Lunch with Pontus Frithiof, owner of Stockholm airport restaurant ’Pontus in the Air’
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 »