“We wanted a restaurant that didn’t look like everything else.”
That’s the sort of lengths Kim Choukri, the passionate, generous and energetic joint owner of Bar Central, is prepared to go to in order to get the details exactly right in his bar.
“Our concept is Central Europe – hence the name Bar Central. We source everything from Central Europe, from the pork to the porcelain. Our beer is the original Czech lager and our wine list is exclusively from places like Hungary, Austria, Germany, Slovakia. We sell Hungarian brandy, German gin, Czech juniper spirit and of course, our Head Chefs make Central European food but with some Swedish touches. We are authentic with our food but we do it in our own unique way.
The idea all stemmed from my business partner, Boban, who used to run Italian restaurants in Stockholm. But his dream was to always have a restaurant based on his Hungarian and Serbian roots – to sell food his grandmother used to make.
Hungarian food is not too dissimilar from Swedish – rich sauces, pickles, salted things – but we wanted it to be more high-end, to show our personality in the way we plated it and in the design of the restaurant. So we opened Bar Central here on Birger Jarlsgatan in February 2015.
I am half Moroccan, half Swedish. My father was a chef so I’ve been brought up in restaurants – I worked in his kitchen and as a waiter when I was young. My father didn’t want me to work in the business but I always like the pulse of restaurants. And I’ve always wanted to learn new things and push myself. That’s why, when I was introduced to wine, I threw myself into this exciting new world. I learned to be a sommelier – and worked in restaurants before going into wine distribution and supplying the restaurants of Stockholm. That’s how I met Boban.
“we are a restaurant with a nice bar. And a bar with a nice restaurant.”
We wanted our beer and our bar to be the first thing you see when you walk in – making a statement about the place. But elsewhere we have tried to create different environments for lunches, dinners, just sitting or socialising. The main thing was we didn’t want a fancy over-designed restaurant without a soul.
I learned that good food can be ruined by bad atmosphere, and a good atmosphere can lift the food. That’s why we try to be as friendly and informal as possible. All our staff are passionate about what we are doing and create the right vibe – I’m so proud of them all.
“Owning a business is like going live on stage. It’s stressful and hard but it’s exciting.”
Bar Central is in the Swedish design, the relaxed atmosphere, the attention to detail, the friendly service, the food that has a Swedish twist; it is a mixture of many influences.
Owning a restaurant is personal, a real balance of affordability and show. In wine sales I was only a middleman – so I never got to hear what people thought. But this is live! It’s always exciting and you get a real and immediate impact from guests. That’s why I love it.
We always knew we wanted Tankovna beer. It was one of the reasons we opened a new bar. We loved the attention to detail that goes into the beer quality and delivery.
I think other places offer too much choice. And craft beers don’t stay fresh. We stand wholeheartedly behind Pilsner Urquell. This is beer at its freshest. We don’t need other beers. And it’s working. Swedish beer drinkers are slowly starting to come in more and more – they are getting a real craving for tank beer!