Home Away From Holm
A passion for ingredients born of a rural upbringing drives Swedish chef Jim Löfdahl, who this month opens the Hong Kong outpost of a Stockholm icon. He tells Charmaine Mok about Frantzén’s Kitchen
t’s autumn but still 30 degrees, and the chirping of birds is all but drowned out by the racket of a drill meeting concrete. It couldn’t be further from the fairy-tale landscape and encroaching chill of his native Sweden at this time of year, but Jim Löfdahl is unfazed. After all, just a few months ago he was in the scorching Middle East manning the Restaurant Frantzén pop-up at Enigma—a venue that features a different chef and concept every few months—in the Palazzo Versace Dubai.
As the first chef Björn Frantzén and Daniel Lindeberg hired when they opened their seminal Stockholm restaurant Frantzén/lindeberg in 2008, Jim was ready to pack his bags again and head to Hong Kong to take the lead at the brand’s first permanent international outpost. Backed by Swedish husband-and-wife duo Arne and Helen Lindman—creators of Nosh and the Scandi-chic 11 Upper Station Street in the Tai Ping Shan neighbourhood of Sheung Wan—frantzén’s Kitchen will open on November 14.
When I meet the Scandinavian chef on a hot October day, I find he has been playing some serious catch-up during his first three weeks in his newly adopted city. As we prowl Sheung Wan in search of a suitable venue for fika, the all-important coffee break that’s something of an institution for all Swedes, he reveals how he’s been calibrating his palate ahead of the project’s launch. “I like this neighbourhood a lot,” says the lanky chef, who would look the part as a member of an indie rock band. “Mrs Pound I’ve been to three times already. You’ve got Mitte, which is great for a drink. And there’s Craftissimo, which has so many beers. No Swedish ones though, only Danish Mikkeller. Maybe I’ll have a word with them,” he laughs.
After we settle down with coffee (though, sadly, not the pastries that would make it a proper fika), I ask Jim how the food of Frantzén, as the restaurant has been known since Lindeberg left in 2013 to pursue his dream of opening a bakery, will translate 8,000 kilometres away from home. I remember it well from two years earlier, when I was one of 19 guests at the Gamla Stan establishment served an extraordinary menu of Nordic ingredients. I was astounded by the clarity of flavours arising from items such as a fermented rye soup enriched with veal and chicken stock, and the bracing acidity of frozen sea buckthorn berries. Frantzén is the kind of restaurant where butter is fashioned from homemade clotted cream churned by the chef at the table. For a while, the kitchen made food media headlines by serving a tartar of reindeer topped with crispy onions and shaved reindeer penis.
At Frantzén’s Kitchen, there will be an