When a restaurant is as hyped as Lilla Ego, it doesn’t usually bode well. How can anyone live up to expectations that ask for heaven, when all you have to offer is dinner and some drinks? In this case, though, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Lilla Ego might not be heaven, but it’s definitely an unusually refreshing, professional and unpretentious little restaurant, with an atmosphere that makes you forget the everyday grind and an attitude that makes you smile – which is close enough to heaven for most.
A long line waits outside the restaurant in good time before it opens at 5 pm on the evening of our visit. Somehow, the tiny dining room with an open kitchen, tile and brick and big white sheets on the walls with the evening’s menu handwritten on them, is able to swallow them all. We’re shown to our table by a friendly waiter who guides us through the practicalities; there’s a more permanent menu but also a handful of dishes that change from evening to evening. In addition to that, there are beers, wines and a few signature drinks – köksgroggen with eau de vie, soda and mint leaves, and a pickel shot which is a shot of brandy plus a shot of pickle brine – both surprisingly good. The handwritten menus on the wall display a refreshing lack of – you guessed it – ego. The sparkling wines are simply offered as better or cheap bubbly, while a misspelled word is excused with “a chef wrote that.”
The men standing in the kitchen are owners and award-winning chefs Daniel Räms and Tom Sjöstedt, together with their team. Their focus is mostly on Swedish dishes, and you’ll find both herring and caviar on the menu. Nothing is prepared very traditionally though, and we’re lyrical about most dishes that the waiter places in front of us. The soused herring sandwich (115 kronor) is not really a sandwich at all; the bread is in crumbs, mixed with a three-minute egg, aged cheese and a topping of red onion butter. The “unclassic pork tartare” (120 kronor) is mild and elegant in taste but colourful in looks, served with red beet purée and a crispy coat of fried sausage. Of the main courses we eat, the crispy duck breast with variations of pumpkin and yellow beats (195 kronor) impresses with its tenderness, silky-smooth pumpkin purée and exquisite presentation, featuring long strips of pumpkin in gravity-defying formations. We also eat the char with fried cauliflower purée, oyster mushrooms and king trumpet mushrooms, served with a wonderful sauce of cream, sugar and vinegar (240 kronor). It’s delicious, if somewhat heavy towards the end.
The desserts deserve that you leave a little room for them. We taste a sophisticated, fresh creation called Apple, Apple, Apple – apple sorbet, thinly sliced apple and frozen apple rings on an almond base (125 kronor) – and a chocolate mousse that lingers in our minds for days after, with crispy honey, sea buckthorn purée, toffee ice cream and chocolate sauce (120 kronor). The only downside is that Lilla Ego is fully booked for weeks in advance. There are a few drop-in places every night though, so even the less well-organized among us have a chance of scoring a seat.