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Monday 26 April 2021

Restaurant Review: Astoria by Franzen Group

In the middle of the pandemic with all that happens, food and beverage sector has taken a major hit across the world. Restauranteurs and food enthusiasts barely makes it since they rarely sits on high capital or long term savings for 1-2 years safetynet. These calqulations does not exsist in the world of gastronomy. 

Yes, very little of the economic benefits have also been given to this sector since most restaurant owners lives with smal margins. 

However, Sweden have had a different strategy and this made that some restaurants actually made grand openings in the middle of the world wide pandemic. Such as the 3 star Michelin chef Björn Franzen from Franzen Group. They have chosen to open their new contribution; Astoria, and what an fantastic opening.

This restaurant was so hiped that it was fully booked for 1 month before opening and is still today hard to get a table. Of course because of the limited seats and no barhnag around but still, a fantastic success for Björn and his amazing creative and innovative team.

The food is sensational and fantastically executed with perfection as always. This is not a fine dining however feels like an uper range of Brasserie.

The interior screams high end art deco and a fantastic worship of the fine class from the 70s.

The food is made with passion, perfect balance and great presentation. Service is always perfected with Björn and the price is...yes steep for a brasserie, but with an argument that is of course motivated.

Final Reveiw: 4 out of 5

Monday 30 November 2020

Hotel Revisit: At Six, Stockholm, Sweden

Covid-19... what a sad happening and definition for 2020. When the whole world stopped and the economy droped for events, food & beverage, aviation, turism, hotels and many more industries. 

Since Covid, we have had very little acitity here at Western Taste due to the restriction of travel but also new experiences. So we revisited some of the hotels and restaurants in our own country; namely Sweden :)

Last time we visited At Six they gave us an experience we did not see in Sweden before. You have to understand that we do not have 5 star hotels that can meet international standards like the Four Seasons, Carlton Hotel, The Ritz, Shangri-La or JW Marriott. We have very few differences and very boring chains such as Scandic HotelNordic ChoiceElite Hotel Group and Radisson Hotel Group. Most of these hotel groups have gone fat and happy and gave very little changes to their rooms, serivce upgrade and experiences. The only one that challenged them was a man calls Petter Stordalen who is the owner and creator of Nordic Choice Hotels (one of the four). He started up a few boutique style hotels that changed the perception of hotel experince and started to challenge all other groups to do the same. He used what he learned from the top brands and influenced it into his chaine and gave spirit and passion back to the Swedish hotel operation.

Grand Hotel in Sweden has been the only hotel in Sweden that have had 5 star standard however it feels old and outdated at many times.

Our favorite hotel in Sweden are two brands, One is The Bank Hotel and the other is At Six. That is the reason we went back to this amazing hotel and this time during Covid-19 period which was interesting. We were here before during its first year and it gave all and now it feels a bit slower. The paste has wind down like an fast moving clock, however this is expected since distance, longer que and slower paste seems to be an everyday melody these days.

The food was still at its top and we loved the Dining Room stil for dinner and breakfast. For dinner we can surely recommend the deep fried shimeji mushroom, roasted pumpkin, fried deer. The breakfast is fantastic and one of the best you can find in Sweden. All ingreadiences are eco-produced and freshly made. We love the overnight oats with berries and fruit and that all staff have masks and very service minded at all time.

Thank you to the team at AT SIX yet again for your outstanding service and comfort, we will for sure visit again and this is a very plus since we live in the same city :)

Grade: 4 out of 5

Written by Alexander Yû

Tuesday 9 April 2019

Hotel Review: Re-visit Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort

After a long 12-hour flight with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old child from Stockholm, Sweden to Krabi, Thailand you feel a bit tired. However, when met upon the airport with Sofitel car to greet us with water and smiles the experience begins. When our 5-year-old daughter was 2-years-old, we came to this hotel the first time visiting Thailand. Since then we have been traveling to Thailand every year and since our son made 2 years of age, we felt it would be great to re-visit this 5-star resort.
Reviewing this hotel again has been fantastic and we have judged it upon a family perspective with 5 aspects as presented below:

Upon arrival to this large resort next to a fantastic long beach and a short 9-hole golf course (that is part of this hotel), the lobby greats you with a large open area. We love the traditional Thai/French décor of dark wooden furniture and hand-crafted design in the high ceiling details.
We are greeted with cold tea and cool towels to wind down which is a very soft and lovely way to welcome your guests after a long travel in this warm and humid weather.

– tip to Sofitel! Since this is a French hotel brand it would have been nice to been offered a glass of sparkling wine as well. 

After a short and very smooth check in we are shown to our hotel room. We booked a luxury room with pool and ocean view, which we enjoyed very much. Even though we were 2 adults and 2 small children a single room worked at Sofitel since the luxury room was quite large with 54 sqm. The standard and design of the rooms are good however needs some update on décor. It is a shame that there is almost nothing on the walls. It would be nice to have some art or historical paintings on the walls in the room. The bathrooms are a bit unmodern and needs to be upgraded, bits and pieces seems that it is falling apart sometimes and needs to be checked. A rainfall shower would have been great in today’s 5-star standard.
 We enjoyed that they have Loccitane shower and bath products.  The bed is large and very spacious however very hard and not the most comfortable sleep the first 4 nights or so however after a while you get used to it.
The minibar offers standard products. We like that they had a porcelain kettle.

– Tip to Sofitel! Make the mini-bar more interesting and upgrade the offer. There are many hotels today that makes the rooms more interesting with a in room bar experience, with a small mixer, more upgraded glasses and drink menu that you can do yourself from the mini-bar.

Food & Beverage

Maya Restaurant (International)
The all-day dining was also were the breakfast is served, the food delivered a rather good quality, we enjoyed the international cuisine and the level of an all-day dining. We had our lunch most of the time here and not buy the pool because of the service and quality of food. In the evening it was sadly very empty. Very little guests came to their special dinners which was a bit sad because the food was actually very good. However, if you would compare prices with local restaurants on the beach with a 5-star hotel the difference is quite high so I would guess that was the reason.  
We enjoyed the breakfast very much were the waiters knows your name and after only 2 days they could notice your favourite part and what coffee/tea or beverage you preferred.
The staff at this restaurant is very good. We loved the waitress and waiters, they new us buy name after a day or so and gave us very good service. They made an effort to satisfy us and our children needs, and we really enjoyed our family morning, lunch and some evenings here.

The Venezia (Italian)
Great Italian food and fantastic stone oven pizza. The wine list is quite good but as most in Thailand and with its tax system it is very hard to find great value or fair priced wine lists, if you are to compare with Europe. However, we enjoyed the restaurant, its service and quality of delivery.

White Lotus (Thai & Indian)
If I would choose a restaurant in Krabi to dine in I would pic White Lotus many times over. I really enjoy its dishes, level of delivery and its fantastic service. I think it is hard to compete with the restaurants on the beach that costs half the price of this restaurant however the level of quality at White Lotus is much higher than the local Thai restaurants. The spices and the quality of food is fantastic, and we really enjoyed both the Thai and Indian dishes on the menu.

Koh Poda (pool bar & restaurant)
The problem with this restaurant is that the weather is so hot, and the location of this restaurant is were no wind blows. This makes it very warm to dine in the middle of the day, especially if you have young children. So, to be honest we only tried once and cannot provide a fair judgement.

Outside of these 4 f&b outlets there is the swim up pool bar that is connected to Koh Poda and an afternoon/ evening cocktail lounge calls Explorer Bar. They also have a membership area for Accor Premium members that serves drinks and simple food.

Overall, we enjoyed every restaurant we visited. The strong side of all restaurants are its staff and service. We really felt that we could connect with the staff and that they tried to provide us with great service but at the same time not to close or pushy. We visited the cocktail bar everyday and the bartenders are good here. They really make an effort to provide a great cocktail and if you want any suggestion outside the menu, they can surprise you with an even better one.
I must say that both the local Thai staff and the international staff was very good here at Sofitel. The strongest point of this hotel is its working employers and with this makes our stay more personal and pleasant.
We flew with TUI that really could learn from its member hotels on how to treat and work with its customer experience. TUI was unfortunately one day late on their home flight. All I needed to do was to ask this to the hotel senior staff and they helped us with fantastic support. We had to go by Taxi at 5:00 in the morning and our driver that we booked outside the hotel did not show up, in matter of minutes, Sofitel provided us with a car and drove us to the airport.

Other amnesties
On these holiday resorts there is not much you can expect on gym facilities however this gym is quite good and large in space. They also offer complementary yoga sessions in the morning, morning hike and runs and also other physical activities.

The kids club in this hotel is very good and spacious. They have games such as two PlayStation, kids’ corner for all ages and outdoor playground. The teachers are very friendly and good.

Pool area is fantastic. It is the largest pool in Krabi with over 7000 sqm and a swim up bar. They offer a few rooms with swim up access, an adult area with 18+ and a kid’s pool area. Considering the gigantic swimming pool, the kids’ area is very small. They could invest in a better slide for kids and other fun activities in the pool since many guests are family oriented.

The Spa is fantastic with superb service and quality massages. I, Sofie, had two massages and enjoyed both very much. One full body massage and one foot massage. Both made by women and the relaxed, calm and experience is done with great remarks.

Overall, we loved our stay here at Sofitel Krabi. The hotel offers great diversity of activities, fantastic food & beverage offers, and the strongest point of this resort is the staff with superb service. Everyone was very professional, all the way from senior management, lobby, bar & cocktail, cleaning to restaurant management and service.
We enjoyed all restaurants and the bar managers that served us very good cocktails knew us by name and felt like personal service.

The downside of this resort are the rooms that needs to be upgraded to an international 5-star standard. The beds need to be a bit softer, bathroom and shower needs an upgrade and a small aspect of decor on walls could be considered.

Kids pool area could also be thought upon a bit more. There is not that much to do other than swimming for younger kids. A larger slide or more fun activities in the pool could be a great investment for the hotel.

Review from 2015:

Final Grade: 4 out of 5
Comment: It is a very strong 4 however if the rooms were more upgraded it would have been a 4,5.

Reviewed by Alexander Yü and Sofie Yü


Monday 4 March 2019

Article: Vetekatten wins the best "Semla" by Western Taste

If you want to understand the Swedish bakery and concept of "the Semla" you must understand its history and were it comes from. Every year the kingdom of Sweden celebrates the "fat" day were the population consumes this amazing pastry. It dates all the way back to the 1500 however it got its name from a certain King back in the 1700. 

King Adolf Frederick of Sweden died of digestion problems on February 12, 1771 after consuming a meal consisting of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring and champagne, which was topped off by fourteen helpings of hetvägg (semla), the king's favourite dessert.

Every year the Swedish population eats around 6 million "Semlor" on fatday and God knows how many for the whole year.

Many bakeries and coffee shops bake these desserts however only a few stands out and makes this a gourmet pastry. Vetekatten is one of them and one of the oldest cafe in Stockholm. It dates to 1928 by Ester Nordhammar. Their passion for amazing "fika" has become part of Stockholm history and tradition and delivers an amazing Semla for its population in this fantastic capital; Stockholm.

We judge the Semla on 5 categories:

4,5 out of 5

5 out of 5

Almond Icing
5 out of 5

5 out of 5

All in all, in mouth :)
5 out of 5

Yet again this little cafe delivers high quality products with fantastic service.

Written by Alexander Yü

Friday 25 January 2019

Restaurant Review: PM & Vänner Bistro

Where is Småland, what is Växjö and wtf is PM? This is a question that many international guests askes themselves when they try to find their favorite local bistro with probably the best wine list in Scandinavia. It is not a list, it is more of a book when it comes to wine selection.

Here you can find all the big 5 Grand Cru houses represented and a lot of interesting wines on the menu. We love the story behind the boldness of PM and its effort to become the best wine destination in Sweden, and I must say it certainly have become.

During our evening we went for Champagne, white selection, red selection and we are pleased.

Thank you PM for great service, food delivery and fantastic ambiance in this little town in the middle of the forest somewhere in the middle of south Sweden.

In the family of PM you can find a hotel, Bistro restaurant, Fine Dining Restaurant that holds 1 Michelin Star, roof top bar and restaurant and a spa with swiming pool. 

Grade is only made on wine selection, delivery, service and surrounding.

5 out of 5

Final Grade written by Alexander Yü