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Mathias Dahlgren

Grand Hotel, Södra Blasieholmshamnen 6, Stockholm, 103 27, Sweden

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The restaurant Mathias Dahlgren is in the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, with a fine view over the harbour and a capacity of 38 covers, with generously spaced tables. It opened in May 2007, and chef Mathias Dahlgren gained two Michelin stars in 2009 for the restaurant; he is the only Swedish winner of the Bocuse d'Or competition (in 1997), having previously run the Michelin starred Bon Lloc from 1996 to 2005. We had a table next to the open kitchen, which appeared to have a very calm atmosphere. The wine list spans the world and has choices such as Emmerich Knoll Pfaffenberg Riesling Selection 2006 at SEK 1,260 (£119) for a wine you can buy in the shops in the UK for £38, Wittmann Kirchspiel Riesling Grosse Gewachs 2007 for SEK 1,150 (£108) for a wine that retails for about £23 in the UK, and Maybach Materium Cabernet Sauvignon was 2006 was SEK 4,160 (£392) for a wine that will set you back around £145 in the UK shops.

As we looked at the menu, some popcorn arrived, but laced with winter truffle, a real mix of up and down market ingredients; don't expect this to be appearing at your local cinema any time soon (16/20). Alongside this several other nibbles appeared. Deep-fried pumpkin leaves with oyster dip was rather odd, as the batter was distinctly greasy (13/20). The other nibbles were much better, grilled chicken was excellent, with grilled leek flower and mayonaisse (18/20). Pickled yellow beet with beetroot “soil” i.e. powdered beetroot was also excellent, the beetroot having lovely flavour (17/20). The final nibble was scallop tartar with cucumber foam, which was very pleasant (16/20). I am puzzled by the greasy batter; it is hard for me to imagine that this was intentional. The head chef was not present this evening, but I would be surprised if that really made a lot of difference to the cooking in what seemed a well trained brigade.

The bread is a mix of rye bread made in the kitchen, and bought-in bread from the local Valhalla bakery for the sourdough bread. The latter had a very crisp crust, and although the bread was competent it did not excite me. Given the large kitchen here I would think they would be better off making all the bread (16/20). With the breads came a series of accompaniments. A warm bun with a filling of butter with fennel powder was apparently reflecting a childhood favourite memory of the chef, and there was also cheese in a toothpaste-style tube, bacon fat, spiced cheese and hand churned butter.

Next was Scandinavian sashimi, comprising organic farmed salmon, langoustines, cod, oyster and scallop. The sashimi was prepared with a little soy and served with a horseradish paste and a garnish of ginger. Having spent the previous two weeks in Japan it was interesting to compare the quality of the fish, and indeed this was actually quite good, though it did not compare with the serious places in Tokyo, such as Sushi Saito (16/20).

Next was a spicy broth of king crab, with fried onions and cod roe, the broth enlivened by a little lime. Although the broth itself was nicely seasoned I had two conceptual problems with this dish. Firstly I find the mix of temperatures, with the hot and slightly spicy broth with cold crab and hot deep fried onion, to be rather odd on the palate, though this is perhaps a personal thing. More troubling was that the delicate crab flavour was almost entirely overpowered by the strong flavour of the broth; this seems to me just a poor piece of dish design (15/20). I think the dish could work well if the broth had instead been offered with something like seared tuna, which would be better able to stand up to the spice, and incidentally would avoid the temperature discordance. This was followed by beef marrow served raw with chanterelles served on a little crisp; the beef was very tasty (17/20) served with a strongly flavoured parsley cream with garnish of radish sprouts.

The next dish of potatoes and "soil" was served with whitefish roe, sour cream and lemon. I thought that this worked really well, the potatoes having excellent taste and the contrast of roe, sour cream and lemon was nicely balanced (18/20). This was followed by an egg cooked slowly at 63 degrees, served with coal fish, which is reminiscent of cod in its taste. The dish was garnished with white truffles and girolles. The effect of cooking the egg (which came from a local farm) is that the white and yolk have similar textures, and I thought this worked really well, the combination of fish with the egg and truffles quite effective (18/20).

This was followed by foie gras with liquorice and carrot.purée, served on crisp bread. The foie gras used is an ethical foie gras from Spain, where there is no force feeding used. The effect is a slightly less rich livery taste but one that I found very enjoyable, while the liquorice, which made me nervous when it was announced, was fortunately well controlled; there was a clever use of a little vinegar to offset the richness of the foie gras, resulting in a dish with lovely taste balance (the vinegar is apparently aged in the kitchen). I felt this was a clear 18/20 for this dish.

The main course was a choice of roe deer or langoustines, and I was able to try both. The langoustine was of very high quality indeed, and cooked very carefully, served with good cabbage, horseradish and onion with langoustine foam. For me this was the dish of the night – a beautiful ingredient, cooked carefully and not messed around with (19/20). The roe deer had good taste and was properly cooked, served with yellow beetroot and a smear of red beetroot puree. The yellow beet was extremely vinegary, which for me detracted from the overall dish. When I asked about this I was told that the chef grew up in a northern part of Sweden noted for very strong pickles, and that this high level of sourness was intentional; perhaps so, but I think for most people it will not work, as this degree of sourness is simply unpalatable (17/20 overall).

A pre-dessert of forest ice tea was served with sea buckthorn sorbet (sea buckthorn is an orange berry that grows in the north of Sweden, with a citrus taste). The ice tea was made with juniper and port, and the overall effect was rather dominated by the juniper taste (16/20). This was followed by a sloe berry dish, with ice cream and sorbet of sloe berry with sloe berry seeds, which taste a little of bitter almonds; this worked quite well (17/20). We finished with quince with cloudberry and brown goat cheese, decorated with nougatine tuiles, the dish having a little olive oil added. This odd-sounding combination was surprisingly effective, with the slightly saltiness of the cheese contrasting well with the fruit (17/20). Finally there was strong coffee with a warm chocolate mousse with pistachio ice cream; the chocolate was unusually bitter, and was a "wild" chocolate (i.e. one produced from wild rather than cultivated cocoa trees) from Bolivia (17/20).

Service throughout the evening was terrific, with our main waiter Johan in particular excellent: friendly, attentive and knowledgeable. The bill, with standard wine pairing (which was of rather mixed quality in my view, and by my calculations at a very high mark-up) and a couple of glasses of champagne apiece, came to a heart-stopping SEK 6,800 for two (£322 a head). I know Sweden is hardly a cheap place, but this seemed to me an awful lot of money. The food element was £142 a head, but coffee was on top of this.

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  • Mike Nabb

    Mathias Dahlgren is actually two restaurants, Matsalen and Matbaren (loose translation: "The food dining-hall" and "The food bar" respectively). Andys review is for the two star Matsalen. I've been to both and I must confess that I enjoyed Matbaren more, despite it only having one single star. Matbaren is more relaxed and has lower prices but the food is almost to the same level as in Matsalen. The only difference might be that the ingredients might be more costly in the two star room. I enjoyed both but my recommendation would be Matbaren.

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