My husband and I have a hobby of researching “the oldest restaurant” around the globe, and Stockholm was our next spot to check off our wish list as we traversed the Baltic Sea.
The Old Town
Gamla Stan is the old town situated on an island along the Strömmen Bay. It is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centers in Europe and Stockholm was founded here in 1252. Today, it is a pedestrian-friendly walking town with restaurants, cafés and boutiques along narrow winding cobblestone streets. Even now, cellar vaults and frescoes from the Middle Ages can be found behind old facades. And this is where we found Stockholm’s oldest restaurant.
Restaurant With A Storied Past
During the mid-18th century, northern Europe was in a time of peace. It is believed the restaurant’s name Den Gyldene Freden, (translation: The Guilded Peace,) stemmed from a peace treaty that was signed the same year of its opening in 1772. The owner, Petter Hellberg, built the restaurant out of stone with a manor house above. This historic property is thought to be one of the city’s oldest restaurants.
A Dining Legend Continues Today
After researching so much about it, we were thrilled as we gingerly entered the dining room and returned later that evening for dinner with friends. We wanted to enjoy its two charming personalities, by daylight and the evenings’ candle light.
The ground floor offers two dining rooms while a cozy bar flanks the left wall. During the day, the rooms are warmed by soft light through deep inset windowsills. The walls are a calm, almond tone with worn, wooden wainscoting and chairs of black leather and wood. By night, the flickering candles create a romantic ambiance. Just behind the hostess stand, I was surprised to sneak a peek down to the busy kitchen one story below. A narrow spiral staircase led us down two stories to the white-washed cellar dining room with arched ceilings. This is where we had the pleasure to dine.
During a renovation in the 1920’s, the owner discovered a false wall right next to our table. When this was opened, a cavernous lower cellar vault was revealed. It was believed this might have been used to store wine, spirits and produce, while it now seats 36 guests for dinner.
Dinner Is Served
The cuisine is a refined, modern version of Swedish and Nordic classic dishes. Our three favorite dinner menu items included a salad with sliced ham served with tomatoes, artichokes and truffle mayonnaise, Zorn’s meatballs with a creamy potato puree, cream sauce, pickled cucumber and lingonberries, and a smoked sausage served with parsley creamed potatoes, mustard, horseradish, pickled beets and pickles. The dessert was variation of chocolate, a playful combination of hot chocolate, Bavaroise cream and white chocolate sorbet.
As we meandered our way back to the downtown area, we marveled at the popularity of Freden and all the interesting people and wonderful meals that have passed through that kitchen over the past 245 years.