catch the ferry to Gamla Stan, the atmospheric old town of Stockholm. We strolled across that small island and across the bridge back to our hotel near the Central Station to prepare for our final dinner of the trip. We stayed in the Adlon Hotel. It was, on first impression less than exciting, but we found the room, a two-room triple, to be one of the better and more attractive ones on the trip. With a location convenient for travel, a fair price and a surprisingly nice room, I would return.
Mathias Dahlgren is a legend in Sweden. A winner of the Bocuse D'Or, Dahlgren's previous restaurant, Bon Lloc, achieved great critical acclaim until he closed it to move into the opulent Grand Hotel in Ostermalm. There he actually has two restaurants, the formal Mathias Dahlgren Matsalen and the more informal Matbaren. We ate at the Matsalen. Though Dahlgren wasn't there that evening, the luxurious, but not stuffy restaurant was superb, with outstanding service, wine and food. It was a fitting end for an extraordinary trip.