SWEDEN has a wintry reputation: reindeer and igloos; massive cable knit sweaters with dorky prints and, of course, a depressing lack of daylight. But winter’s flipside is, in my view, the more compelling reason to visit. A 2AM sunrise, green fields and summer houses and lakes, sailing, country pursuits of all types, rolling in the haystacks…nobody does it quite like the Swedes.
With the longest days of the year in our midst, I decided to nip to Stockholm, where I might absorb some midsummer atmosphere, gorge on some delicious food and stroll about in broad daylight at 10pm. Indulging my fancy for a super-long twilight couldn’t have been easier. I hopped aboard a British Airways Cityflyer plane at London City and a couple of hours later was in Arlanda Airport. Since I was only staying one night, I went for the city’s iconic Grand Hotel, on the waterfront. A driver collected me in a Mercedes and, while I sipped spring water in the back seat, we talked about Swedish crime writing and Russian classics.
The Grand is not hip and modern. It is, as the name implies, grand, and also in need of a refurb. But no matter if the lobby and connecting hallway between the hotel and Mathias Dahlgren’s Michelin starred restaurants is oddly tatty, the bedrooms are five star – and then some. Mine sprawled, with elegant furniture in rich fabrics and leather and, best of all, an embarrassment of windows overlooking the famous harbour. I had a small balcony: my friend and I sat out and watched the ferries setting off for the archipelago, basking in the endless sun.
The Grand has a very smart spa, and I had a restorative treatment of combined Thai and Swedish massage, performed by one of those bewilderingly beautiful blondes.
But the Dahlgren restaurants are the real extra draw at the Grand. Scandinavian food has been on the rise since Copenhagen’s Noma shot to the top of the World’s Best list and London has seen a flurry of Scandinavian-influenced restaurants. Well, Dahlgren is one of the greats and it is deliciously easy to see why. We ate in his one Michelin-starred food bar (there is a two-Michelin-starred restaurant as well) and feasted on the likes of insanely fragrant, silky sashimi of salmon with roe; lettuce and oyster cream; Maatjes herring with chives, new potatoes, an egg and hollandaise (an insanely good dish); a smoky tartare hamburger with blue cheese that redefined both burger and tartare and an imploding chocolate fondant with peanut butter ice cream. Each course came matched with the right drink, whether local beer or rare sparkling wine. It was one of the best dinners I’ve had in recent memory.
When we left it was still light – and into the bright night we ambled, full and satisfied. When I got back to my room at The Grand at 2AM, it was starting to get light. I lay on my vast, silky bed and looked at the sky brightening over the palace and thought: this sure beats winter.
To book The Grand Hotel Stockholm visit www.grandhotel.se or contact reservations on +46(0)8-679 35 60 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. British Airways flies from London City Airport to Stockholm twice daily. Prices start from £75 one way. For more information and to book, visit www.ba.com.