By Susan Harte
By Susan Harte
The first thing that hits you when you enter the wood-lined dark restaurant off the fashionable main street in Stockholm is the smoke – not a ‘bad’ smoke rather a pungent earthy warm smell – that envelops you, as if you have walked into someone’s much loved old cabin where everything is cooked on an open fire in the corner of the room. That could be because everything at Eckstedt is cooked without electricity. Niklas Eckstedt is the chef who literally plays with fire. This does not mean the restaurant is all about grilled meat on an open flame. In fact there is far more skill involved when using a variety of different forms of fire – open fire , cast iron ovens, smoky chimneys and wood fired ovens – he is more interested in the techniques used in Scandinavian cooking as much as he is showcasing Scandinavian products ( he does both extremely well by the way ).
All this cooking on fire makes for a very hot kitchen and one that requires his staff to lug at least a cubic metre of wood into the stoves and ovens everyday,
Found in the fashionable downtown area of Omer close to the water ( most things are close to the water in Stockholm ) an exterior that is undistinguished – inside you’ll find a rather contemporary take on the wood cabin with seating for 50 – that is booked out at least 30 days in advance – as popular with locals as it is with then rising number of food tourists . There are wooden tables and chairs dimmed lighting that seems to allow the whole restaurant to glow with the light of the fires – and a solid concrete counter at the fires edge known as the chefs table – that we were lucky to score that night . The restaurants sommelier Maximilian Melfors who had only recently arrived back from Sydney from the Rootstock was a charming and knowledgeable sommelier . The fact that he had just been as farway as Sydney sourcing good wine hinted at the variety and quality of the perfectly paired wines we would have during the evening .
There are six or eight course menus – we went all out for the eight… no mean feat given the equal pairings of wine . We started with small cast iron bowls , heated to great heat on one of the fires – and the reindeer heart taratre – yes a bit hard to swallow so close to xmas , but mixed with pomegranate and wild herbs was a little like chicken liver only gamier, simply divine .
Fast on it’s tail came minute smoked arctic char , the ‘minute’ related to the fish having been filetted a minute before it was smoked for a minute then served within a minute with tangy seaweed, so light and fresh and very much straight from the sea.
Oysters ‘flamadou ‘ followed – cooked in marrow fat fleetingly and served with smoked apple sounds bizarre but I truly don’t think I have ever tasted anything like it – oysters will never be the same again.
Blackened langoustine with kohlrabi and smoked butter , Vendace Roe and smoked marrow bone with buttermilk cooked in what was described as a stone age microwave – was in fact an ancient smoking box – the richness of the marrow lightened beautifully by the delicate fresh roe .
Juniper smoked turbot and wild duck cooked in the ashes and served with truffled cabbage and tarred vinegar ended our incredible range of foods – all with flavours so very different from anything I had eaten in a long time and although it all sounded so very smoky and somewhat dary – the flavours were so fresh and subtle and the variety of the gentle smoking , cooking techniques was not heavy nor rich .. all felt very natural as if caught and cooked in the wild .
Even dessert was cooked in the cast iron oven over embers – apple cake with mead ice cream .
A blast of freezing stockholm night air and a brisk walk back to our hotel was what was need to aid digestion of this amazing feast .
The staff and chefs at Eckstedt , their friendlines and their obvious pride and passion for their style of cooking and local ingredients would turn anyone into a scandi foodie – Im in !
Humlegårdsgatan 17, 114 46 Stockholm, Sweden
+46 8 611 12 10