Dinner at Fotografiska:
Eat Your Veggies!
Nutritional recommendations such as the classic Swedish ‘food pyramid’, which dates back to 1974, and the 2011 US equivalent MyPlate-model are under serious scrutiny, and for good reason – is there really such a thing as a general dietary guideline that is perfect for every human?
While the craze around large chunks of meat, served with nothing but a few small side dishes seems to gain momentum from one year to another, there is also a vegetable-led trend headed in the opposite direction. Now don’t revert to preconceptions of vegetarian and vegan establishments, where patrons are served a plate of bean sprouts and diced cucumber by a beanie-and-dreads-wearing youngster that reeks of pot. The places I’m referring to are beautifully designed venues with great chefs that serve up a vegetable-based menu where protein plays second fiddle.
Instead of basing a meal around a piece of meat or fish, the lead is played by legumes, using proteins from the animal kingdom as a tool to flavour and enhance the dish. Or, as our server at Fotografiska explains it: “Our menu is plant-based and each medium-sized dish is a complete culinary experience in its own. But if you feel the urge, we’re also serving lamb and white fish as side dishes tonight. However, you won’t find them anywhere on our menu, as we feel that our regular dishes are enough as is.”
My meal starts of with a set of cold dishes. The ‘Swedish delicacies’ (165 kronor) are a selection of thinly sliced pickled vegetables – fennel, celeriac and carrots – placed on a wooden painter’s palette like clots of paint. While dressing the table with sliced and roasted bread, a pot of butter and some thinly-sliced dried meat, our server urges us to build our own sandwich. Crisp, tangy slivers of vegetables paired with the fatty richness of the butter and the supreme flavour of freshly-baked sourdough bread take the first dish from simple fingerfood to a sense of something authentic and down-to-earth, yet exclusive at the same time. The sandwiches, along with a glass of Loimer Riesling, look like they are straight out of the last issue of Kinfolk magazine. Next, the cold Dordogne carrots placed on a pinky-thin slice of chicken liver terrine (125 kronor, as all other medium-sized dishes with the exception of ‘Swedish delicacies’) gives a clear vision of what chef Paul Svensson aims to do with his very own version of the food pyramid. The lukewarm Amandine potatoes served with smoked sour cream and bleak roe are the most conventional on the lot, but still manage to deliver.
Since its opening in 2010, Fotografiska has had to deal with its fair share of doubters and haters. The question “Is Stockholm really large enough for a museum that solely shows photographic work?” was frequently asked throughout the first year, but when it was publicised that the total number of paying visitors were more than 270,000 during the first seven months (the current number of visitors is around 500,000 a year), any remaining prophets of doom were shut up for good. Now, four years later, the time has come to focus on the restaurant. Chef Svensson and Copenhagen-based design studio Space were brought in to create a concept to take the museum to the next level. Because nowadays every major museum has a great restaurant to back it up.
Continuing with the medium-sized dishes, we move on to hot food. The cold bourgogne by French winery Domaine Montanet-Thedon compliments a beautiful yellow onion served with a pureé of Jerusalem artichokes and black autumn truffle – a clear front-runner throughout the entire meal – to perfection. But the celeriac, placed in a bowl of foamy porcino broth and walnuts, is not far behind.
Although Fotografiska’s food and beverage area, which is located on the top floor of the old ferry building and divided into different sections, can take up to 330 guests, the dining room never feels to crowded or busy. With large windows that offer stunning skyline views of Stockholm after dark, as well as smart choices in furniture, the constant flow of people throughout the space never really feels intrusive. I hardly notice the neighbouring table being cleared out and new dinner guests taking their seat, until I register the server turning down their request for a pre-dinner cocktail. To me, her slightly awkward “Sorry, we only serve champagne before dinner” is in complete contravention of the restaurant’s otherwise open-minded and innovative approach. And what is even more baffling is that the cocktail bar, another partition in the Fotografiska food and dining experience, is not more than 20 meters away.
The intriguingly named ‘lemon, olive and meringue’ dessert sounds stronger than it tastes. With no clear direction and lackluster flavours, I move on to a slightly better dessert made up of chunks of ‘kladdkaka’ – chocolate mud cake – sea buckthorn berries, ice cream and crushed rye. But all in all, I feel that Fotografiska’s sovereign strength lies in the delicate refinement of vegetable produce. Who ever thought veggies could taste this good?
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Photo: Ulf Berglund