Imagine a fictional railway station somewhere in Eastern Europe. Then imagine a cutting edge, raw, Swedish restaurant interior. Combine those two seemingly disparate atmospheres and you have Bar Central, a Södermalm restaurant with a special liking for central and eastern European food.
Whether it’s a simple beer at the bar or a full dinner in the restaurant, the space itself makes it worth a visit.
Design group Ugly Cute have mixed traditional Slavic references like crocheted, white lace curtains and coasters with raw, brown masonite panels, shiny brass details and dark green walls. The bar features a lovely, zigzag-patterned terrazzo floor, and much of the furniture is custom-made. It’s refreshing to see some new ideas manifested in a professionally-realised interior at a Stockholm restaurant.
And the food? Central and eastern European food hasn’t exactly been on everyone’s lips for a while, so even in that respect the restaurant is a welcome addition. You’ll find all the classics on the menu, from sauerkraut to bratwurst and wienerschnitzel. The beer and wine lists have the same geographical focus, and instead of France, Italy and Spain, you’ll find contenders from Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovenia.
We start off with the day’s special, glass crab with red beets (85 kronor) and from the regular menu, blinis with trout roe, sour cream and chopped onions (135 kronor). The crab is a bit of a disappointment; it’s dry and the delicate taste disappears under a thick layer of breading. The blinis, on the other hand, are perfect. It’s so easy to make a blini too thick, too crispy or too greasy; Bar Central’s is fresh and light, just as it should be.
Hungry for one of the classics, we order in a wienerschnitzel (235 kronor) and, on the waiter’s recommendation, the schweinshaxe, a roasted pork shank with sauerkraut and bread dumplings.
The portions are huge; the schweinshaxe towers like a mountain of meat and the wienerschnitzel covers the entire plate. You won’t leave this place hungry, that’s for sure.
The wienerschnitzel, which is served with a simple, crisp green salad, anchovy and caper butter, french fries and lemon, is wonderfully thin and juicy. My dinner companion likes his pork fine, saying that parts of it are dry but that it’s tender on the inside. But the bread dumplings, or semmelknoedel, leave us a bit puzzled.
These round bread balls are a traditional Bavarian recipe, also found in Hungary and the Czech Republic, and a googling reveals that they have many fans who remember their grandmom’s semmelknoedel with fondness. We find them to be very mild and not particularly exciting in their taste, and frankly, would prefer freshly-baked bread instead.
Similarily, desserts are a bit hit and miss. Tonight’s “sweet of the week”, a chestnut puree (85 kronor), is nice enough but nothing to write home about, while the cherry strudel with cinnamon ice cream (95 kronor) is just as it should be; leafy, crisp and sweet.
Despite this minor disappointment, we would definitely go back. Stockholm needs Bar Central, with its long-forgotten or just lesser-known dishes, coupled with its friendly service and smart interior.
tel 08 6442420