For a weekend break, Stockholm is pretty much a perfect destination. A compact and beautiful city, not overrun with tourists, with some excellent bars and restaurants, plenty of fine galleries and museums, and a mere two-and-a-half hours on BA from London City.
I went on a sunny weekend in autumn, the Baltic shimmering under blue skies, and took a tram to the island of Djurgården. This is home to several museums, including the magnificent Vasa Museum, which houses a 17th-century warship that sunk on her maiden voyage.
For fans of Sweden’s own Fab Four, there is also ABBA the Museum, worth visiting just for its collection of outrageous costumes; next door, the Melody Hotel has a smart little restaurant in which you can sip langoustine soup while you try to get Super Trouper out of your head.
Also on Djurgården is the lovely Rosendals Trädgård, a big organic garden that boasts a café, shop and bakery; and Stockholm’s best‑known chef, Mathias Dahlgren, tends one of its plots of land.
He has two restaurants in the Grand Hotel: the upscale Matsalen, which offers an eight-course tasting menu, and Matbaren (pictured), its laid-back, bistro-style sibling. The latter is a splendid place to discover Scandinavian ingredients refashioned by a master of his craft: Norwegian scallops, winningly matched with slices of raw, snowy-white mushrooms, white soy sauce and brown butter. Or deer heart from the south of Stockholm, blackened on the outside, tender and creamy within, scattered with cress, fennel and toasted-rye breadcrumbs.
The vegetables are superb: broccoli served on pumpkin purée, strewn with hazelnuts and shavings of aromatic summer truffle. And sweet, earthy beetroot – from Rosendal – paired with goat’s cheese and black sesame seeds. Matbaren is not plush, but the food is joyously, upliftingly clean-flavoured.
Dahlgren is a contributor to the restaurant guide Where Chefs Eat, in which he recommends the fried Baltic herring at Strömmingsvagnen, a van parked near the Slussen Tunnelbana. The queues testify to its popularity; I cannot, because I tried another of his recommendations instead.
Amida Kolgril, in trendy Södermalm, is a small Turkish restaurant where kebabs are grilled over charcoal and anointed with a punchy chilli sauce. You need not be a chef on his day off to fall for the smoky, fatty charms of a shish – just don’t expect to have room for fried herring afterwards.