The Knightsbridge Edit caught up with the multi-Michelin-starred Swedish chef, who has just opened his latest restaurant, Studio Frantzén, atop luxury department store Harrods
Meet… Björn Frantzén
How did you come to open in Harrods?
Harrods called me and said that they have great customers, some spending eight to 10 hours in the store, but that they all leave at 7pm to go for dinner somewhere else and they wanted them to stay. The store has the only rooftop terrace in Knightsbridge and they asked whether I would consider opening a restaurant there. I said yes and three years later, here we are. They understood that they couldn’t put the restaurant downstairs in the Food Halls. It had to be something unique, and I liked that.
Did you ever expect to open in a department store?
No. But I don’t live in London, so it needed to be a great collaboration. Harrods is not messing about with the food-and-beverage direction they are heading in, and I wanted to be a part of it. It felt like the right thing. And I like Ashley Saxton, who is in charge of food and beverage at Harrods. He’s a very good guy. If you look at my restaurants, they are all a bit strange, or not obvious. Frantzén [in Stockholm] is on three different floors, Zén [in Singapore] is in an old butcher’s house, and Astoria [also in Stockholm] is housed in a former cinema. In Bangkok, we turned a private villa with a barn and one hectare of land into a restaurant [Villa Frantzén]. Here, it’s the top floor of Harrods. You have these doors in a department store and then you open them and you’re like ‘what the hell has happened here?’. I kind of like that unexpected thing.
Can you describe Studio Frantzén for us?
It’s a big restaurant, open from 12pm to 11.30pm six days a week and to 10.30pm on Sundays. It serves everybody, from people getting super dressed up and coming to dinner, to someone who just flew in, slightly jet-lagged and wanting a Caesar salad. It’s a restaurant that needs to fit a lot of different situations. We have a big team – 110 people in total and around 39 chefs – to deliver this.
What are your ambitions for it?
I don’t want a Michelin star. If it happens, OK, but it’s not essential. It’s a big space and a huge investment from Harrods, so I want to be fully booked and fully staffed. I want to run a successful operation internally, with staff enjoying learning and coming to work, and also to bring something new to the restaurant scene, with people coming back.
How would you describe the food?
It is Nordic Asian. These are combinations that we don’t have in the city at the moment. That’s what’s nice about coming here. There are not that many Nordic chefs who have opened overseas; there have been a lot of American and French chefs who have come to London, and hopefully I’m coming with something new that will be a good addition to the dining scene here.
You used to work in London. What’s it like returning?
For me, London is the capital of Europe. It’s my second home. I have a lot of friends here. I worked in London for seven years and being back in a city where 90 per cent of my training was done is a really cool journey. I had a big welcome from my chef friends and other restaurateurs, such as Tom Kerridge, Tom Aikens, Claude Bosi and Jason Atherton. They have all been texting me, asking if they can help out. Coming into a city and being welcomed is helpful. But I feel the pressure to deliver. I always feel the pressure, but especially in London, because it is so close to home.
You used to be a professional footballer. Are there any similarities with being a chef?
It’s very similar. I’m an Arsenal fan and they are currently top of the league. If you’re going to be in Arsenal, you’ve got to eat right, sleep right, train correctly, and this is very similar to how we work in kitchens. It’s all about teamwork. The feeling in the dressing room 10 minutes before kick-off with a group of people who have to perform together with high pressure and expectations is the same as opening a restaurant.
What’s next for you?
We are opening an à-la-carte fine-dining restaurant in Shanghai and also a Brasserie Astoria in Singapore, the same as we have in Stockholm. Then in October we are doing two concepts in Dubai: a Studio Frantzén, which will be exactly the same as in London, and then a fine-dining restaurant with a tasting menu. There are plenty of interesting places we can go, but we don’t have a game plan for the number of restaurants we want to open.
Book your table at Studio Frantzén at Harrods by visiting harrods.com