Looking for a restaurant experience out of the ordinary? Take the boat to David at home, a restaurant located literally in the home of chef David Enmark in the Stockholm archipelago. Enmark and his family moved to the tiny island of Tranholmen, 30 minutes from downtown Stockholm, 15 years ago. Today, they wouldn’t dream of going back.
David Enmark stands in his outdoor kitchen and lines up blanched onions on the barbecue with precision and contagious energy. Summer is slowly slipping away in the Stockholm archipelago but his garden on the island of Tranholmen is still lush and green. Apples hang low on the trees.
“It’s been a fantastic summer, but winter has its advantages, too. Soon, the bridge connecting us with the mainland will be put in place again, which makes life easier,” he says and flips the onions before they turn black.
David, his wife Katarina and their two children Anton and Emma – both grown-ups now – have lived on this tiny island just a stone’s throw away from the mainland for 15 years. Although David looks forward to the seasonal bridge, he treasures life on the island – a life, which in many ways, is out of the ordinary. For one thing, the busy city existence they had earlier is now a distant memory.
“We saw an ad in the newspaper about a house that was on sale and went to see it. After spending five minutes here, we were hooked. Mainly because of the calmness,” he says.
Since then, they have grown more and more fond of the island. Tranholmen has just over 400 residents, many of which know each other and like to hang out when they get back from their jobs on the mainland. Neighbors help each other out with everyday things, such as giving friends or guests a ride from the mainland.
Seasonal and sustainable
For David, a chef by training, the island is not only home. It’s also his workplace. The family’s house, located a few minutes’ walk from the jetty past a nursery and a tennis court, also functions as a restaurant aptly named David at home.
“We run a restaurant here a couple of nights every week,” he explains and opens the doors to the family’s kitchen and living room. “We welcome around 40 guests every Friday at 6 pm and try to close at 10, which usually succeeds – because that’s when the last boat leaves.”
Locally sourced ingredients at restaurant David at Home. Chef David Enmark and his wife Katarina turn their home on the island of Tranholmen into a restaurant for a few hours per week. Photo: Magnus Glans
When David and his wife Katarina, who works as a florist in Stockholm, first decided to open the restaurant, people were skeptical as to whether it would work. And how would the children cope? David’s daughter Emma, who has moved away from home but is visiting today, quickly got used to it and found the restaurant scene inspirational.
“When we were little, Dad used to ask us to help out before the guests arrived, folding napkins and so on. Today, I work as a sommelier myself,” she says.
In a moment, David will greet today’s diners, who will be served Swedish deer with potato puree, sweetened lingonberries, blanched and grilled onions, mushrooms and black cabbage. But before that, there’s still a lot to do. While his wife and kids help him out sometimes, the cooking part is pretty much a one-man-show. With enviable capacity for multi-tasking, David tosses lingonberries in sugar, (“always organic”), shoves honey-glazed black cabbage in the oven (“my wife says I need to have greens on the plate”) and explains his thinking on the subject of food.
“My philosophy is based on the seasons. Living in Sweden, I don’t think you should serve a tomato in January. That’s why I’m cooking with mushrooms, lingonberries, fish and game this time of the year. Root vegetables work too, especially if you pickle them,” he says.
“It’s also important to not throw away food. That’s our biggest problem, that we throw away so much. In my restaurant that problem doesn’t exist, because I know how many people are coming every night.”
“You get what you give”
David puts on a record on his vinyl player and Al Green’s Sweet Song fills the living room, furnished in pared-down Scandinavian style with wooden chairs and tables and a fire place in concrete. The guests start dropping in and David shows them to their seats. While they’re sipping an aperitif, he presents the menu, recommends matching wines and explains how everything works: each table has a piece of paper, where they’re expected to jot down their wine consumption and pay accordingly at the end of the evening.
“The people who come here are honest. And I’m the kind of person who trusts other people,” he says and recalls how a group of diners once stole the red garden elf that welcomes guests in the hall. “A few days later, they paddled here to return it. That’s what I mean with honesty; you get what you give.”
Dinner at 'home', when chef David Enmark and his wife Katarina turn their home on the island of Tranholmen into a restaurant for a few hours per week. Photo: Magnus Glans
As the evening progresses, the scene inside David at home feels more like a cosy dinner party at a friends’ house than a night out at a restaurant. When it’s time to leave, quite a few of the guests walk towards the pier with a dreamy look in their eyes, wondering if they, too, could one day live in the archipelago.
“We would never want to move back to the city. But having one foot on both sides of the water is the dream,” David says.
Luckily, living so close to the mainland, that’s easy for the family to achieve. For anyone visiting Stockholm and wanting to see the archipelago – without actually moving in – David has a tip.
“Rent a boat with a guide and sail around the islands in the inner city or take the ferries further out. And don’t forget to visit the kitchen table at Transtigen 14.”