Sunrise over Slakthusområdet
Publish date: 3 May 2023
Solen, star-chefs Adam Dahlberg and Albin Wessman’s new venture Southern Stockholm, is one of the first to set up shop in Hus 26 – a planned culinary hot spot in Stockholm’s former meatpacking district. “I really believe we’ll create a vibrant destination for culture and gastronomy”, says Adam Dahlberg. “It will take some time, for sure. But you can already feel things moving.”
Lamb chops and green peppers sizzle and crackle over an open flame. It’s a sunny mid-April morning and restaurant Solen’s spacious dining room – solen being Swedish for “the sun” – is filled with hazy sunlight from the skylight running the length of the ceiling. Solen hasn’t opened for service yet. However, Albin Wessman – the Albin in chef/restaurateur-duo Adam and Albin – shows videos recorded on his phone of the kitchen’s fire pit in action.
“Early on in the planning process, we wanted open flames to be integral to the concept”, explains Wessman. “Which can be tricky for a restaurant in inner-city Stockholm. However, out here, in this particular building, we have no neighbors above us to take into account. We had the opportunity to build fire pits and stoves in the kitchen and dining room, from the get-go. Which brings great atmosphere, both in terms of scent, warmth, and light.”
The “out here” Wessman is referring to is Hus 26; a repurposed warehouse and abattoir in Slaktshusområdet, Stockholm’s former meatpacking district. During the first half of the 20th century, Slakthusområdet was the center for food production, packing, and storage in town. However, as the years went by and Stockholm grew in size, many of the area's factories moved elsewhere. The once state-of-the-art food production hub became obsolete.
“We were contacted about two years ago, asked if we would be interested in creating something here [in Hus 26]”, says Wessman’s collaborator Adam Dahlberg (the Adam in Adam and Albin). “We immediately fell in love with the space. We’re thrilled about being among the first in this new location. I really believe we’ll create a vibrant destination for culture and gastronomy. It will take some time, for sure. But already you can feel things moving.”
In the late 2000s, nightclubs like Slakthuset, Slaktkyrkan, and Fållan moved into the disused slaughterhouses of Slakthusområdet, transforming the area into a busy nightlife quarter. And currently, the neighborhood is undergoing a massive redevelopment; new residential buildings are being constructed, old factory buildings renovated and repurposed, and in 2030 a new underground metro station will open, extending Stockholm’s blue line further south. In this context, Hus 26 is being re-branded as the natural meeting place for local residents and far-away guests alike; a new hub and center for gastronomy. Solen is among the first wave of new tenants, together with Bar Montan and Hosoi.
“The space is much larger than it looks”, continues Adam Dahlberg. “When we visited for the first time it was just one huge hall. You could see from end to end. Basically, we’ve built a large round room – to make it more intimate – inside of a much larger square structure”.
“Which presents its fair share of challenges”, Wessman chimes in while pointing at the back wall’s open kitchen hatch. “We had to build a half-moon-shaped kitchen, which isn’t exactly industry standard.”
Solen is Dahlberg and Wessman’s fourth joint venture. They met while working in the kitchen at the Catalan restaurant Bon Lloc in the early 2000s. In 2014 they opened a pop-up restaurant/culinary workshop Adam & Albins Matstudio in central Stockholm, which two years later was turned into the now Michelin-starred Adam/Albin. In 2019 they branched out with a Japanese restaurant and bar Misshumasshu, and in 2020-2021 they operated a summer pop-up restaurant, Ön, on the island of Långholmen.
Other converted industrial spaces served as points of reference for Solen, as did the culinary world of Los Angeles. “LA has a very vibrant and inspiring restaurant scene”, says Wessman. ”There are great restaurants we both love, that we looked to for inspiration. Which in turn informed Solen’s concept. We jokingly started to refer to it as “food of the sun”. “Basically our take on Mexican, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisine”, interjects Dahlberg.
This translates into a menu offering diverse ingredients like tahini, hummus, za’atar, parmesan, coriander, guacamole, dry-aged beef, harissa, and fior di late. ”Food with vivid colors and flavors”, continues Wessman. “We arrived at the name “Solen” late in the process, and when we did, it really stuck. It’s such a positive and lovely word. I mean, who doesn’t long for the sun?”.
Since opening on April 14th, Adam Dahlberg and Albin Wessman have stayed very hands-on at Solen. Refining details, streamlining the workflow, and supporting their kitchen and front-of-house staff wherever needed. “It’s been a great journey”, explains Dahlberg. “To start sketching up something new from scratch, to see it evolve over time and finally to see the finished result. And of course seeing guests enjoying the menu we’ve so far only envisioned”.
Amidst the hectic goings-on of a newly opened restaurant, the chefs have had some downtime, and a chance to reflect. “I had a chat with an older gentleman during opening night”, says Wessman. “It turns out he’s actually worked in this very building, for over 30 years, as a butcher. He got quite emotional and misty-eyed when he told me about how it used to look here back in the day. Still, he was thankful that we were letting the space live on. And I just love that. It was built over 100 years ago, and now we’re making sure it lasts at least 100 more”.