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In the kitchen with Chef Björn Frantzén

Written by
Nik Addams

Restaurant openings in Hong Kong often come with a lot of fanfare, but backing up the hype usually proves difficult. We foresee no such problems with the imminent opening of upcoming Tai Ping Shan restaurant Frantzén's Kitchen, however. Foodies should be familiar with the name – chef Björn Frantzén helms one of only three two-Michelin starred restaurants in Sweden, the eponymous Restaurant Frantzén, where the football player-turned-chef has remained at the forefront of the New Nordic Cuisine movement since opening in 2008. The movement promotes local produce, seasonality and a sense of experimentation with techniques, flavours and ingredients that have made it the talk of the food world for over a decade.  

With a couple of weeks left until he opens his first Asian kitchen, we steal five minutes with Chef Frantzén to find out what to look forward to at Frantzén's Kitchen Hong Kong.     

What can we expect from Frantzén's Kitchen?
We're calling it a brasserie or bistro. It's a relaxed environment in a nice setting, a small restaurant. All the dishes are 'middle' courses, so it’s à la carte, and some people will eat three courses, some will eat ten. Most of the dishes are dishes that have been served at Restaurant Frantzén, so we’re actually going all the way back to 2008. There will be dishes from each year since we’ve been running.

A main focus of Nordic cuisine is locally sourced produce. How will these flavours translate to Hong Kong?
We bring in a lot with us. We’ve worked all year to secure the transportation of all the ingredients, so there will be Swedish pork, Swedish beef, a lot of berries, and a lot of things from the forest. And Nordic cuisine involves a lot of pickling and fermenting, which is good when you’re transporting things to the other side of the world! Almost all the dishes will have at least one or two Nordic ingredients in them.

What difficulties have you faced with transporting some of the fresh ingredients?
I mean, you have to be clever with what you do. Obviously we will not fly in Swedish fish, we use Hokkaido scallops which are great also, so you have to be clever with what sort of ingredients you choose. A beef that’s been ageing for 100 days will not be bothered with another couple of days’ transport, either.

Why Hong Kong? And how did it come about?
My cuisine has always been a mix between Asian and Nordic. The owners of the building we’re in are Swedish, so that’s where the link is.

How do you think Hongkongers will react to the flavours of Nordic region, given our relative lack of exposure to them?
We have a lot people from Asia coming to Restaurant Frantzén and they’re super happy when they come, so I think they'll like it. And there are a lot of links between Nordic cuisine and Asian cuisine, like fermenting, pickling, the soy saltiness, stuff like that, so I don’t think that will be a huge problem. I hope not!

Will you be adapting any recipes for the Hong Kong palate?
Yeah we will, of course. On the first menu we’re opening with, it’s stuff that we’ve done in Stockholm before more or less, but with ingredients from this region. But we will build our own gastronomy here, as well. Some dishes will have never been cooked in Sweden. So I’m looking forward to doing my take on what’s happening here, in this part of the world.

How often will you be coming over to Frantzén's Kitchen?
I love coming here, so I’ll be present. But I have a great team. The head chef at Frantzén’s Kitchen used to be the head chef of Restaurant Frantzén for six years. He was the first guy we employed two months after we built Restaurant Frantzén back in 2008, so I’m in safe hands. But when you have many restaurants, you need to come and see them in action. That’s what I enjoy the most. I'll definitely be here.

Frantzén's Kitchen, 11 Upper Station St, Sheung Wan, Open from 24 November

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