31 Jan 08
Swedish food - unsurprisingly, given the wintry conditions outside - is invariably warm and hearty. You can get a variety of international cuisines in Karlstad - which boasts 75 restaurants and pubs - but it would be a shame not to try some of the local specialities. The Swedes are particularly fond of planksteak, which is, quite simply, steak served on a plank of wood with piles of mashed potato. It's also worth trying reindeer with lingonberry sauce, although probably best not to tell the kids if they still believe in Santa.
For good budget eating, you can chow down on a boat (literally) in the Restaurant Pramen: www.pramen.se/ which is moored about half a mile away from Rally HQ. The food is good, especially the steaks, the wine is impressive for Sweden and the service is always attentive. If you want to splash out, then Tiffany's: http://www.tiffanys.se/ offers lavish French cooking near the city's central square. It's a bit solemn as it's much patronised by Karlstad's upper income earners. The food is good, but the wine list is pricey.
Our pick, however, is Alfie's next door: www.alfie.se Drivers, team bosses, journos, PR's mechanics, sponsors and spectators all eat in here, and for the Friday and Saturday you'll need to book early. There's a good atmosphere, the pizzas and meat dishes are excellent, the wine is fine and the beer is good.
Before you head for some post-meal drinks, be warned. With the exception of a couple of cocktails, alcohol and snow don't mix. Icy streets are no place for those people with a limited sense of balance. Still, it can be great fun as the post-pub walk back to the hotel turns into a furious and chaotic snowball fight. The Swedes love a good party, and having the rally in town is a great excuse to go wild, so be sure to enjoy their hospitality.