Of the meals we had in Stockholm, the smorgasbord at the Grand Hotel was the most memorable. After all, the restaurant is set in the most prestigious address in town, with the dining room looking out into the sparkling waters of Stockholm. And hello? Smorgasbord means buffet, which for an always hungry pair, always welcome.
Unlike the no-holds barred Asian hotel buffet, of which we are veterans, a Swedish smorgasbord is defined by a set of dining rituals we are unfamiliar with. Luckily, the restaurant thoughtfully provided us with an introductory pamphlet to prevent us from committing any dining faux pas.
The pamphlet advised us to begin with the herring dishes accompanied with potatoes and so we did just that. I’ve never been fond of oily, fishy fish and forced myself to try the herring, thinking I would be subjected to cold, slimy, unappetizing slices of fish. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by how delicate and fresh they tasted, each slice of fish taking on the distinct characteristics of its flavorings, the beetroot one tangy, the onion one sweet.
All this fish is chased down by a shot or 2 of aquavit, the local liquor flavored with different spices and then distilled. The elderflower aquavit was fragrant and sweet, with just a little burn at the end, while P’s Grand Hotel housemade aquavit tasted more robust and digestif-like.
More plates of cold dishes followed, we trying hard to try a little bit of everything on the buffet table. The array of salmon dishes were just as dizzying as the herring, coming in all shapes and states of doneness.
After a while, with all the orange slabs crowding the plate, it got a little difficult to differentiate one from another. “Is this the gravlax? or is it the smoked salmon?”… “urh I dunno.. they all taste good to me”. One thing’s for sure, do as the pamphlet suggests and drizzle the right kind of condiment on the right piece of fish to get the best effect of luscious, oily flesh punctuated by spice, acid and saline.
After a whole array of herring, salmon, seafood in all forms (terrine, tartare, mayo-ed and all), and an entire table of cold meats, we finally reached the hot dishes. We had deliberately avoided ordering meatballs for the entire trip prior to the smorgasbord knowing we would definitely be eating it here. The meatballs were worth the wait, meaty, juicy and not too dense, the lingonberry sauce cutting the heaviness of the meat. P definitely went back for seconds on this dish.
All too soon it was time for dessert. After a few perfunctory bites of the local cheese, we switched gears into sweet mode. The desserts were all daintily made and too pretty to eat, but when we did bite into them, they were generally really tasty too. We lavished more time on the fruit based desserts to assuage the guilt from over-eating, enjoying fresh fruit crumbles, creamy panna cotta and ok, I shan’t lie, some chocolate desserts too. Almost as good as French standards.
The Smorgasbord is un peu cher at SEK475 per person. But as we sat digesting our desserts, seated at the window of this elegant dining room, enjoying the gracious service and a great view of the harbor and Gamla Stan, we unanimously agreed it was money well spent.
The Veranda at Grand Hotel
Södra Blasieholmshamnen 8, P O Box 16424, 103 27 STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN