Nobel Dining in Stockholm

Posted on May 17, 2013 | Comments Off on Nobel Dining in Stockholm

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December 10, is the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896. It’s also the day on which the Nobel Prizes for Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and Literature are awarded in Stockholm (the Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo on the same day). After the awards, there’s a grand banquet in Stockholm’s City Hall where 1300 guests, including the king and queen of Sweden, eat a grand dinner served by over 200 waiters.

Few visitors to Stockholm are aware that in the beautiful cellar restaurant under the City Hall they can have a Nobel meal served by candlelight on the same china and accompanied by the same wines as the official dinner guests.

You can even choose which award year’s meal you’d like – but a week’s notice is required for most. And there’s a minimum of 10 diners required. However, the dishes on the menu of the immediate past awards dinner is available every day on the a la carte menu (it changes on December 11 each year) but everyone at you table must order it and the restaurant suggests that pre-ordering is a good idea..

The cost of the dinner is 1495 Swedish kroner (or about $A228) per person. While that’s not cheap, nor is expensive by Scandinavian standards.

Considering the elaborate process of deciding on the menu for a Nobel banquet, the meals certainly on the cutting edge of adventurous cuisine. Perhaps the prestige of the event leads to conservatism? Dishes such as shellfish are avoided because many people are allergic to it – and cultural sensitivities must be taken into account, too. Within these parameters, three different menus are prepared by the kitchen manager, the head chef and the restaurant’s general manager. At a trial dinner members of the Nobel Foundation give their opinions on each of the dishes and the final menu may be a mix and match of the original suggestions.

It’s not a meal you’d complain about. For example, the 1994 menu is an entree of roulades of smoked duck breast, mango and chard with mache salad with pine kernels; a main of fillet of veal with sage and pompom mushrooms, tomatoes stuffed with spinach and fondant potatoes with ginger; then a dessert of Nobel ice-cream parfait with spun sugar. The wines are Moet & Chandon champagne, 1990 Haut-Medoc Chateau Liversan and a 1984 Coteaux du Layon Moulin Touchais, coffee and Carl von Linne mineral water.

If you can assemble enough friends and give sufficient notice, you can select the menu from any year you like since 1901. A lot of people simply pick the year they were married (or were born) and wait to see what dishes are served. Two of the more popular menus are those of 1937 and 1926. Back then the meal always started with cream of asparagus soup followed by six or seven more courses. 1937 had consomme with sherry, fillet of brill (a fish that often appears on Nobel menus), cold breast of duck, parfair nougat, fruit and small cakes. In 1926 consomme was again followed by brill then lamb and vegetables, artichokes, pineapple a la Brazilian, biscuits, fresh fruit and a mixed dessert.

Stockholm’s City Hall is a rather stark building completed in 1923 and the Nobel banquet takes place in a vast hall at long tables each seating over 30. In many ways, tourists dining in the recently-renovated cellar restaurant get a better deal than the official guests. Not only are there no speeches or intrusive television cameras but they dine at small tables in a welcoming room rich with dark wood and subdued lighting.

However, the remarkably attractive bone chinaware on which the meals are served is identical at both venues. The current china is the first set specifically designed for Nobel meals; it was created by Karin Bjorquist, a Swedish designer, and first used at the 1991 banquet.

Stockholm is a clean, attractive harbour city with a wealth of history and fascinating nooks and crannies to explore. The chance to experience a Nobel meal is one more attraction in a city that offers much to the visitor.

To book a table or a Nobel meal contact the Stadshuskällaren (city Hall Cellar), tel. (46) 8 586 218 30 or www.stadshuskallarensthlm.se/in-english/.

By David McGonigal

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