Electrolux is a household name in America, usually associated with vacuum cleaners. But in Europe, the 90-year-old brand (which began in Sweden) is the supplier of kitchen equipment for 50 percent of Michelin-starred restaurants. In a stroke of marketing genius, Electrolux partnered with Park Associati, an innovative, Milan-based architectural studio, to design a nomadic restaurant that would create an international buzz.
Two cubes were built to appear simultaneously in different cities. The first two popped up last year in Brussels, on top of the Parc du Cinquantenaire, and in Milan, above the Piazza del Duomo. Currently, cubes are in Stockholm and London (at the Royal Festival Hall overlooking the Thames). Typically, it takes three weeks to set up the 1,500-square foot, glass- and aluminum-shelled structures, but much longer to engineer the logistics and negotiate placements at sites chosen for their classic appeal and spectacular views.
The intimate meals, served at lunch and dinner, are limited to 12 to 18 guests at each sitting, so reservations are hard to come by. Some of the most outstanding chefs in each country are chosen to prepare the meals using the finest locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.
A succession of eight chefs were to cook at the Stockholm Cube. Our guest chef was Ludvig's brother, Johan Jureskog, executive chef of Stockholm's trendy AG Restaurang and Bar.
The tasty canapés served on the sun-soaked deck included locally sourced steak tartare with dry-aged fat, vendace roe, and silver onion; crisp pig's feet with a cream of vinegar and dill; and grilled heart of ox with beetroots and lemon. (AG is known for its preparations of meat dishes.)
As we entered the Cube, the familiar musical theme to the TV series Dallas played in the background. The minimalist Scandinavian-style table, with molded white chairs, was informally set in white, with airy floral centerpieces. Each playful place setting included colorful markers that encouraged scribbling on the paper placemats. After my second glass of wine, I forgot I was sitting in a lightweight, temporary structure perched on top of a tall building above a river.
The ambience and the size of our group of 12 made it feel like a dinner party with friends. The long table encouraged conversation and the open kitchen with white counters allowed the personable, bilingual chef and his small crew to explain each course as it was presented.
The leisurely three-course lunch began with a starter of quenelles of pike with crayfish, served with a sauce of crown dill and Vasterbotten cheese (a Swedish goat cheese that is nicknamed the Emperor of Cheeses). Crayfish season lasts only a couple of months in these cold waters, and we were glad to taste this delicacy.
The main course was crisp veal sweetbreads with seasonal mushrooms (including beautiful chanterelles), herbs, veal bacon, and summer-truffle mayonnaise. Dessert was a decadent steamed vanilla pudding with flambéed raspberries, vanilla ice cream, and raspberry sauce.
We had snagged seats at this foodie experience by sheer luck. We arrived a few days before our Baltic cruise was set to depart from Stockholm, and spent three days exploring the lovely sights and museums of the city - by boat, bus, and foot.
We learned that Stockholm is a pricey city to visit, making even Paris look like a bargain. A small bottle of water cost $3 to $5; a slice of bread and cappuccino at a cafe, $30 for two; a light lunch and coffee at an outdoor cafe near the Nobel museum, $140 for two, including the tip. By the end of the long weekend, we had sampled a smorgasbord of Swedish cuisine: reindeer, gravlax, cooked salmon, every kind of herring imaginable, meatballs and sausages, crispbreads (knackebrod), cinnamon rolls (kanelbulle), and lingonberry jam.
When we realized how often we were converting dollars to Swedish kroners, we made a pact to eat no more than two meals a day. But that afternoon, we went online at our hotel to find one more proper restaurant before our sail-away the next day. One click led to another, and we learned that two lunch seats were still available at the Cube for the last day of our stay. We hadn't heard of this pop-up before, but reviews suggested it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, well worth the splurge. Our rationale: The price wasn't much more than the cost of dinner at any fine restaurant in Stockholm.
The meal was truly memorable in terms of ingredients, preparation, presentation, and setting. I tried to pry the next locations of the Cube out of the Jureskog brothers but they wouldn't bite. Maybe they didn't know. The talk at the table was that Moscow or even New York, Chicago, or San Francisco might be possibilities. Clearly, Electrolux has set the bar very high, and the element of surprise is one of the key ingredients.
The Stockholm Cube ends today, but the one in London has been extended until Dec. 31.
London prices: Lunch at noon is £175 ($281) and dinner at 7 p.m. is £215 ($345). Prices include a champagne reception, a minimum six-course tasting menu, and matched wines.
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