“Ceci est la folie”, I’m going crazy under this gazing Phuket sun. The bartender, who hardly speaks any English, knows some French for some odd reason, but my words are not enough. My mouth and palette are however getting wet, yet again by ice cold light lager, the specialty of local beers like Leo, Tiger, Singha and Chang. The sounds and smells of the Asian nights are intriguing and I’m in a whirlwind of new gastronomic tastes and experiences on my journey. The food seems to have endless variations, but the drinks kind of remain the same. The idea of serving this sort of generic beverage isn’t a bad one; it fulfils its purpose. Yet, to be honest, after a few weeks under the sun filled with hot tasty dishes, mostly made up of chili spiced seafood from the grill, I’m starting to yearn for something more elaborate and distinct, something that will wake my tongue from its hot spiced/cooled down slumber and on to a taste rollercoaster. There are of course the giants, mega producers from Chile, Italy and France, that have made their way over here and into the markets and restaurants, but the quality doesn’t match the price tag. My mind starts to drift off… back home to a certain local, recently opened wine bar in eastern Södermalm in the cold snowy Stockholm winter. Just a few days prior to my departure for Thailand I paid a visit, with some dear friends, to Folii on Erstagatan 21.
Entering early, the bar is already filled with wine aficionados and the huge windows, in the otherwise not so big space, were already starting to grow damp with condensation. A warm welcome and greeting from the two owners, Béatrice Becher and Jonas Sandberg, gets me a great seat awaiting my company. The wine list is presented twice, after the first version gets quickly revised after some of the guests made a few of the desirable wines listed quickly disappear. While waiting I notice the attention to detail in the making of this bar, just open a few weeks, already makes it feel like home. The books on the shelves, the way they are positioned with other wine paraphernalia, can’t be chance. Even though it’s all brand new, the patina and antiques, second-hand vibe is there, but not in an over-the-top way. A thumbed copy of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita catches my eye, as it’s one of my own personal favourites. A quote from the novel springs to mind as I glance at the menu of cocktails, food and wines: “’Is that vodka?’ Margarita asked weakly. The cat jumped up in his seat with indignation. ‘I beg pardon, my queen’, he rasped, ‘Would I ever allow myself to offer vodka to a lady? This is pure alcohol!’”.
Music starts playing as I get my first glass. Béatrice pours me a Chinon Les Picasses from Olga Raffault to the tunes of Kent’s 747 from their bar-situated vinyl player. A Swedish and Nordic sommelier Champion, Béatrice finally got her own bar when asked by fellow (Sturehof) sommelier Jonas to join him in the Folii project in East Södermalm. Recently, The New York Times wrote a report on this once-dead Stockholm enclave. The reason is simply that great stuff just keeps popping up there, and a new wave of young entrepreneurs are taking the opportunity to make their mark. Not long ago Café Nizza, a sibling restaurant to Restaurant Babette (which we’ve been featured in TS before), opened its doors opposite the acclaimed restaurant Nook, and in the same area as the now famous Ai Ramen and daring restaurant Punk Royale.
Beatrice makes space for herself at my table and I get the chance to pick her brain a little, when she’s not wandering off to tend the thirsty guests that keep pouring in. I ask about the vinyl player, as they don’t have a DJ here, and instead let the whole album play on which is actually a delight.
”Our colleagues in Norway, who run the wine bar Terretoriet, play vinyl in their bar and it was something that we really wanted to do at Folii too. We imagine that the analogue feel and the fact that we play albums in full gives a nice, relaxed feeling”.
Sorting the wine list out I guess is team work between you and Jonas, but you both have a well documented background as top sommeliers. So who does what, how did you decide on the menu and what responsibility does the chef have?
The wine list will never be the widest, so we have bought wines that we feel and think are a good representation for their region. We have worked hard together to try to find wines with some maturity and because we have very little room for large amounts of wine, it automatically becomes a very dynamic list. The food should be simple and good, lots of snacks that are wine friendly, and just like the wine list it changes frequently. Since there only four of us working here, the division of work is that everyone does everything, which is the most fun way to work anyway.
I order the Rooster Sandwich with pickled beetroots, and a dish of fried cod with horseradish and chili. My friends have arrived and they too join the bandwagon of orders. Champagne Billecart Salmon rosé, Domaine du Pelican Trois Cépages Arbois 2015 and Grotte Alte 2012 by longtime favourite Arianna Occhipinti are just some of the wines put on our table.
Who is your chef? How did you come across that person for this position, bearing in mind that it’s a wine-focused place? The food is delicious…
Our chef is Viktor Gilck and we have been very lucky, because he is so interested in the drinks business. Because it is a small industry, he actually got in touch with us and was curious about the place. We have a small kitchen which requires us to work very creatively with the resources we have, which I think can be very inspiring”.
Will you ever compete again in sommellerie competitions?
”It remains to be seen, you should never say never”.
After realising a dream like this, what is your next goal?
Now, the goal and the focus are solely on Folii, and we plan to build a cosy outdoor seating terrace for the summer. And to add a fantastic cigar list.
What are your (both you and Jonas’) three favourites from the list, that no one visiting should miss out on?
Ramonet, Chassagne-Montrachet 1986, Nicolas Joly, Clos de la Coulée Serrant 1990, Zilliken, Saarburger Rausch Riesling Kabinett, 1997, Kumeau River, Mates Vineyard 2014, Ghislaine Barthod, Bourgogne Rouge 2010, C & P Breton, Les Perrières, 1988.
With this bar in mind, I drift back to my now-lukewarm Chang, but with only a few days left on this trip. I say Khop Khun Kap and Au Revoir to the bartender, and decide that the first thing I will do when I get back home to the snow-clad streets of Stockholm is pay another visit to Folii, the little French word for craziness transformed into a vivid and living place for taste sensations.
Folii, Erstagatan 21
Words: Pär Strömberg