Lunch at Luzette
On the Right Side of the Tracks
Train stations pose an interesting lure. Think about it – endless hoards of people, rich and poor, coming or going, all squeezed into a rather compressed space, eager to get to a final destination. It is a place for both high and low, good and bad – chance encounters, blissful reunions, sad goodbyes. First class and second class. When arriving at a new destination, the train station is very often the first thing one encounters, and observing the occurrences at a place of transit can very well function as a thermometer of a city.
It is quite curious to think that the former luggage storage room at Stockholm Centralstation, arguably one of the grittiest areas of the entire building, was turned into a first-grade dining option for people temporarily passing through, as well as Stockholmers on the lookout for a great meal. Luzette, open all day, every day (from 6.00 to midnight on weekdays and 7.00 to midnight on weekends), covers everything from breakfast and lunch to dinner and drinks, as well as a cup of coffee or tea in between. The aim has been to replicate the ambiance of restaurants located in the great train stations of the world – like Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station in New York or Le Train Bleu at Gare du Lyon in Paris.
It is a few minutes past half two on a Sunday and the restaurant is nearly empty, except for a handful of people spread out in the dining room. A waiter dressed in the classic brasserie attire of a white shirt, a black vest and tie and a long white apron shows me to my table. The listed building dates back to 1871 and offers a great sense of space due to the high ceilings and flow of light. A few meters above me hangs a magnificent custom-designed chandelier (“one of the largest in Europe”, my waiter informs me) by Jonas Bohlin, the Swedish interior designer who has created the entire décor.
Eyeing the menu, the focus of the kitchen clearly lies on the style of roasting on a spit called rotisserie. But chef Victor Lagerstedt, who runs the show at Luzette, has also opted for a large selection of soups, salads, alternative mains and side dishes, as well as quite a few ready-packed meals to go. Luzette offers quite an extensive menu, which unfortunately shrinks substantially during lunch hours between eleven and five.
Based on recommendations from my waiter, I get the gratinated scallop with cod brandade of Jerusalem artichoke, black truffle and chervil (165 kronor). It is a beautiful dish, both visually and taste-wise. Running the knife through the scallop, it offers that slight initial resistance before yielding to the pressure – sort of like cutting through butter. The delicate sweetness of the mollusc is enhanced by the brandade and complemented with an ever-so-slight reminiscence of truffle. The blackened salmon with pumpkin, gherkins, lobster vinaigrette and roe of salmon (135 kronor) is nearly as good, but the truth is that I would be quite content having any of the starters from the inspiring menu.
After contemplating the many rotisserie options, I opt for something completely different. Quenelles are, in my opinion, a tricky dish to perfect and with the divine starters freshly in mind, I put Luzette to the test. Served with spinach, peas, a lobster velouté sauce and a side of boiled potatoes, the Northern pike quenelles (185 kronor) are very well-prepared indeed, but nothing that makes my heart pound faster. The wine-braised veal cheeks that come with glazed onions, red wine jus and truffle mash (265 kronor) are of the dignity that I would gladly consider them for my very last meal on earth. Simply superb.
For desserts, the rum-soused peach (135 kronor) gives me great pleasure through the contrasts between the softness of the stone fruit and the freeze-dried raspberries, served with a raspberry sorbet and crème of mascarpone. But the star of the course is, yet again after a recommendation from my waiter-in-the-know, a Napoleon cake layered with milk chocolate and hazelnut cream, white chocolate mouse and blackberries (115 kronor).
Over the course of the meal, all tables have filled up one after the other. What at first felt like a very spacious setting is getting more and more cramped, with several waiters bumping into my chair as they try and squeeze by the tables. It reminds me that I am, in fact, situated in a train station, where bumping into one another is the norm. Perhaps it is time to get a move on – someone else is itching to get to my seat.
Stockholm Centralstation, Centralplan 25
08 519 31 600
Photo: Anders Thessing