It’s July and the rain is pouring down. As usual, our umbrellas are left at home, so when we get off the bus stop at Järva Krog, we run the short distance to The Winery Hotel as fast as we can. Nearly out of breath, we step into a huge lobby, designed in industrial style with a raw warehouse feeling and magnificent ceiling height. The lobby with tables made of old wine barrels, stands out from all the hotels we have visited before. We are Nodes have been invited to The Winery Hotel to get a private tour by the hotel’s very own Jan Söder, Design and Concept Manager, and Moa Söder, Marketing Coordinator. Our guides for the day welcome us with big smiles.
The Winery Hotel felt like an exciting topic to write about for several reasons. The increasing curiosity and engagement around wine has created new ways to network and socialize through, for instance, dinners, wine tastings, wine tours and trips to different wineries. The Winery Hotel is therefore very timely. Wineries, a property where wine is produced, in combination with accommodation, food and drinks is already popular in big cities like New York and London. Now, the owner families of Winery Hotel (Söder and Ruhne) hope that the Swedes will jump on the trend too.
Jan Söder has been the concept manager from day one. Together with Lina Östlund, he got the responsibility to create a design concept for the building inspired by the heart of the hotel; the winery. With inspiration from wineries and renowned concept hotels in New York, Jan began to formulate a vision for the hotel (some of his biggest source of inspirations was the New York City Winery, Red Hook Winery, Ace Hotel and Wythe Hotel). Jan and Lina also travelled to Tuscany and visited many different type of vineyards to get additional inspiration.
The urban winery/boutique hotel is located close to the bus stop Järva Krog in Solna, a suburb approximately 10 minutes from Stockholm. The location is strategic from several perspectives. Since the highway (E18/E4) where the airport shuttles stop is only a stone’s throw away, the Winery Hotel indirectly becomes an airport hotel. Rental rates are naturally lower than in the city center. Another reason for the location choice is the growth and development of Solna. The city was recently elected Super Municipality of Stockholm and is growing every day. Jan nods when we ask if the fast growth of Solna has something to do with the location choice:
“We probably would not have chosen this location if we had not known everything that was planned for the area. Friends Arena was already built and we knew that Mall of Scandinavia and several big companies would move their headquarters to Solna. The hotel has now become a destination, you come here to take part of a whole experience.”
Moa Söder agrees:
” The hotel packages that include guided tours, wine tastings and three-course dinners are very popular. Our impression is that people who come here really want to experience the whole concept.”
Working with concepts is Jan’s area of expertise. He created the concept for Nordic Light Hotel and Nordic C Hotel with the well-known ice bar. From experience, he knows that it takes about 1-2 years for a concept to “break through”. It took nearly five years for Nordic Light Hotel to be known as Stockholm’s first design hotel. Therefore, he is aware that it requires time and a great deal of patience before the word of Winery Hotel’s unique concept will reach a majority of the public. Despite their expected time frame, the hotel already has received a lot of attention and press coverage, both locally and internationally.
Jan and Moa show the way to the restaurant and it is noticeable how proud they both are of the venue. The same warehouse atmosphere that stroke us in the entrance is also apparent in the restaurant.
The restaurant can fit up to 140 guests. Additionally, there is a chambre séparée which is primarily used for wine tastings. The buffet table, where the breakfast is usually served, is the same place where the popular “Winemaker’s Dinners” are held.
“Instead of people saying that they are going to AG, they will start saying that they are going to WK”, Jan smiles and continues the tour.
The hotel rooms
Next stop on our tour is the hotel rooms. Our first thought when entering the room (a standard room of 20 m2) is the striking contrast between the industrial interior with colours from the nature and the heavily trafficked highway outside the building. We can see treetops and greenery emerge somewhere far behind the rushing cars. The window itself is framed by a New York-inspired brick wall. Urban meets Tuscany in its purest form. “It feels a bit surreal, right?” Jan says when he notices our reaction. “Like being on the countryside but with a city feeling.”
We curiously look around in the hotel room. The bathroom has white tile and fashionable gold taps. The closet in the hallway does not have any doors, a result of Winery’s own design in order to preserve their distinguishing interior style. Jan points at the mini-bar: “It is located at a good height. Usually mini-bars are hidden and placed very low, but ours are more visible which has been really profitable – we have increased sales a lot!” Jan does not seem bothered from sharing the best practices of the hotel, an entrepreneurial and modern attitude that we really like.
“The industrial table-, floor- and bedside lamps are from a French company called Lamp Gras. There is an incredibly wide range of industrial lamps today, but these are of very high quality, which was important for us”, says Jan.
It’s all about the details
As we walk towards the meeting rooms, we point out how beautiful and carefully thought-out all the details in the hotel are, something even an untrained designer eye easily can notice. Jan lights up: “It’s not the first time we’ve been told that.”
He explains how the designer team spent hours on finishing the graphic profile and how time-consuming it has been to apply it to the entire hotel – as far as to material, color selection and fonts on the Do Not Disturb-sign. Jan talks about his passion for design in a joyful tone and claims he could talk about areas like radiators for ages. Speaking of heaters, Jan persistently opposed the radiators that were ordered to the hotel by Faberge. “They asked me if I could for once be happy with something they had chosen,” Jan laughs.
However, it did not take us long to understand that Jan is not the type of person who backs down in a discussion about something he believes is important for the hotel experience. It is the same will power that, for instance, has made sure that the notebooks in the meeting rooms have printed wine stains on them as an extension of the hotel’s soul.
We are excited to check out the meeting rooms, especially since Yasmin has a background in event planning and production. The Winery Hotel has chosen shutters instead of the classic blackout drapes and brick walls instead of the typical discreet light colors.
“The chairs are from a brand called Offecct that I did not really like because their design is so ‘corporate’. They have tried to sell their products to me for more than 10 years, but when I saw this chair I really got fond of it,” explains Jan when we test sit the chairs.
The Winery – The heart of the hotel
“Are you driving? No? Then you can have a glass of Winery Red!”, Jan proclaims as we are done with inspecting the meeting rooms. Our host and hostess leads us back to the winery. The hotel’s heart and pride. The same spot where the hotel’s wine is produced and where the popular 20-minute guided tours are arranged. The guided tours are always finished with a tasting of the hotel’s own wine; Winery Red. The really wine interested can add an in-depth wine tasting to their visits. At some occasions, the hotel fly in renowned winemakers from Italy to host their own ¨Winemaker’s Dinner¨ in the restaurant.
We are Nodes’ Yasmin Tilles & Sheida Tilles.
Visitors can also purchase an electronic card that can be topped off with the amount of their choice. The cards are later used to try different wines from the hotel’s ‘Vinotek, located on the ground floor. Guests can choose between a small sample, half or a whole glass.
The hotel’s own Winery Red is sold as assortment order at Systembolaget for 179 SEK per bottle. The main grape in Tuscany is Sangiovese and it constitutes 80% of Winery Red. The remaining 20 percent consists of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grape. “I think it’s pretty damn good,” says Jan with a smile and pours up two glasses for us.
Travel Q & A with Jan and Moa:
What is your favorite weekend destination?
Jan: New York, the city has everything when it comes to the areas I like; interior, design and atmosphere.
Moa: I will go for Copenhagen, although it might be a boring answer. It is located on a convenient distance from Stockholm, but has a nicer and more relaxed atmosphere. Plus, many great restaurants!
Where do you prefer to go on holiday in the sun?
Moa: I recently discovered a new destination in India called Varkala, it is a surf town with nice and calm vibes. Those who previously traveled to Bali to surf and find it’s too much tourists there now are going to Varkala.
Jan: I am absolutely crazy about Mallorca and a hotel called Esplendido in Puerto de Soller, 5-6 (Swedish) miles from Palma. (Read our Palma guide here.)
The Winery Hotel
Adress: Rosenborgsgatan 20, 169 74 Solna
Phone number: +46 (0) 8-14 60 00
Have you been to The Winery Hotel or do you have any questions? Drop us a comment! We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Want to know more about what to do and see in Stockholm? We have gathered all our previous blog posts about our beloved hometown. Read our Stockholm guide »
We had been strolling around in the ‘Capital of Design’ for a couple of hours, when the rain suddenly began to pour down and reminded us that it was time for lunch. Juuri was on the top of our list of restaurants that we wanted to visit. The restaurant was located on Korkeavuorenkatu 27 (Swedish: Högbergsgatan), a roughly 10-minute walk from Helsinki’s city center, and the sign outside told us we had come to the right place.
Juuri opened 2004 and quickly stood out with its focus on traditional Finnish food culture. Since the opening, it has been elected ‘Restaurant of the year’ by the Finnish Gastronomical Society (2010) and mentioned in the Michelin Guide. It is currently ranked #3 on TripAdvisor’s list of best restaurants in Helsinki, and holds a Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence, which, according to the website, is only handed out to “restaurants and attractions that consistently receive great traveler reviews on TripAdvisor”.
Since we arrived at nearly 2 pm (lunch is served from 11 am to 2.30 pm), the majority of the lunch guests had already left, and the staff could seat us right away. Reserve a table if you want to eat an earlier lunch, since this is a popular spot for lunch dates. The tables were set with colorful glasses and jugs from the well-known Finnish design brand Marimekko. Our waitress directed us to our table, right next to the window, where we could watch people trying to escape the rain. We quickly threw ourselves over the menus and it did not take long until I decided to try ‘Sapas’, the Finnish version of tapas. Juuri’s website declares the history of the name: “The name Sapas originally comes from the Finnish words for small Finnish starters” (Suomalaiset AlkuPAlaSet). Any similarity to the Spanish word “tapas” is purely coincidental.
My boyfriend went for the lamb and shortly thereafter, we were served our dishes. My first thought was that I should have ordered more Sapas (a main course consisted of a selection of four sapas for 16 Euros). When I thought about it, the waitress might have mentioned that I could add the two piece Sapas from the starter menu to my main course. Despite my Finnish background, it can be difficult to keep up when the locals start talking really fast. However, the first bite compensated the small portion – the dishes are extremely well-made with outstanding flavors and impeccable presentation! Juuri gets an additional plus for the small but very appreciated details, like the butter, which was served in beautiful paper bundles.
Overall, we were extremely pleased with our visit to Juuri. Friendly staff with good English, central location, clean toilets, but above all; well-made, beautiful food with carefully thought-out, authentic flavors and nice details. The portions are however small, so do not come starving.
Craving another Finnish classic for dessert? Take a short walk down to Helsinki Market Square after your visit at Juuri and top off your lunch with coffee and the Finnish pastry Munkipossu.
To be headed to Stockholm Arlanda Airport without having to worry about forgotten passports or tickets is new to us. We are on our way to ‘Pontus in the Air’, the latest addition to Pontus Frithiof’s collection of restaurants in Sweden. The restaurant is located in terminal 5, which boasts the majority of international departures at Arlanda.
There is no escaping security even though we’re only visiting the restaurant. In addition, a visitor badge is needed to enter the area. We collect it from the airport service center after a thorough identification check. Walking around at the airport without having a flight to catch feels strange. Pontus Frithiof, restaurateur and entrepreneur, on the other hand is used to spending a lot of his waking hours at the airport. But he points out that he is very careful not to neglect his other restaurants. Before our lunch at noon, he has managed to fit in four visits to his other restaurants. “You do not really have a choice, it is a must when your restaurants are built on personal presence.”
The idea to open a restaurant at Arlanda was born two years ago. Business travellers, a target group with great purchasing power, attracted Pontus. This, in combination with his frustration over the lack of good food at Arlanda, got Pontus to send an an email to Swedavia (Swedish nationally owned company which owns and operates the major airports) at 9 pm on a Thursday evening. To his big surprise, he received an immediate reply. Swedavia had been on the lookout for something new for Arlanda for a long time, but other restaurants had previously turned them down because of the location. Now, this was about to change.
After months and months of planning and venue hunting, the decision finally fell on a 1000 m2 location, which at the time was empty and unused. “Travellers come to airports as late as possible to avoid eating there. Therefore we want to offer something brand new. We are one of the few restaurants at Arlanda with a fully fitted kitchen and we cook all dishes from scratch. Our goal is to become the best airport restaurant in Europe”, Pontus declares in a determined tone. When asked which restaurant he benchmarks to, he quickly answers: “Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant at Heathrow.“
Pontus guides us through the main floor, past all the boutiques and cafés, until we arrive outside of the restaurant. “Pontus in the Air is located on floor one, which gives you a very peaceful setting in comparison to downstairs where all the other restaurants are located. Positioning airport restaurants on a higher floor is actually a European airport trend that has worked very well”, Pontus explains as he walks up the two flights of stairs.
The elevated location actually does make a big difference. The frantic vibe disappears as soon as we walk up the stairs and enter the restaurant. It is almost instantly replaced by the pleasant view over the runways where you can watch airplanes take off, without being disturbed by jet engines and stressed travellers. Maybe the calmness is due to the fact that it is still quiet when we arrive at the restaurant. The typical lunch rushes are rare, since people naturally adjust their dining after their flight tickets.
The restaurant is enormous (1000 m2) and divided into two areas: ‘Market”, which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets, and the ‘Brasserie’ from where the restaurant offers a la carte dining for up to a hundred seated guests.
What stands out with regards to the interior are the two red and white wine cellars in the middle of the restaurant. We immediately notice them and Pontus proudly shows us around the numerous bottles: “We have really invested on wines and can therefore offer a wide selection of wines here”, he says.
The white wine cellar.
Airport restaurant, but how?
At first glance, the only thing that reveals that we are in an airport – other than the view of the runways of course – is the departure board that hangs on one of the walls of the restaurant. However, Pontus lists several reasons how the restaurant is tailored for travellers.
- Multiple power sockets where travellers can charge theirphones and computers.
- Private bathroom for restaurant guests (most restaurants refer their guests to the public airport bathrooms).
- Own Wi-Fi
- ‘Pontus in the Air’ ensures a maximum wait time of 12 minutes, from order to table, for parties up to 6 people. If the staff would fail to deliver the food within the timeframe, they won’t charge for the food.
- Through the restaurant’s app you can pre-order food and pick it up at the restaurant before getting on the plane. Do not let long-distance flights stop you – the food will be handed to you in a thermal bag! The next step that Pontus is looking at is offering delivery at the gate for travellers in a hurry.
Food and Beverages
The menu consists of hot and cold dishes in the price range from 175-395 SEK (19-42 euros) for a main course (see the full menu here). From previous experience from his other restaurants, we know that the Nicoise salad is fantastic, but we want to try something new. Pontus diplomatically responds that everything on the menu is good, but his chief sommelier Mario E Moroni, who worked together with Pontus for over 16 years, is quick to list his personal favourites: “I like the sautéed reindeer, tortellini and the burgers the best”.
Large veal carpaccio with asparagus, olives and parmesancrème.
Price: 275 SEK (29 euros)
Steamed char with spinach, mushrooms, cucumber noodles served with a cold caviar and chive sauce.
Price: 295 SEK (31 euros)
We are Nodes recommends:
Pontus Dressed Lobster Salad
The amazing lobster is first kibbled out of its shell and mixed with cucumber, avocado, mango and tomato, before served in its shell. The fresh mango adds a perfect touch the salad. It is served in two sizes, but half portion is enough for us.
Believe it or not, but you can even get the lobster salad to go. It is not served with its shell though, for obvious reasons.
‘Pontus in the Air’s offers both a breakfast buffet (served in the ‘Market’ area) and à la carte options at the Brasserie – with the possibility to add a glass of Henriot Champagne for 99 SEK. We are Nodes are huge fans of champagne breakfasts, so from now on this will be the starting point of our journeys. The restaurant has a liquor license that allows them to serve alcohol from 6 am, so even early travellers can enjoy a champagne breakfast on site. “I love Champagne, it is the best drink there is”, Pontus agrees. But considering most of his days begin at 4 am, we doubt that Champagne breakfasts are that frequent.
We recommend the Market Breakfast Buffé för only 99 SEK (10,40 Euroc), including Coffee/Tea, orange juice, turkey and cheese sandwiches, organic yogurt with muesli, scrambled eggs, bacon and a lot more . Not that hungry? The A la carté-menu includes smaller alternatives, like Greek yogurt with homemade granola and fresh crushed berries (50 SEK/5.5euros) or scrambled eggs and toast (65 SEK/7 euros).
Speaking of Champagne, it is worth mentioning that ‘Pontus in the Air ‘ is one of three restaurants in Sweden who are official Krüg ambassadors (Krüg is considered to be one of the most exclusive champagne brands in the world). This means they can serve Krüg by the glass and have a wide selection of their Champagnes on the menu.
Travel Q&A’s with Pontus Frithiof
Favourite weekend city? London, it is a very good weekend destination located on a reasonable distance.
Favourite spot for holidays in the sun? If I get to choose anywhere in the world, I would choose the Maldives. I also spend a lot of time in the south of France. I love Cannes (read more about Cannes on our city guide).
Favourite airport? Heathrow and Copenhagen airport.
Worst airport? Two Ryanair airports; Beauvais in Paris and Stansted in London. You get treated like cattle there! I rarely have a problem with people finding ways to make money, but the whole business model, which is based on having to purchase a bunch of things just to not have to stand in a 40km long line, is not for me.
Want to know more about what to do and see in Stockholm? We have gathered all our previous blog posts about our beloved hometown. Read our Stockholm guide »
Stuck at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, at nine o clock on Sunday evening, with the first flight leaving the next morning is not exactly the ideal situation when you should be at work on Monday morning. Let’s just say that there comes a time for each traveller when the travel plans take unexpected turns. Bad weather conditions, flight delays and technical issues are just some of the external factors that can cause you to have to rearrange your schedule and spend those extra hours at a so called airport hotel. On this late March evening, We Are Nodes didn’t have any other choice but to explode the myth about those airport hotels once and for all:
Airport Business Hotel – Van der Valk Hotel Schiphol A4
After an hour and a half of waiting at the airport, we were finally on the shuttle bus taking us to Hotel Schiphol A4, our stay for the night. Van der Valk Hotel Schiphol A4 is a partner hotel of the Dutch airline company KLM, meaning this is the place that you must likely will end up on if KLM cancels your Amsterdam-flight. Never having spent the night at an airport hotel before, we must admit that we weren’t exactly thrilled. Checking in to a hotel in the middle of nowhere with no luggage probably isn’t high on any travellers list.
A fifteen to twenty minute drive later, the bus stopped outside of a large building with the hotel sign glowing in the dark. From the outside it didn’t look for much, but as soon as we got in to the hotel lobby we got a pleasant surprise. With a large reception area, friendly and helpful staff and a welcoming interior, we immediately got a warm and positive feeling. This airport hotel didn’t look like anything like the old concrete building with “cell-block” hotel rooms we had pictured in our heads.
Late night buffets and early breakfasts
The first thing we noticed just when were about to stand in line to check-in was that the dinner buffet still was open. Not thinking twice, we decided to skip the queue and hit the buffet instead. Turned out to be a good choice! A wide selection of warm and cold food, desserts, beverages and above all, a serene ambience with lit candles everywhere was exactly what we needed after a really long day. If it wasn’t for the fact that the clock already was past eleven p.m, we would easily have spent a couple of more hours here.
Checking in late turned out to be a good idea as we were given two of the newly built “I Am Superior” rooms and were the first guests to get to sleep in the comfy new Hypnos beds (which were voted bed of the year in 2012!). An other positive thing that struck us was that the rooms at Van Der Valk were quite spacious for thinking European-standards. Besides the large and comfortable twin bed, the I Am Suprior Rooms also had a big balcony, a desk and a sitting area.
The semi open-plan bathroom is a growing trend at many hotels, and while it definitely adds a cool “Ibiza vibe” to the interior it also means that you can forget about privacy.
In other words, you should be comfortable with your travelling companion if you are planning to share a room. But style goes before functionality right?
Wellness area: The Schiphol A4 has a large wellness area with both an gym overlooking the garden and an indoor swimming pool with a relaxing area.
Garden: The perks of not being a hotel in the middle of a city is that there is a big garden where you can do outdoor sports or go for a walk.
Working spaces and meeting rooms: For the business traveller there are plenty of quiet corners where you can sit and work, or rooms that can be booked to have meetings or seminars.
Conferences & events: The hotel has a floor area of 2.000 m2 that can be used for fairs, conference rooms and are experienced organizers of weddings and parties.
For being a four star hotel outside Amsterdam city center, Hotel Van der Valk Schiphol A4 surely blew our expectations! The next time We are Nodes are stuck in Amsterdam, will be more than happy to be back! And hopefully not in such a hurry.