Friday, 20 July 2012

Skål! More Cafe-Bars of Södermalm

Last post I reviewed three bars in or near the ever-so-hip SoFo district of Södermalm, an island south of Stockholm's central business district.

This week I go north to the area around Slussen, with its steep bluffs and views of the picturesque Old Town...

1. Gondolen, Stadsgården 6. This remarkable bar is suspended in the air high above the locks in the channel between Södermalm and Gamla Stan (the Old Town).

The structure was originally built in the 19th century as a lift to take residents up to the heights above the water, a development which led to an early gentrification of parts of the island - because you no longer had to haul your way up those steep inclines if you were posh and fancied a view:


The lift shaft on the water side no longer works, so Gondolen is accessed via a lift in the commercial building it's attached to. As you'd expect, there are great views from the bar:


As for the bar's name, you might imagine like I did that it's a fanciful reference to the gondolas of watery Venice - but you'd be wrong.

The lift was rebuilt in 1933, at the height of the age of the airship (and four years before the destruction of the Hindenburg ended it).

According to my barman, the name Gondolen evokes the gondolas which once hung beneath the gigantic balloons, carrying the passengers and crew. There is, I imagine, still a passing resemblance:


There's a restaurant attached but I was happy to order a dry martini made with local Svensk Vodka ($13.50), reflect on the last time I'd encountered a zeppelin in my travels, and enjoy the view.

2. Akkurat, Hornsgatan 18. Not far to the west, this sprawling modern pub stocks an astounding range of beers - 700 in bottles and at least 20 on tap on any given day. You can see some of the variety via this board, which listed some of the offering on the day I visited:


I was at the bar to interview Micke Bayart, a diehard ABBA fan who met all the group's members in the 1980s and had recently written a book about his experiences, ABBA by Micke.

As we talked, we each tried a couple of the bar's stock, helped by this gent behind the bar:


I started with a Golden Ale from Sweden ($10.25), then recklessly moved onto the #500 ($14.50) from the Norwegian brewer Nøgne Ø - which I belatedly realised was 10% alcohol. Powerful stuff.

3. Mellqvist Kaffebar, Hornsgatan 78. Further to the west is a cafe-bar I didn't actually get to drink in, as it was about to close when I passed by. It's worth noting, however, as one of the regular haunts of ace investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist in the Millennium series of novels:


If you're a fan of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, you'll remember this as the cafe in which Salander asks Blomkvist for a sizeable and very consequential loan near the end of the book. In real life, novelist Stieg Larsson worked nearby and hung out here. And, possibly, plotted over coffee... 

This post was sponsored by AFerry.co.uk.