I absolutely love Persian food and many other similar cuisines from the surrounding countries. If I’ve time on my hands at home this is the type of food you’ll always find me cooking. First time visitors to Stockholm might imagine that the cold Northern European countries are a desolate wasteland of food from this area, but they would be oh so wrong! Let me share my favourite Persian restaurant in Stockholm, which is the true definition of a hidden gem.
When I first moved to Stockholm I was staying in an apartment hotel in Akalla. This is an area which is in the northern suburbs, at the end of one of the blue metro line spurs. It’s not a particularly glamorous area in all truth (especially amongst native Swedes) but it’s close to Kista where all the IT companies have offices, it’s fairly convenient and it’s quite cheap to live in. (Since I lived there it’s probably also more famous for the fact that there were riots just down the road in 2013, but that a whole another story). The truth of the area is that it’s got a high proportion of immigrants or families descended from immigrants particularly from the countries around Iran. Sweden is a country which takes in one of the highest per capita ratios of immigrants in Europe and I’ve always thought this was a good thing, and in truth it’s one of the many reasons that I love the country. I’m going off on a slight political tangent here, but hopefully you get the overall point.
As an immigrant myself (although admittedly a white European one) I would always engage with others that I met that were in similar situations, I would often meet people from Iran or Iraq. This particular restaurant was described to me by a taxi driver I got talking to (we were both speaking Swedish, out second language in a slightly terrible accent) and it was a complete revelation. The irony was that despite living in Akalla itself I’d never noticed this restaurant as it’s completely hidden away at the bottom of a residential block. The first time I tried it I spent ages kicking myself afterwards about why I hadn’t discovered it sooner. The food is amazing, the pricing is reasonable, the people are amazingly friendly and you just need to go there as soon as you possibly can! It’s called Vanak and they have a lovely website here (swedish only) which gives a great account of their food and the general vibe of the place. It’s huge, and it’s always full of locals enjoying cheap healthy persian lunches. My personal favourite was the slow cooked lamb shank with lentil casserole for lunch, a bargain at less than 100SEK!
I’ll admit that the mainstream tourist might find this a bit out of the way and slightly off the beaten track. One might also be intimidated by the not entirely tourist nature of the area once you step out of the metro station, with lots of high rise blocks, but make no mistake, the area is lovely, the people are friendly and you shouldn’t let first impressions put you off. Go there, order some wonderful lamb dishes and revel in the fact that you have found a true hidden gem of Stockholm.
And in case you’re wondering, they’re fantastic with children, I took my youngest there when she was about 18 months and was welcomed with open arms, she ran around all over the restaurant, danced on their stage and generally caused mayhem and not an eye lid was batted. I’m salivating over the thought of having a “Baghalipolo Ba Mahiche” now….