24-Hour Room Service: Grand Hôtel, Stockholm, Sweden
Opulent, dazzling and very, very grand
Saturday 21 November 2009
Any coastal town or city worth its salt has a Grand Hotel; those that host political shindigs – Eastbourne, Scarborough and Brighton, for example – seem to be particularly partial to them. All too often they are grand in size, rather than quantifiably opulent. Victorian edifice, "promenade" location, luridly patterned carpets, conference facilities – you know the sort. But the Grand Hôtel Stockholm is of a different breed. In Sweden, style is written into the genes, so Stockholm's Grand is just that: opulent, dazzling and every bit as grand as you'd expect.
For a start, there are chandeliers everywhere – some small and dainty like pendants, others like tiered wedding cakes or cascading fountains. The lobby sits amid marble and gilt Corinthian columns with panels of Greek- revival-style bas-reliefs. The carpets are patterned, but in stylish royal blue and yellow.
Conferences are held in the glamorous 19th-century Venetian Renaissance-style room or the heritage-listed apartment of the hotel's founder, Régis Cadier. There are also original art deco lifts and a sumptuous wood-panelled bar, replete with purple velvet sofas.
Last week, a new Raison d'Etre spa opened and is a modern affair, with exposed stone walls, photographic mosaics and treatments inspired by Norse mythology. It's set in a later addition to the 1874 hotel, the Bolinder Palace, which was annexed 15 years later. Testament to the Grand's success, two new floors were subsequently added to the original building in the post-war years, and the 1911 Burmansker Palace was absorbed five years ago.
Next month, the Grand will get even grander, when the Nobel laureates take up residence on 10 December. For the first eight years of the prize's history, a banquet was held in the hotel's Hall of Mirrors; dripping in gold, mirrors and crystal, the room was inspired by its namesake at the Palace of Versailles. As guest numbers increased, the banquet was moved to the city hall, which now caters for some 1,300 diners on the night.
Back at the hotel, the laureates will be able to enjoy superlative comfort (back when it opened, it was the first hotel in Stockholm that thought it might be nice to change the sheets after each guest). They'll be able to enjoy superlative food, too. There are three restaurants: the Veranda specialises in the traditional smorgasbord, while the "fast" Food Bar has one Michelin star. Finally, there's the two Michelin-starred Dining Room, operated – as with the Food Bar – by chef Mathias Dahlgren, who has previously won the coveted Bocuse d'Or award and is only the second chef in Sweden to be awarded two Michelin stars.
The proof is in the pudding, and the seven other courses that precede it on Dahlgren's tasting menu. Even the bread basket came with half a dozen different butters, and there followed two tiny oysters presented on a mound of beach pebbles; langoustine with pig's cheek, pea guacamole and langoustine cream; sea salt-encrusted sourdough bread soaked in honey, filled with cow's milk cheese and deep fried; and reindeer with celeriac purée and crisp onions. The portions were small enough not to bust my waistline, but the prices were eye-widening: SK1,500 (£132) per person, without drinks.
Gorgeous views are two-a-krona in Stockholm, but the Grand Hotel has the edge with its harbourside setting, facing the Roman baroque edifice of the Kungliga Slottet (the official residence of the royal family) on the island of Gamla Stan. The National Museum sits on one side of the hotel, the Royal Opera House on the other.
There are 374 rooms split between three adjoining buildings, all in a harmonious assortment of styles. My deluxe double room in the Burmansker Palace was verging on being an apartment (the hallway alone was bigger than some New York hotel rooms), with windows overlooking the harbour and royal palace. The Gustavian-style décor was understatedly elegant, with parquet floors, framed botanical watercolours and a matching crimson floral quilt and headboard. The bedroom incorporated a sitting area with a herringbone sofa, while the spacious bathroom was awash with grey marble.
The majority of the rooms are in the original 1874 building with styles that incorporate Jugendstil, neo-classical, rococo, 1920s and American classic, with contemporary printed wallpapers. Most of the suites are in the Bolinder Palace and range from roomy junior suites to the Nobel Suite (set in the eaves, with its own Jacuzzi and steam room) and the Princess Lilian Suite, complete with a 12-seater cinema and spa.
The atmosphere is undeniably grand, but homely and comfortable, too.
Grand Hôtel Stockholm, S Blasieholmshamnen 8, Stockholm, Sweden (00 46 8 679 35 00; grandhotel.se)
Double rooms start at SK2,200 (£191), room only.
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