the breath of history
for more than a century, there has been a restaurant in the beautiful art nouveau premises at blekingegatan 40. however, pelikan has even older origins than that.
the restaurant name sends historical threads all the way to the 17th century.
1664 – pelikan’s cellar opens
in 1664 the wine merchant hans georg cron opened the cellar pelikan on österlånggatan in the old town of stockholm. in 1720 the pub pehlekahn moved to svartmangatan, one of the city's oldest streets beginning at the main square of old town.
the tavern kept the address for thirteen years before relocating to slussen in 1733, where it would remain until 1931. the restaurant was located on brunnsbacken, the area where hornsgatan and götgatan end – the current södermalmstorg. this is where the restaurants name got its logotype. a sculpture group was made on the roof of the porch, a pelican female feeding her three cubs.
for a long time, pelikan had the reputation of being the best restaurant in södermalm (then called åsön). in the 1730s, it was a harbor tavern for everyone who worked in and around the many sailing ships that lay by the docks where the old town met åsön.
in the 1860s, the restaurant was described as one of the top three in stockholm for a supper, "where skilled housewives cook healthy and tasty swedish food". but the area around the restaurant began changing a lot. the old pump house and the well disappeared and tunnel construction for the railway began in 1866. pelikan was expanded and rebuilt. it even got a special room with two telephones.
one crown and fifty cents
a tavern called pelikan remained on the site until 1931 when the buildings were demolished to make way for slussen. on the last night pelikan served four dishes and a smorgasbord at the price of one krona, and fifty cents. at the same time stockholm’s liqour company opened and ran the restaurant port arthur, which would later become pelikan as we know it today.
why it was named after what is today a district in the chinese city of lüshunkou is beyond our knowledge. but back in 1904 when the tavern opened, port arthur was a place that the fleet of the russian empire had just lost after a japanese attack.
in 1904, blekingegatan 40 was completed
it was unusual for a house to be built solely with the intent to be a tavern. stockholms utskänkningsaktiebolag was a non-profit company with roots in the sobriety business – which had a license to dispense and sell spirits in controlled forms. a kind of forerunner to the monopoly that systembolaget has today. the company had about 30 restaurants and in order to make people drink less, they would focus on serving good food rather than spreading the drinking custom. the restaurants all closed early, with very strict serving rules.
the restrictions meant that the queues could stretch far into the alley, people longing for the coveted allocation of alcohol: two units of clear and one brown. this was a way of regulating alcohol consumption, and it stayed this way until 1955. the ratio for men was 15 centilitres, for example two glasses of purified and one glass of eau-de vie. women received half, as long as they stayed in the pub environment.
restroom for women in 1984
the task of designing the house on blekingegatan during the beginning of the 20th century had been given to the architect sam kjellberg, one of the most hired architects in stockholm.
the house was large with many different spaces that over the years got used in different ways. party floor, liquor sales, apartment for the basement master. as well as, of course, a couple of different pub premises. the large hall, a dining room with wall-mounted bench furnishings and high panels in brown became a more exclusive restaurant environment à la city hotels. with its white linen tablecloths it got the name linen dining room. pelikan did not get her separate ladies' restroom until 1984, when two women bought the restaurant.
in 1969, sara, sweden's general restaurant company, bought the restaurant on blekingegatan and renamed it from port arthur to the historical name pelikan. in 1984 the establishment was bought by two women who came to run it for almost thirty years. in december 2013, boqueria group stepped in as new owners. in addition to the pelikan, among other things, run the historical landmark blå porten at djurgården.
the waitress, Slas and the head chef
lena sahlberg started working as a waitress at pelikan in 1994.
– i've met a lot of wonderful guests who all need your attention. you learn to see how they're doing and how happy they get if you care about them.
a lot of famous names have visited through the years. lena sahlbergs favorite is the author stig claesson, called slas (1928–2008). he published 88 books and was an illustrator as well. he spent a lot of time at pelikan.
lena tells of an event that well illustrates how special he was.
– stig came down to the tavern and was probably a little hungover. he had decided he wanted spaghetti. from his pocket he pulls out uncooked pasta – it was not on the menu but i asked the chef to arrange it.
lena sahlberg had no luck. the chef was one of stockholm's most sought after, and a proud man who did not want to compromise, "if it is not on the menu, it is not served". "you can't come to the opera cellar with filet mignon in your pocket either." but slas stood his ground. the solution? the restaurant's owner at the time had to cook spaghetti in the kitchenette at the tavern's office.
lena sahlberg says that every year in february, a number of men gather to eat at pelikan and pay tribute to stig claesson and above all his book "who loves yngve frej?".
at the beginning of the last century, pelikan was the last outpost of södermalm. the last streets of the city, before the fields and meadows began. it was a much-needed stop for a hearty bite to eat and a quick aquavit before it was time to go home in the evening.
horse-drawn carts lined blekingegatan after delivering their goods, so pelikan became a natural place for hauliers and wholesalers to gather and round off the working day in the best possible way. rumor has it that there were rooms for overnight stays in the upper part of the building, in case the guests had a little too much to drink.
we like to honour our history, so based on time typical elements and historical menus, we have created an affordable grosshandlarmiddag. today's pelikan still promises hearty and tasty food – however, no overnight stay.
do you know that you can buy gift cards from us? valid whether you use it for a cup of coffee or an entire evening.
it can also be used at the rest of boqueria group's restaurants: agaton, blå porten, blå +, boqueria in stockholm, gothenburg and åre and nytorget 6.