Wednesday 18 July 2012

Skål! Cool Cafe-Bars of Södermalm

The island of Södermalm, south of Stockholm's Old Town, was once known for its industry and gritty working-class housing. Now the wheel has turned, and its proximity to the city centre has led to gentrification and an influx of the monied and the arty.

Crossing that new population with the still-gritty streetscape has given rise to some interesting places to have a drink. Here are a few I visited on my recent trip to Sweden (assisted by the Stockholm Visitors Board)...

1. Gilda, Skånegatan 79. This cool cafe-bar is located in the pretentiously-named SoFo district of Södermalm, south of Folkungagatan and east of Götgatan. It's in a pleasant spot, as it overlooks the greenery of Nytorget square. As you can see from the pics, it's a relaxed, eclectically decorated hang-out of the hip:

It serves decent food too - I had an excellent tuna toastie ($10.50) and double-shot black coffee ($3.50), with the coffee served in the sort of delicate cup and saucer your gran might have sipped tea from. Nice touch, Gilda (whoever you are):

2. Cafe String, Nytorgsgatan 38. Not far away in SoFo is this corner cafe with huge windows letting in natural light on the strange collection of oddments that constitute its decor. It's a laidback, grungy sort of place, very reminiscent of the retro-themed cafes of Brunswick Street, Melbourne in the 1990s:

I had a coffee ($2.80) here when it opened one morning, and on the way out admired the all-season Santa in the front window, next to a scuffed old motorbike:

3. Kvarnen, Tjärhovsgatan 4. Just outside SoFo to the north, this old-fashioned beer hall is the polar opposite of an edgy modern cafe. Open since 1908, its cavernous interior is furnished with timber tables against wood-panelled walls, and there's a long, pitted, metal-topped bar running down one side:

I wasn't eating, but the menu looked interesting. The standard offer was two courses for $25, including such Scandi options as pickled herring cake, smoked sausages, homemade meatballs and reindeer stew. 

Given these homegrown food choices, I was surprised to find that the bar didn't have any Swedish beers on tap; so I settled for a 600ml glass of Falcon ($9.60), which was once an iconic Swedish brew but is now owned by the Danish company Carlsberg:

The only negative thing about Kvarnen was a
compulsory $3 coat check (in my case, a jacket check) as you enter, whether you're wearing light or bulky outerwear. Presumably they just have to do without this annoying little surcharge on hot days.

Next: Three more Södermalm drinking holes of an entirely different nature - one very high, another with an overwhelming range, and a third which features in fiction...

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