Around half the people who read this blog aren’t British so may not be familiar with Dick Turpin. Well Richard, Dick to his friends, Turpin was a famous 18th century British Highwayman. That is to say that during the age of horse and carriages, he was renowned for highway robbery. Indeed the origin of the phrase ‘day light robbery’ is often attributed to Dick and his contemporaries.
Which brings me nicely onto the main theme of this week’s blog, drinking in Sweden. During his visit a few weeks ago, my dad Brendadio took me out in Stockholm to ‘wet the baby’s head’. Again, for readers who may not be familiar with the concept, it basically involves going out to celebrate the birth of a baby with a drink (or half dozen). Yes, it is unfair on the mother and reinforces stereotypes, but tradition is tradition…
Now given the limitations of having a newborn baby we decided to focus on the area surrounding our flat in Södermalm. Thus a route was devised that would take in The Wollmar, The Half Way Inn, Loch Ness Tavern, Pitchers and Akkurat.
For obvious baby-shaped reasons, I haven’t been out on a proper ‘session’ since moving to Sweden, so was quite excited. Tragically however things did not go as planned and every cliché you’ve heard about drinking in Sweden was confirmed: Overpriced, overly strong and rubbish.
We begin in The Wollmar. Now a few weeks ago I’d been in the Wollmar with my father-in-law, and having arrived early in the afternoon had ordered the excellent but astronomically expensive, Brooklyn Larger. As the day had drawn on the bar had slowly filled up with locals, all of whom were drinking a local brew, Falcon. The reason? It was half the price of our imported larger, so we quickly shifted tack.
Now naturally when I took Brendadio, I thought let’s start on the local brew. What I’d forgotten was that last time I’d thrown back a few Brooklyn’s first which had clearly diluted Falcon ‘unique’ taste. Unique in the sense that it would only be drinkable after about 5 pints! Still, we should have known better, like never eating in a restaurant with pictures of the food they serve outside, you should never expect a decent pint in ‘bar [slash] restaurant’,
From there we went to Scottish-themed The Half Way Inn, a pub I’ve talked about before in this blog with its amazing bust above the toilet in the men’s room,
Proof that most men in Sweden are right handed.
We made two mistakes here. Firstly my dad attempted to engage the Swedish barman in some good old fashioned ‘British Pub Banter’. Now ok, Brendadio’s pub chat (as we’ll see later) can firmly be filled under hit and miss, but the reluctance to even engage in a bit of idle chit-chat was very surprising. We couldn’t even get him to explain the reason for the Scottish theme, which given they’ve got TARTAN WALLPAPER for crying out loud, was a little disappointing,
Inevitably this first problem ran directly into the second. As the barman simply wouldn’t engage or recommend an ale, we accidently ordered a pint of Erdinger. What is it about the word ‘Erdinger’ that is has the ability to draw you to it when confronted with an assortment of unrecognisable beers. And secondly that it wipes entirely from your brain what you thought about it the last time you accidently ordered it? I mean, just how bad is ‘wheat beer’? Seriously, who drinks this stuff? It’s got more in common with soup than beer!
So far, so rubbish, so it was with some trepidation that we took a gamble and went to the Loch Ness Tavern. Now with a name like that you’d be forgiven for thinking that the part of Stockholm we live in is basically ‘little Glasgow’, but whereas the Half Way Inn wears its colours on its sleeves (or rather wallpaper) I have absolutely no idea why this particular boozer is named after the mythical Scottish monster,
Particularly as it is clearly classed as one of the ‘trendy’ bars in the area, and if there is one thing myself and Brendadio will never be accused of, it’s being trendy. So as we took in our surrounds of mismatched chairs and tables (so annoying), authentically rustic walls (i.e. dilapidated wooden doors nailed to the breeze block walls) and white bathroom tiles behind the bar (expecting a lot of spray out of the beer bottles are we?), my eye’s fell on one of the taps… “Ah Badarö!” I rejoiced. Now Badarö is a fantastic bottled beer that you can buy in the bottle shops around Stockholm, however it turns out to be not so great on draft and we quickly exited given our complete lack of hipster credentials.
Interesting side note, ‘bottle shops’ – i.e. the state run Systembolaget – are the only places you can buy alcohol over 3.5% for personal consumption in Sweden. The shops themselves are also only open during limited times during the week, including until 7pm on a Friday – you can imagine what they are like at 6.55.
So from Loch Ness to Pitchers, itself a Scottish golf inspired bar… What is it with Scotland and Sodermalm… What can I say about Pitchers? Well it’s a bit like a Weatherspoons with less atmosphere (and yes, apparently that is possible). Oh and, AND, it too has Tartan bloody Wallpaper! Was there a sale on wallpaper from around the world a few years back? Do Scottish themed bars get a tax break?
If I’m honest, Pitchers was merely a pit stop on route to what I was hoping would be the jewel in the crown of the tour Akkurat. I’ve been in Akkurat a few times and by all accounts it is one of the better bars in Stockholm, not least because it hosts live music (a surprisingly uncommon thing), but also because of its extensive range of beers and spirits. In fact I’d probably go as far as to say that in my admittedly limited experience, it’s the best pub in Stockholm.
Once again though, things did not go to plan. Perhaps because it was a Monday night and the ‘A Team’ were taking a well earned break after the weekend, we ended up being served by a barman in an even worse mood than the one we’d met earlier in the Half Way Inn. Moody bugger, we attempted to engage him in some chat around the fact they were hosting this beer from Burnley,
Burnley of course being a town very close to where we are from – surely a guaranteed conversation starter. Not a chance! He couldn’t have been less interested, and keep in mind dear reader that the bar stools outnumbered the drinkers! I then made the fatal error of asking him to recommend something. Well all I can say is that we must have really upset him because God knows what was in the pint he pulled but it was clearly something he was trying to get rid of.
Almost dejected, thankfully Brendadio rescued the whole night in the way that only Brendadio can. I mentioned earlier that his ‘bar chat’ is legendary… in the sense that it’s impossible to know if what he says is pure stupidity, or done with absolute clarity. I’ll let you be the judge…
Picture the scene. We’ve sat at a table outside when the Swedish waitress comes over with an ashtray,
Waitress: “Would you like an ashtray?”
Brendadio: “Why would I want an ashtray?”
Waitress: “Erm… I’ll just leave it there ok.”
After she has walked away,
B: “That joke must have been lost in translation.”
Anyway, last weekend we had some A Class Visitors and Friends of the Blog, Alex’s Aunt and Uncle, Greta and Nigel. As long time blog enthusiasts, it goes without saying that top of their list of things to do was go to Muggen (d)
Just look at the smiles on those faces. A dream come true – lunch in Muggen (d)
Alex and I were very excited about their visit for a whole host of reasons, not least because it was an opportunity to give ‘Fraser Hynes Stockholm Holiday Tours’ a live, real world, test.
What were the results? Well judge for yourself with some feedback on a couple of places we recommended,
The Vasa Museum
Fraser Hynes Stockholm Holiday Tours says, “Stockholm’s number one ‘must do’, you have to, have to go. I know I bang on about it all the time, but stop what you are doing, get on a plane, fly to Stockholm and go… I’m being serious! And for the record, I’ll have you know Trip Advisor just named it one of the Top Ten museums in the world – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-3244665/TripAdvisor-names-best-museums-world.html”
Greta says, “It’s a big boat.”
Fem Små Hus
FHSHT was particular concerned about this as it had been booked for Greta’s birthday on our recommendation and given they are well-travelled foodies, there were some concerns.
FHSHT says, “The best restaurant if you want authentic Swedish cuisine”
Great says, “Fantastic venue and excellent food, loved it”
*Nigel was slightly less convinced but it wasn’t his birthday so tough (only joking kidder!)
All in all, I’d say that we scored very well with room for improvement. But as they have both already agreed to come back next year things must have gone well.
Now before I move on to the regular features, I need to share with you dear reader a mystery which has thus far eluded all explanation. It all began a few months ago.
I was leaving my flat to nip to the shop when I noticed that a cheese grater had been left on top of metal breaker box outside our flat. My sister Roisin had just started working at the newly opened Leadenhall Building which has been re-named by Londoners as the ‘cheese grater’ in light of its distinctive shape, http://www.theleadenhallbuilding.com/.
So naturally I took a photograph and sent it to my sister under the caption, ‘Introducing Stockholm’s very own cheese grater’, or something to that effect… listen it had been a long day ok,
Anyway, I thought nothing more about it, until last week.
Alex and I had managed to nip out of the flat for half an hour for a quick drink (and before anyone gets too excited, we didn’t leave Rosalyn asleep in the bath, my mum and dad were looking after her). Anyway, walking back to the flat a chap ahead of us noticed that someone had left a pair of miniature speakers out on a window sill. He walked up, showed them to his mate, checked the wires were still ok, and put them in his pocket.
Weird right? Well, few days later I’m walking past the shoe shop round the corner and on top of the bin outside the front door, someone had left a pair of trainers. Ok, they were clearly used but could it be that people just leave random things in Stockholm and hope people will give them a new home?
To test the theory, so you don’t have to dear reader, here are some shots of random things which appear to have been ‘left’ for people to take. These photos were all taken yesterday on the roads around our flat. Feel free to judge for yourself.
Yes, but would you want it in your house? This picture looks like a still from the start of a 1980s horror film, ‘The Killer Elf Of Christmas’ or some such thing.
Almost dead plant needing some TLC or shop front window dressing? You decide.
This has clearly gone too far, other than a really poor clown who would want a discarded banana skin?… Oh, hang on a minute.
“Can you not read? It says I’m six weeks old, so what?”
Six weeks gone already, you can’t believe it. The last week or so have been a little ‘trying’ in the sense that Rosalyn has well and truly discovered the fine set of lungs she has been blessed with. Unfortunately she hasn’t yet discovered any decent tunes to go with the lungs, if you catch my drift, and let’s just say that I don’t see, ‘Wearrr, Wearrr, Wearr,” entering the charts anytime soon. Still we mustn’t complain, she’s healthy, growing well and strong which is ultimately all that matters.
Picture of week
Some amazing news last week with the birth of the beautiful Isabelle Alice Sheil. Daughter of Sophie and Matt, this was particularly exciting for me because I’ve been friends with Matt for over twenty-five years. We always share our birthday and were ushers at each others’ wedding. It’s very exciting to think that our little girls will also grow up friends – whether they like it or not.
I told you things had started to change. Spotted on Sunday, people digging up the plants in the park round the back of our flat ahead of the big freeze,
To say that the park has lost some of its charm as a result is a bit of an understatement,
Winter is coming.
Track of the week
Dedicated to the sharing community of Stockholm, U2 – Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,
Fraser ‘just one decent pint please’ Hynes