French toast (Grand Tradition 2008) with vacca rossa, truffle & 100-year vinegar on a ceramic dish, with open kitchen behind, Frantzen

3 stars for Sweden: Restaurant Frantzen

Wow! What an experience. Frantzen in Stockholm. Only last month the restaurant was awarded 3 Michelin stars – the first for Sweden. It now joins Geranium (Denmark) and Maaemo (Norway) in the Nordic region.

With this latest accomplishment, Björn Frantzen, head chef and founder, has reset the world’s culinary compass towards Sweden – a relatively underpopulated country renowned for crime drama, cool design, tech start-ups and a love for foraging.

The day I ate at Frantzen, I had already walked 15 km/10 miles in the falling snow. Even the ducks looked cold.  I had a booking for 5.30pm. You don’t have to eat that early, but many Swedes do. Americans will feel at home.

I’m not star crazy. Or am I? Secretly? Maybe. I dedicate this blog to the 95,500 or so people who tried to reserve at Frantzen for April and who will have to wait. The 23 covers equate to 500 seatings per month – with all 500 quickly snapped up for the month of April. The advantage – those 23 guests who make it for each seating are made to feel very special.

Frantzen – casual elegance

Frantzen first opened in 2008 as Frantzen/Lindeberg, in Gamla Stan, the medieval (aka touristy) part of Stockholm. It was a partnership between Björn and pastry chef Daniel Lindeberg. The restaurant climbed to two Michelin stars in 2010.

Then, with the departure of Daniel in 2013, it became Restaurant Frantzen. It closed in 2016 to prepare for last September’s opening in its new location in downtown Norrmalm, not far from the Central Station.

The new Frantzen is in a 19th-century labyrinthine town house in a quiet street. The restaurant is located over three floors: reception, kitchen & eating area, and the ‘Living Room’ in the eves.

The design is by Joyn Studio whose ambition as a studio is ‘to put people in the right mood’. They definitely have succeeded here. It’s all about ‘casual elegance’ with a Nordic/Japanese influence.

Björn Frantzen

When I meet great chefs, I get star struck; like when I met Virgilio Martínez of Central in Lima. It was no less so in the moment when Björn greeted me. To be a great chef, you need leadership, presence, creativity; to be grounded, inspirational, and to have tireless energy and curiosity.

Björn seems to have all these qualities. He radiates charisma – in an understated, Swedish way. I wanted to photograph him, but the light was set for dining rather than photos. It wasn’t in me to take a so-so photograph of a man who was all about creating the perfect experience.

Linking Swedish producers with chefs

Frantzen is the culinary star of the Björn Frantzen stable. I would have also liked to have visited his Gaston Wine Bar in Gamla Stan. There’s a limit to how many gastronomic experiences you can have in 3 days, especially as most of them don’t open till 5pm.

In 2011, Björn also founded Exceptionell Råvara with ‘out-to-lunch’ (that’s his Instagram name) journalist Mattias Kroon. The project links Swedish producers with chefs. Other chefs involved include Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken Magasinet and Mikael Jönsson of Hedone (my first Michelin-star experience) in London.

What’s special about Frantzen

The late Franca Sozzani, Editor of Vogue Italia, defined the luxury of today as involving: “… exclusiveness, nearly uniqueness, and not because it is addressed to a few people, because it’s special instead.”

Now the meal set me back the price of the sweater that I wanted to buy from Acne Studios (Sweden’s uber-cool fashion brand).  I could have bought that sweater in over 45 stores around the world, and online. Meanwhile, Frantzen is unique. Even if I go back to Frantzen, it won’t be the same – the menu changes, the music changes, the guests change and I will have changed.

In any case, I probably would have ruined the Acne Studios sweater in the wash.

The open kitchen, Frantzen

In the kitchen: Björn (with a dishcloth over his shoulder) with his team. The wood fire in the background.

Arriving at Frantzen

Enter through the solid wood and reflective glass door at Klara Norra kyrkogata, No 26, and I passed into another world; a world of delightful culinary fantasies, where each guest’s experience is tailor-made and personally guided.

I was greeted by name. My gaze was distracted by the dry-aged meat cabinets in the reception area. They were hung with pork from Frantzen’s own pigs, and quail from France…  on the menu that night.

Dry aged meat cabinets, Frantzen

The dry-aged meat cabinets in the reception area, with pork from their own pigs and quail.

I then walked through a sliding glass door, along a dark corridor lined by two rills with floating orchids, and up in the lift to the tunes of ACDC‘s Back in Black. 

Carl Frosterud, the General Manager, greeted me on my arrival at the second floor. Here the restaurant has its own terrace… it was too cold that day to go out, even for a short time. I was escorted down a corridor lined with jars of pickles, conserves and dried this and that to arrive in the heart of the Living Room, with its log stove drawing me in.

Here I was seated by the fire and the open kitchen, where the team were preparing the appetisers. Everything was calm and flowing – music included. This was food as art, as performance, as design – and, I would add, as spiritual connection, but that’s my hippy-dippy side showing up.

The open kitchen in the sitting room, Frantzen

Appetisers by the fire

Just at the right moment, as if by magic, the appetisers started to flow. To accompany them, I went for a fruit juice… gooseberries infused with lilac syrup.

Savoury macaron, Frantzen

Macaron of pumpkin, foie gras, orange, sea buckthorn & toasted oats.

 

Yuba, on a plate with dark background, Frantzen

Yuba (tofu skin): pickled cucumber, cauliflower & glazed eel. 

 

'Råraka' with vandace roe from kalix on a white plate, Frantzen

‘Råraka’ (a Swedish potato pancake) with vandace (a freshwater fish native to Sweden) roe from Kalix (in the very north of Sweden, near the border with Finland).

 

Celeriac, preserved truffle, aged cheese in a ceramic bowl, Frantzen

Celeriac, preserved truffle & aged cheese – real comfort food.

Checking the canapes, Frantzen

Everything is done with a sense of mastery and craftsmanship.

The sommelier, Lukas, then invited me to the kitchen area. He slid back a cover to reveal some of the ingredients we were going to eat that evening. Each ingredient had a story. Many were Nordic. Some were not; like the myoga, Japanese ginger, of which only the flower buds are eaten, while Frantzen’s own-label caviar was sustainable caviar from France.

Ingredients, Frantzen

 

Myoga in a glass jar, Frantzen

Myoga, or Japanese ginger, used in the first course.

 

Caviar, Frantzen

Fruit juice rather than wine

I chose the fruit-juice rather than the wine pairing. It seemed more of a Swedish experience. This was the first time in my life that I have felt that fruit juice has gone as well with a meal as wine. In all, there were about 10 different juices, created and made by Frantzen, of course. I did not taste all of them. Each one I did blew my mind in the same way that a good wine does.

Swedes, though, are big drinkers of champagne and of good wine, especially wine produced to the rhythm of the environment. Looking at the wine list, I saw a few names that I knew from having met them with Clos Driver, in particular Dhondt-Grellet (at 26 years old named Champagne Producer of the Year 2017) and Domaine Weinbach (Alsace) to name two. The sommeliers paid as much reverence to the juices as to the wine.

The journey continues…

When the moment felt right for all, I was accompanied along the corridor. I then went down one flight of narrow stairs to the kitchen. It was here that I was personally greeted by Björn, as if I were visiting his home.

Most of the seats are around the L-shaped bar, with a solid walnut surface, a generous 80cm/30inches wide. I was seated at the end nearest the chefs… that made me feel so special.

The power of now

The synchronisation of the kitchen team was mesmerizing. It made me recall the words of Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now about the natural state of  “felt oneness” … a “state of connectedness with something immeasurable and indestructible”. I last experienced this at the performance of the Kodo drummers from Japan at the Barbican in London, back in 2016.

The 3-star menu begins… with fish 

Crudo, Frantzen

Crudo: bluefin tuna (caught off the Spanish coast) ‘otoro’ (the fatty part of the tuna, by the belly, so prized for sushi), purple radish, myoga (Japanese ginger, as above), horseradish & tomato vinaigrette.

 

Deep fried langoustine served on ceramic dish, Frantzen

Deep Fried Langoustine, crispy (koshihikari) rice, dried green onions, emulsion of clarified butter infused with ginger. The bowl on the top left was for rinsing your fingers at the end.

 

Baked Wild Turbot served in a glass dish, Frantzen

Baked Wild Turbot, black trumpet mushroom, sprouted walnut, homemade butter with blond miso & vin jaune.

 

Chawanmushi, Frantzen 'Reserve Caviar

Chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard dish), Frantzén Reserve Caviar & broth made from Swedish pork aged for 60 days.

 

King Crab Grilled Over Birch Embers in red bowl with chopsticks, Frantzen

King Crab Grilled Over Birch Embers, ‘hot sauce’, sea urchin, finger lime & chrysanthemum.

 

Woman with pestle & mortar, preparing the herbs for the Bitter & Pickled Greens, Frantzen

Pounding the herbs for the Bitter & Pickled Greens – a classic Frantzén dish.

 

Bitter & Picked Greens 'homage satio tempestas', crunchy fish scales, Frantzen

Bitter & Picked Greens ‘homage satio tempestas’, crunchy fish scales, warm infusion, whipped buttermilk & mortared herbs.

 

Preparing the French Toast, Frantzen

Placing freshly grated truffles on the French Toast (Grand Tradition 2008), with vacca rossa Parmesan cheese (the original breed of cow whose milk was used for Parmesan) & 100-year-old vinegar.

Then on to the meat…

Pouring from a carafe, tomato, cherry & Arabica bean juice, Frantzen

Here, I had my second glass of fruit juice, suggested by the sommelier – a Tomato, Cherry & Arabica Bean juice, made to reflect a Côte-Rôtie from the Northern Rhône valley, a Syrah with some Viognier, and perfect with the fallow deer.

 

White plate with roasted fallow deer.

Spice Roasted Fallow Deer, blood orange, foie gras butter & jus rôti with 2 kinds of pepper.

 

Tea of Grilled Quail & fermented mushrooms, red seaweed with silken tofu.

Tea of Grilled Quail & fermented mushrooms, red seaweed with silken tofu. Also served was a little saucepan of gravy, six-month aged butter (divine) and Parker House bread, inspired by the Parker House rolls invented at the Parker House Hotel in Boston in the 1870s, apparently by a chef who, in his anger, threw a lump of dough, which then dented. It’s like brioche.

And finally the dessert…

Bowl of Salt Baked Chewy Beetroot, whipped liquorice, griottes cherries & aged violet vinegar.

Salt Baked Chewy Beetroot, whipped liquorice, griottes cherries & aged violet vinegar. Swedes love liquorice. I don’t, but I loved this not-too-sweet dessert.

Retiring to the Living Room

We returned to the Living Room for some more delights and a few surprises..

Caramel with foie gras, Frantzen

Creme caramel with foie gras, candied peanuts, red sorrel reduction, Pedro Ximénez, sugar & verjus (juice of unripe grapes).

 

Frantzen

Buckthorn sorbet with chilli, Szechuan pepper, Espelette pepper, chilli oil & Italian meringue. Served with a non-alcoholic Moscato d’Asti made from elderflower.

 

Melon with pepper & gold, Frantzen

Charentais Melon, salt candied pine nuts (with a touch of gold) & Espelette pepper.

 

Tea trolley, Frantzen

The tea trolley: I had a fresh lemon verbena with a touch of mint tea.

 

Close-up of sweet trolley, Frantzen

The sweet trolley … 3 flavours of macarons: 1. Strawberry Marmalade, Rose & Pink Peppercorn. 2. Miso, Hoshigaki & Pistachio. 3. Saffron, Date & Cinnamon. 3 flavours of chocolate: 1. 64% chocolate – Blood & Lingonberry. 2. 45% – Caramelised Hazelnut & Cep. 3. 32% – Tarragon & Grapefruit. I also had a Green Apple, Camomile & Lemon Verbena Crystallised Fruit, and took home to share with my son the Fermented Garlic Fudge & Brown Cheese Fudge.

 

Cardamon bun on glass plate, Frantzen

Freshly baked cardamom bun made with brown sugar & beurre noisette – I ate it all! This bun was good enough that you could eat it as the 20th item on the menu.

Touches that mattered at Frantzén

  • The ‘global‘ team in the kitchen, reflecting a global experience.  Executive chef Marcus Jernmark joined from New York’s 3 Michelin-starred Swedish restaurant, Aquavit, where he was also Executive Chef. While Björn himself has worked at the likes of Chez Nico and Pied à Terre in London and L’Arpège in Paris.
  • The atmosphere of ‘casual elegance‘ meant that I could just be my (respectful and appreciative) self, wearing the same shoes that I had worn to tramp around in the snow all day.
  • The music – selected by Björn and to go with the rhythm in the kitchen – Carlos Santana, Raphael Saadiq, Carole KingJames Taylor… Wow, I hadn’t heard these for a while, and they were perfect for the tempo.
  • Almost last, but not least, my neighbours at the bar…  two very pleasant, elegant Swedish women with blond hair and black, thick-rimmed glasses. We didn’t talk much – in the same way that I don’t like to talk when I am having a massage; I prefer to be at one with the experience.
  • The beautifully hand-written bill, or check as Swedes call it in English, given that most of them speak American English.

This was not about eating out… this was about living a five-hour experience of the senses. Like with Central Restaurant in Lima, I won’t forget that evening, ever. I want to be back… just like in the lyrics of ACDC’s Back in Black.

Candles against black background, Frantzen, Stockholm

Horizontal shot of entrance door to Frantzén, on the far left, at No 26, Klara Norra kyrkogata, Stockholm

The entrance at Klara Norra kyrkogata, No 26.

Entrance to Frantzén, on the far left, at No 26, Klara Norra kyrkogata, Stockholm

Frantzén on the left, with the Church of Santa Clara at the end of the street.

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