Having recovered from the sticker shock of just about everything in Stockholm, I decided to try to forget the all-too-simple exchange rate and not worry about what I was spending. It’s hard not to notice that your 200 SEK lunch just set you back £20 for a salad and a soda but I made a valiant effort to stick it all on a credit card and think about it later. One restaurant that came up in my research as good value was 12 Kungstensgatan, a chic little place that specialises in small plates to share. Now, I am not a huge fan of the small plate phenomenon. It started in New York when I lived there and seemed to be mostly a way for restaurants to charge not much less than main course prices for not much more than appetiser portions. As someone who regularly gets nervous that tapas will leave me broke and hungry, the prospect of artfully arranged modernist plates at £13 a pop is alarming, to say the least. So, a small plate place in Stockholm as “good value” seemed a strange idea but one I was willing to test out.
The restaurant is in an appealing space and has a nice informal welcome. We arrived as non-Swedish speakers with small children and no reservation, and were cheerfully accommodated by a friendly waitress who turned out to be Spanish (weirdly, Spanish was as useful a language as English in Stockholm). The menu was also appealing, with traditional Swedish dishes supplemented by modern combinations of ingredients and a bit of Spanish and Mediterranean influence. We ordered six dishes among four adult diners, so more or less one of everything.
As the dishes arrived, what we noticed immediately is that this restaurant should really be called Salad. I like salad a lot and I completely see the force of piling attractive greens on top of your main ingredient to give it height and colour, but they might have taken this idea a touch too far. The picture up top is a lovely warm goat cheese glazed with lavender honey and served with piquillo peppers, hazelnuts and tomato. It was a very good dish, with the honey, cheese and nuts making an especially good combination. But it was mostly a salad. Next came the vodka marinaded Atlantic salmon with pumpernickel bread and citrus. This was delicious: the fresh salmon was really fresh and the buttery pumpernickel was the best I’ve ever tasted. But let’s face it, it’s largely a salad.
We also had sautéed tiger prawns with piquillo peppers, tomato and pancetta. Again, the plate was a composed salad of green leaves with some prawns around the edge and a rasher of bacon across the top. It was a nice salad (come on, it had prawns and bacon in it) but a salad nonetheless. A plate of white asparagus with salmon featured yet another rocket and frisée tower. This whole idea of good value was starting to seem very questionable to me, although to be fair, each of the dishes included high quality ingredients, well cooked.
We did have some dishes that weren’t salad-centric. Gorgonzola baked lamb with asparagus and rosemary went down well with everyone, and the honey roasted duck breast with cauliflour, whole fig, radicchio, red wine and truffle oil was delicious. It used the same lavender honey as the goat cheese, this time combining its sweetness with that of the roasted fig and setting them against the bitter radicchio and musky truffle.
But it got really weird when our dessert of orange and Campari pannacotta arrived…with a side salad. There was much mocking of this insanity, and one of the kids at the table was completely perplexed by the idea of a dessert with salad. And yet I have to record that this salad was actually kind of good. It had a sugar syrup dressing (I know!) and the combination of bitter rocket and sweet dressing echoed the flavours of Campari and orange in the pudding. Even our skeptical child diner pronounced it delicious and said she’d eat more salad if it were sweet like this. So maybe the salad-obsessives at 12 Kungstensgatan are onto something?
So, with the caveat that none of us were ravenously hungry to begin with, I do have to admit that we felt well fed by the end of the meal. Perhaps it’s not the place to go if what you really want is a heaping plate of noms all to yourself, but as a quality to price ratio, 12 Kungstensgatan is actually a pretty good value taste of contemporary Swedish cuisine.
Restaurant No12 Kungstensgatan
113 57 Stockholm