Posted August 3, 2015 in Arts, Food & Drink, More


Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 9.31.31 AM(Yes For Förorter- Vol 1: Everybody’s home in Hökarängen

Where can you eat the best ceviche in town, or see an exhibition in an old public laundry? It might sound hipsterish and modern, but you won’t find any in your beloved Söder or downtown, and you definitely won’t find such delights among the finest establishments on Östermalm.

Instead, you need to head where the real action is – Hökarängen.

Some months ago a friend of mine, who has only been living in Stockholm for little over a year, told me: “I am tired of going to the same places all the time. I work in Östermalm and hang out on Söder, but is there really nothing else to discover?”

I laughed to myself and my thoughts wandered back to when I first arrived here myself. As a student, I was not as lucky with the location of my first workplace. At least that’s what I probably thought in the beginning. My job was to deliver leaflets in the remote suburbs of the city, where places with names like Rågsved, Husby or Tensta rang exotically in my ears.

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I decided to reveal the secrets of these suburban Sesames to a group of friends. Every second Sunday, we would head to a different suburb of this sprawling city. Our first trip took us to the place where the retro charm of 60s Sweden combines with the warmth of the growing Latino community – Hökarängen.

Rumour had reached us that they have Stockholm’s best cevicheria, but there were still plenty of other hotspots to check out on the way. First, I went crazy shopping in a Latino store run by a couple from Bolivia. White corn, blue corn, yerba mate, guava marmalade and banana leaves to make tamales – that’s just the few products I was able to recognize. I asked the owner, Maria Castillon, gracefully holding her three-month old baby, what the locals mostly buy. “Bolivian cuisine is quite spicy and mostly meat-based. But my clients are people from all over South America and they buy a lot of chilli paste, black potatoes called *chuño* or blue corn to prepare drinks from.” Waving goodbye, the young mother told us that TSC Latin Import will soon move to central Stockholm, so that more of us can try some of the mysterious delicacies.

The streets of Hökarängen, also known as the cuter moniker of “Hökis”, have a simple, retro charm. A special tradition of neon store signs in bold vintage type gives a coherent and distinct character to the hood. But the visual aesthetics are just one sign of the ideological legacy of the area. Hökarängen was the first Stockholm suburb design according to the rules of *Folkhemmet* – “the people’s home” – a socio-political concept that was a great part of building the Swedish welfare state. In Folkhemmet, the whole city environment was carefully designed to serve for creating a united community of responsible citizens, all of them participating in the life of the particular area. Every part of the neighbourhood would have its central building, where the people could gather, discuss and grew together. Today, one can still feel the communitarian spirit of the vicinity. Initiatives such as *Prylmakarna* or Remake work for sustainability in the area, reusing second-hand materials and providing work-training opportunities for the unemployed or disabled.

With Google maps showing us the way, we headed for another important building – Konstahall C, a modern art gallery. To our surprise, there was quite a unique installation awaiting behind the door: rows of huge washing machines. The scales and linen presses were beautiful indeed, but we soon discovered that the “real” exhibition was held next door. In the industrial space of Konsthall C we could appreciate the conceptual “Open House” project. I asked Jens Strandberg, one of the directors of the gallery, about the beginning of this curious union between laundry and art.

“The public laundry was the central building for this part of Hökarängen, called *Tobaksområdet*. It was here that people could meet and both discuss and fight, while doing their typical maintenance work. Until 1995, the laundry had employees who would oversee and coordinate the public access. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, they have been removed and it has become much more chaotic. Without surveillance, people would mess up or even steal each other’s clothes, not to mention the stories of murders in some public laundries. So, in 2004, when the idea of opening an art gallery emerged, we actually offered to combine both functions and help out with the laundry bookings in exchange for the exhibitions space.”

Even the rules of exposing in one of the rooms are pretty democratic. Just as booking your laundry time, you need to come and simply put your name on the list and await your time. First come first served!

Konsthall C is a clear example of how a surprisingly rich and ambiguous cultural output can be offered in the suburbs. Whereas in the centre of Stockholm the division between the south and the north, the posh and the artsy, the rich and the poor is quite inflexible, and the crowds from Stureplan and Mariatorget rarely mix, Hökarängen felt like a breath of fresh air, free from these unwritten demographic borders. Cutting-edge art cohabitates with the simplicity of everyday life, giving a wider audience than the usual coterie of hipsters a chance to appreciate it.

And although the projects presented in Konsthall C are quite conceptual, the management do a lot to engage the locals. Just a few months ago they let children open and guide their own exhibition there, and they also lead a book club in a neighbouring apartment. When we say goodbye to Jens, we stumble upon direct proof of how much the residents appreciate these activities. A lady that has spent 30 years living in Hökis comes by, pleading: “Please tell me it will continue like that, won’t it? We will always keep the laundry and the art hall here, they will never move it away! I just want to come here and feel the atmosphere, watch the washing machines spin… I live in Folkhemmet and this is a monument of culture history!”

After contemplating the art we needed some maintenance ourselves. A table at Cevicheria Aji y Ajo was waiting. And the rumours had not been exaggerated: it was a real Peruvian food paradise! Not only was there ceviche in such flavours as mango and passion fruit, but also a selection of meats, banana chips for starters and lucuma cheesecake for dessert, all of it totally exquisite. All that, served in an environment as far away as possible from the kitschy latino-styled restaurants you probably stepped by in the centre of town. Beautiful, peaceful and modern interior design completed our experience. The only item from the menu we didn’t dare was the famous Leche de Tigre – Tiger Milk, a mix of spices, lemon and ceviche marinade mixed in a special shake.

The owner, Franjo Pravdic, has been appreciated and rewarded for his outstanding cuisine on countless occasions. Four years in the prestigious White Guide, a gallery of excellent reviews and the title of the Taste Trendsetter of the Year (Årets Smaksättare) in 2012 are just few of his achievements.

But the beginnings were tough. “After years of working as a chef in different restaurants, I finally decided to start my own adventure here in Hökarängen. With a small kitchen and just a dream to believe in, I knew it was going to be an odyssey. Even my wife told me, ‘I give you three months.’ And here we are, after four years of success. It was a dream come true.”

The chef admits that it was a risk to open his place so far from the centre. “At that time Hökarängen had a bit of a bad reputation. At first the food critics didn’t even want to come here. But when they did, they kept coming back. Right now I have a circle of regulars, including celebrities, politicians and artists, that all come here not only from Stockholm, but even from Finland!”

I ask if he’s ever considered moving closer to the city. “I sometimes do, but I am a nostalgic at heart. This is the place where Cevicheria was born, and it’s more than a restaurant: it’s my home. The suburb has changed a lot and nowadays people from central Stockholm really enjoy the peacefulness of Hökis.” Privately, he is known for his temperament, and he does not allow anybody else in the kitchen. Preparing exquisite dishes in no time and pushing his team to keep the service sharp and quick is his favourite adrenaline kick. “My clients love to observe the life in the kitchen, the flames rising, me shouting and moving around… I have not watched Gordon Ramsey’s show, but something tells me we can have quite a similar character,” he laughs.

Franjo recommends us a Colombian café just opposite to Aji y Ajo. The artsy design and salsa tunes make a perfect match for a long lazy afternoon. If you want to discover more about the local community, just dig into the pile of business cards on the counter: if you are looking for a mariachi or a piñata maker, that’s where you need to check.

Monica Londono, one of the owners, tells us that the place is frequented both by Latinos and Swedes. And she adds with a smile “Swedish people really like our *Ají Pique*, which they call chilli sauce. They have also learned to eat more coriander with us!”

Our last stop is the Gallon Tattoo, where Henrik Gallon and Veronica Lendel ink both the locals and those that come here especially for them. Henrik moved to Hökarängen when he became a father and wanted to combine living and working in the same area. Veronica found a job here directly after she came back to Sweden after a long time living in San Diego. Preparing her station to work on a new client, she explains that Hökis is both cozy and very hip nowadays. I want her to reveal which is the trendiest tattoo for summer of 2015 in the neighbourhood. Laughing, she explains that animal portraits are quite in.

Full of impressions and stories, we rolled back to the metro station. The Colombian coffee has given us some extra energy and the warmth of the locals put some colour on our faces.

If you also want to add some spice to your Stockholm life, skip the tired former hotspots and take the green metro line south and enjoy Hökarängen.

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Words by Weronika Pérez Borjas

Photos by Carolina Garcia



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