WHAT’S IT LIKE? The Scandic hotel group is headquartered in Stockholm, and it currently operates about 160 properties across Scandinavia and Europe. The 391-room Scandic Grand Central is the brand’s newest four-star property in the Swedish capital – it opened in November 2011, minutes from Stockholm Central station.
The hotel is housed within a grand 19th-century building within the city’s entertainment district, and the décor of its trendy lobby has a distinct theatre theme – a row of stage lights hang above check in, and a burgundy feature wall imitates the hue of theatre curtains. The space is divided into sections, and upon my arrival these were taken up by clusters of locals meeting for drinks, some making use of the board games available.
The furniture was stylish and interesting – one area had a long, gold table with black bendy lamps protruding from it (there were EU plug sockets on its surface) and next to it was an indigo leather corner sofa, a PC, a printer and a flatscreen TV that flashed with the departure time of the next Arlanda Express train to the airport.
Service was friendly and flexible – as I was leaving before the hotel’s buffet breakfast service (Mon-Fri 6.30am-10am, Sat-Sun 7am-11.30am) the member of staff at check-in kindly arranged a takeaway bag for me on my departure with a freshly made sandwich, orange juice, an apple, and a free coffee from the machine in the lobby. There was also a 24-hour self-service shop next to check-in, where guests could purchase a variety of snacks, hot and cold drinks and practical items (toothpaste, adaptors, hairbrushes and other toiletries).
WHERE IS IT? At the cross section of Kungsgaten and Vasagaten – two of the city’s main tourist streets. Central Station is 150 metres away, straight down Vasagaten, and the separate entrance for the Arlanda Express is even closer (50 metres).
ROOM FACILITIES I stayed in a Junior suite on the fifth (top) floor, which was a corner room with sky blue walls. It was 31 sqm had a really high ceiling and large original arched windows with windowsills I could sit on and look at the action on Vasagaten – across the road, I could see the entrance of the Casino Cosmopol, and the World Trade Centre was further downhill towards the station – the thick cornflower blue curtains helped to block out street noise.
Upon the smart wooden floor was a black and white patterned rug, and a dark grey canvas double sofa and individual chair around a black wooden coffee table. To one side was perhaps my favourite feature – a TEAK vinyl player upon a stage-set case, with a range of records including Rod Stewart’s Blondes Have More Fun album and Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon.
There was a thin black work desk in one corner with a thin black chair. A black bendy lamp retracted from the wall to one side, where there was also the in-room phone, an EU plug socket, a USB port and an array of other sockets, such as a laptop port, an HDMI port and an audio/video port. Above the desk was a Samsung flatscreen TV that could be angled flat to the wall so that you could watch it from the sofa area, or rotated on a hinge so you could watch from the bed. The latter was large and comfy – it had two single duvets rather than one king-size one, a burnt orange velvet throw, eight plump pillows, and EU plug sockets on either side.
The modern bathroom had white-varnished brick tiles and a walk-in shower (no bath) with a rain shower head and a regular shower head. FACE (a Swedish brand) amenities were supplied in large pump-top bottles to reduce waste, and there was a hairdryer attached to the wall and a vanity mirror.
Other amenities included tea- and coffee-making facilities, a lap desk with a beanbag base, fresh fruit, robes and slippers, a wardrobe with an ironing board hanging inside from a solid coat hanger hook, an iron, a full-length mirror on the wardrobe door, a laptop safe, and a minibar (a bottle of water was Skr30/£2.98 wine Skr85/£8.45).
A laundry service is available (Skr80/£7.95 for a shirt) and room service is available Mon-Sat from 5pm-11pm, offering some of the dishes from Teaterbrasseriet and light dishes such as cold cuts with gherkins and olives (Skr 110/£11). Wifi was free.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS I dined in Teaterbrasseriet, the hotel’s Swedish brasserie which uses local, seasonal produce for its dishes. It was a Friday evening, and there was a cosmopolitan buzz about the place, enhanced by the mezzanine level of the hotel bar that ran above – which was packed with trendy young Swedes having cocktails with friends.
The vibrant atmosphere meant it was a pleasant spot for solo dining, as I could just soak up the ambience and people watch from my window seat. Its open kitchen, retro lino floor and muted colours were reminiscent of a Parisian brasserie, but there were touches of décor to remind you of its theatrical surroundings.
Service was brilliant – informative, polite and intuitive. The waiter recommended a white wine – Fritz Haag Estate Riesling from Mosel, Germany (Skr115/£11 per glass), which was very good. There were about 40 wines to choose from – ranging from Skr86 (£8.50) to Skr145 (£14.40) per glass – including Mon Coeur Côtes du Rhône J L Chave Sélection, 2010, Antonin Rodet Bourgogne Pinot Noir, 2010 and Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve.
Starters included cauliflower soup with truffle and lobster (Skr 135/ £13.42) and beef Carpaccio with crème of shallots, onion rings, pickled onions and bleak roe (Skr130/£12.90). I skipped this course, instead tucking into some lovely spongy crusty bread and Knacke (crispy Swedish flatbread, a bit like Ryvita) served with mousse-like butter.
For my main I ordered “Kottbullar” (Skr 175/£17) – meatballs served with cream sauce, potato purée, lingonberries and pickled cucumber. The succulent meat had soaked up the simmering cream, and was complemented by the tangy berries and pickles. Other options included ragout with lamb knuckle, white beans, tomato, potato cake and goats cheese (Skr285/£28), fish casserole with aioli and roasted croutons (Skr 225/£22) and sirloin steak with pomme frites and béarnaise sauce (Skr255/£25).
For dessert, the waiter recommended I try the apple cake “Skane-style” served with vanilla custard and apple sorbet (Skr95/£9.45) which he told me was made with a dark brown bread rather than white, making it less sweet than conventional apple cake. It was soft and crumbly on the outside and gooey within – it could have been savoury were it not for the lashings of cold milky custard and apple sorbet, which was to my taste, but a canister of sugar was provided just in case.
Bistron, the hotel’s Bistro restaurant, adjoins both Teaterbrasseriet and the lobby – it was formerly a private dining room, and has original arches, rows of exposed lightbults like a dressing room mirror and a central stage where there is live music three to five times each week. It was full to capacity on my visit, and Swiss/German band We Invented Paris were set to perform later that evening.
Acoustic is the hotel’s bar that flows from a ground-floor section off the lobby onto the mezzanine level above Teaterbrasseriet. It felt like a real social hub, and maintained the hotel’s creative ambience with the abstract artwork upon its walls. Each day, from 8am-12.30pm, it becomes a café serving takeaway coffee. Teaterbrasseriet and Bistron also both have bars.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The hotel’s nine meeting spaces are all located on a mezzanine level from the lobby, and can be reached by a separate staircase. They all have daylight and range in capacity from 15 theatre-style to 100 theatre-style.
LEISURE FACILITIES The hotel’s gym is located on the basement level. It’s rather small, but is equipped with Life Fitness machines, free weights and Swiss balls. The changing rooms with saunas and mini safes are very pleasant.
VERDICT A sociable, innovative property in an excellent location, that celebrates the building’s history and structure while upholding the Scandic principles of good value and environmental concern.
- HOW MANY ROOMS? 391 – 36 Single Economy rooms, 20 Cabin rooms, 216 Standard Double rooms, 61 Superior rooms, 40 Family Superior rooms, 14 Junior suites, four Master suites
- HOTEL HIGHLIGHTS The food and beverage areas, the interesting décor, and the thoughtful touches for travellers (such as the Arlanda Express clock in the lobby and the pre-prepared takeaway breakfast)
- PRICE Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in May started from Skr 2,390 (£237) for a Cabin room (excluding entry-level Economy Plus rooms, which start from 16 sqm and have single beds)
- CONTACT Scandic Grand Central Stockholm, Kungsgaten 70; tel +46 8 512 520 00; scandichotels.com