People have been socializing around the dinner table since the dawn of time when prehistoric humans gathered around the fire to eat their hunting or scavenging bounty. We may have come a long way since then, gastronomically and culturally, but the gist of the experience is pretty much the same. Swedish chef Martin Brag and head of Stockholm-based interior studio Temporärt Cristian Brandhild Lind set out to reinvent this primordial experience with their project Temporärt X Brag, a pop-up restaurant-cum-dinner party whose location and set menu is undisclosed until the same day. Motivated by a shared passion for good food, and prompted by Stockholm’s lack of exciting dinner concepts, they set out to shake up the city’s culinary scene by combining Martin’s innovative dishes with Cristian’s unique interiors and mixing in the element of surprise. For the lucky few who get the chance to book a place for one of the sought-after events which have been named Volumes organized every few months, part of the thrill comes from finding out the location on the same day, while the other part stems from socializing with new people, courtesy of the dinner party-ambience and communal sitting arrangement. And then there’s Martin’s five-course menu, an exquisitely crafted feast, conceptually and aesthetically aligned with Cristian’s interior design and table setting, which makes the experience all the more satisfying. With five sold-out Volumes under their belt and a sixth one coming up in February, the pair are not only jazzing up Stockholm’s dining scene, they’re also challenging the conventional way of restaurant-going. Yatzer recently caught up with Martin and Cristian to talk about their project, collaboration and shared interests.
(Answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.)
How did the idea for Temporärt X Brag come about? Did you know each other well before embarking on this venture?
We met through our mutual friend Julia. She campaigned a while before we actually sat down and had a coffee. After that meeting the idea and vision for Temporärt X Brag was clear and the date for ‘Volume 1’ was booked.
What inspires you in your respective gastronomical and design fields?
Martin: I grew up in a smaller town on the west coast where my grandparents farmed vegetables and had a few animals. The closeness to nature and produce has always been important to me. Farmers and fishermen put so much hard work and knowledge into each and every product; they treat their product with love. This is the core idea of my dishes, to present this seasonality, hard work and love to everyone that eats my food.
Cristian: I'm inspired and fascinated by the styles and trends that have survived for decades. Almost everything I use in my projects is vintage and I'm always curious about the origin and its history. I'm also inspired by my parents who have gone their own way and filled my childhood's home with unusual and interesting objects. On the weekends, while I was growing up, they always took me to vintage flea markets - where I learned about buying and selling, and also the idea of bringing objects back and creating my own space. Since 2011 my father Mats and me have run Temporärt and our buying trips together have always given me the greatest inspiration.
Talk us through your creative process. Is the menu developed in parallel with the selection and set-up of the venue or does one precede the other?
The menu and interior design are in symbiosis. The venue sets the vibe for the ‘Volume’ while the season dictates the ingredients and furnishings we search for.
When a date is fixed, the process starts. Martin always creates a new menu for each ‘Volume’ which means new flavours, ideas and ingredients. In parallel, Cristian sets a mood board for the interior, and goes through everything he has in storage – this process involves many phone calls between us.
Does the "mise-en-scène" primarily intend to compliment the food aesthetically, sensorially or emotionally?
In one way, the intention is to compliment the food aesthetically through a season-based set design. On the other hand, we want to offer a full experience. The experience is based on many steps. It's about entering the venue, being served the aperitif and interacting with other guests. Our guests get to know each other for about 30-40 minutes before they sit down at the communal tables, with Cristian getting to decide who sits with whom. From the beginning we decided that our restaurant experience should be untraditional.
How do you choose the locations and venues for each event? What are your criteria?
We're constantly searching for the perfect venue. It could be on a roof, in the forest or in a basement. The last three Volumes has been organized thanks to people with access to venues not used as a restaurant. During our first meeting Martin said that all we need is running water, electricity and a toilet – we can bring everything else.
Where have the events taken place so far?
We've been inside Temporärt twice, an office space in central Stockholm, Stockholm’s Bränneri's distillery and a basement on Östermalm. During Stockholm Design Week (3-9 February 2020), we're doing a special Volume for the whole week. This is what we're planning at the moment and we'll share more info about it soon.
Does Temporärt’s focus on vintage design affect the culinary aspect of the project and if yes how?
It does. We're both very keen on sustainability and try to minimize our (ecological) footprint.
All the ingredients are organic and are more or less locally produced, at least in Sweden. It can take me many hours to find the right table, chairs or decor for a venue, whereas Martin may spend the whole weekend in the forest, collecting spruce shoots and mushrooms for our upcoming volume.
How crucial is the aspect of surprise when it comes to both the food and the location? Does having no set expectations heighten the overall experience and make it more rewarding?
There's something fascinating about going to a restaurant not knowing the venue, who you'll share table with or what you’re going to eat. It becomes difficult to know what to expect, which creates a special feeling. We believe that we feel the same as our guests - expectation and excitement before every dinner.
Except serving a five course dinner we also want to get to know our guests and we are constantly trying to improve our service and response, something that is not so obvious these days.