There has been catering enterprise in the beautiful Jugendstil-inspired locations at Blekingegatan 40 for more than 110 years.
But the heaven of plain food has a longer history than that. The name of the place goes back all the way to the 17th century.
In the year 1664 Hans Georg Cron opened the cellar Pelikan at Österlånggatan in Gamla Stan. In 1720 it was time for the tavern Pehlekahn to move to Svartmangatan, one of the oldest streets in the city that started at Stortorget, which was the centre of Gamla Stan.
There the restaurant was located for thirteen years before it moved to the Slussen-area in 1733. There it remained until 1931, i.e. for almost 200 years. The restaurant was situated at Brunnsbacken where Hornsgatan and Götgatan meet Södermalmstorg. This is where the name of the restaurant got its symbol: On the rotunda made of glass and iron – a kind of veranda – you could find a female pelican who feeded its three nestlings.
During a long time the Pelikan was said to be the best restaurant in Söder (called Åsön in those days). Around 1730 the restaurant was more like a harbour pub for all who worked among the many sailing ships at the quay where Gamla Stan met Åsön.
In the 1860th the restaurant was pointed out as one of the three best in Stockholm when it comes to have supper where “skilled housekeepers cook healthy and good tasting Swedish plain food”. But things around Brunnsbacken, where the restaurant was situated, changed. The old pump house and the well were removed. In 1866 the building of a tunnel for the railroad started. The Pelikan was rebuilt and expanded. For example a special room with two phones was built!
A pub with the name Pelikan was still at that place until 1931 when all buildings were torn down in order to make room for the new Slussen. On the last evening, four dishes and a smorgasbord were served for one SEK and fifty ören. At the same time Stockholms Utskänkningsaktiebolag started a new pub at Blekingegatan 40, which was later named the Pelikan.
Why it got its name from what today is a part of the Chinese town Lüshunkou no one knows. In 1904, when the pub opened, Port Arthur was a place, which the fleet of the Russian Empire just had lost after an attack from the Japanese army.
It is very unusual to build a house specially designed for being a restaurant from the start. Stockholms Utskänkningsaktiebolag, with its roots in the temperance movement, was a public non-profit utility company with license to serve and sell spirits under controllable circumstances, a kind of precursor to today’s Systembolaget. The company had around 30 pubs that were supposed to serve tasty meals rather than to encourage the use of spirits. They were closed early and had severe serving rules. The restrictions caused by Motboken (a kind of ration book for wine and spirits) made the queues long enough to reach Götgatan in order to get the desirable ration of spirits – “two whites and one brown”.
“Motboken” was a way to regulate the consumption of alcohol and lasted until 1955. The ration for men was 15 centilitres (10 cl schnapps (“white”) and 5 cl brandy (“brown”), for example). Women were served half the ration if they by chance spent their time in a pub.
Pelikan finally got a separate toilet for women in 1984 when two women bought the restaurant.
The mission to design the building at Blekingegatan in the beginning of 1900 was given to the architect Sam Kjellberg. He was one of the most engaged architects in Stockholm.
The building was large with plenty of rooms with different applications during the years such as assembly rooms, rooms for sales of spirits, apartment for the restaurant-keeper and – of course – various serving locations: The Big Hall is a dining room with fixed seats and high panelling, painted in brown. A more exclusive restaurant-environment reminding of that found in city hotels. The name Linnematsalen comes from the white linen cloths on the tables.
In the year 1984 two women bought the establishment and managed it for almost thirty years. In December 2013 new owners, who also run Blå Porten in Djurgården, took over the Pelikan.