Or, is it worth chasing the world’s best 50?
Many friends have asked if we chose Sweden just so we could go to Fäviken. Good question.
Fäviken Magasinet is a unique, intimate restaurant in Järpen, Sweden, about 700 km north of Stockholm, happily sitting in the middle of nowhere. With young chef Magnus Nilsson and his commitment to real food (read local, seasonal and foraged ingredients), it has become a foodie Mecca.
For those who care, and for what it’s worth, it is currently number 25 in the world’s 50 best. My view on THE LIST? It’s seriously SO MUCH fun (if you are able) to try and get to some of them, but we need to keep our expectations in check. And I remind myself that not every dish will be the most delicious we’ve ever had but the entire experience will hopefully be a most amazing and interesting one. I was lucky enough to get to El Bulli just before it closed and I likened the experience to attending a Barry Kosky opera. Thrilling, scary, delicious, unpredictable and even unpalatable at times – an altogether fantastic rollercoaster ride.
I booked too late (three months prior) so missed out on accommodation on the property (I think there are only six rooms) but was lucky enough to get three seats for us at the communal ‘gateleg’ table.
When you make a reservation, non-refundable full payment is required so you need to be sure when you want to go. The cost is 2200 SEK (about AUD $220) per person, without drinks, which seems reasonable to me compared to the cost in Australia of The Fat Duck in Melbourne and upcoming Noma in Sydney. In any event, the cost of the meal is the least expensive part of the journey. You need to actually get there.
The trek to Fäviken is one of our highlights of an all round wonderful trip to Sweden.
We fly from Arland (the main airport in Stockholm but perhaps it’s better to fly from the smaller airport, Bromma, closer to town) to Ostersund on SAS. We choose the nice-enough Copperhill Mountain Lodge in Åre which is (at this time of year) pretty much a nice-enough ski hotel minus the snow. It has a lovely outlook, a gorgeous indoor pool and a fabulous spa offering excellent treatments. We can’t possibly visit Sweden without having an authentic Swedish massage. And the burger we have for lunch in the hotel lobby is mighty fine!
The three of us (world’s 50 best-obsessed-husband Danny and our youngest-and-over-indulged son Jake) share a taxi to dinner with fellow traveller, diner and apparent restaurant fanatic Raj from NYC. It seems we are not alone in trawling the world for great dining experiences. The restaurant is really in the middle of nowhere and in the darkness reminds me of an Amish farm. Not that I’ve ever been to an Amish farm but wooden red-painted cottages are all we can see in the dark.
We are greeted immediately as we step out of the taxi. We walk in, and it seems that almost every member of the Fäviken team greets us, including the chef himself; we feel really welcome and I manage to chat with Magnus without looking too much like the chef-groupie that I am. I think. We are the last four to arrive and feel a little late for school. The 7.30 pm reservation must apply to all and we are maybe a few minutes late (before you judge, not our fault).
The room is rustic with a capital R. Simple wooden tables and chairs, a hanging full length wolf fur coat (Magnus’s winter foraging coat, apparently), candles and spotlights bathing the room in a soft flickering light and small vases of local greenery. Nice and very cosy indeed. We three are seated at a table set for seven with our new pal Raj (easy to make friends when we are all thrilled to sit and talk food for hours) and three nice Swedish folks.
Trying hard to just be in the moment, I don’t take many photos – sadly. Note to self for next time, it’s a good thing to take pics (even bad ones) just so it can jog my memory about each dish. Thank goodness for Raj, sitting right next to me and taking amazing photos.
As far as wine goes, we have a choice of a la carte or a wine pairing menu. Surprising even myself, I opt for the latter. In for a penny they say. A juice pairing menu is also available and although they are all colourful and interesting to look at, Danny reports back that the concept is great but the taste doesn’t excite him at all.
To the clapping of hands (which I learn is the way each dish is introduced and the way Swedish school kids know to stop talking), the first appetiser arrives – linseed and vinegar crisps with mussel dip. The crisps are as fine and delicate as you can imagine, like a thin layer of linseeds suspended in an invisible crisp cracker. A creamy mussel dip complements it perfectly. Tick.
24 more ‘courses’ follow. A journey with amazing produce, interesting ideas and many delicious morsels. The HUGE scallop from Norway cooked over burning juniper branches is a highlight. Soft, succulent, pearly meat served on the shell in its own cooking juice. Outstanding and memorable. Tick tick.
The king crab with ‘almost burnt cream’ is ridiculous. A sweet, melt-in-the-mouth cylinder of crab with a creamy quenelle of some delectable sauce for dipping.
The porridge of grains and seeds ‘finished with a big lump of salty butter, fermented carrot and wild leaves, beef broth filtered through moss’ with a complex texture and flavour is truly divine. The bowl is definitely too small, we want more. More ticks.
Lamb tongue with brined vegetables is spectacular. Soft, tender meat with delicious just-pickled vegetables. I’m not such a fan of beef tongue let alone lamb tongue, and I am surprised by how much I love it. Oh tick!
The first of the sweet courses is ‘colostrum with Blueberries’. Hmmmm. Am I the only one who does not want to eat colostrum? I ate it, it was REALLY creamy and nice, but my head won’t hear of it. I know it comes from the same place milk comes from, but…
I adore the ‘potato dream,’ a take on an iconic Swedish ‘dream cookie’ but this one is made from potato. Two tiny tiny sweet, soft cakey biscuits, sandwiched together with potato caramel. SO good, very cute and super delicious. Another big tick.
The brown cheese pie is possibly my favourite dessert (but it is hard to decide) – dark, caramely, smooth custard, complete with spooned in smiley face (upside down in the photo) sitting on top of sweet cakey pastry – and served with gompa (like a savoury yoghurt dip), makes for an unusual combo but the pie is wonderful on its own.
The array of sweets continues with some strange things about which we all have different opinions. Sugar coated, pickled semi-dried root vegetables don’t do it for me. The tiny little teaspoon-sized ‘bon-bon’ of pure raspberry ice is simple and fabulous. I am just too full and too far into my different-wine-with-each-course (which I LOVED) to be able to even consider or enjoy the ‘meat pie’ which I think (although at this point who really knows) is a sweet base with prosciutto on the top. The sugar coated seeds (coriander, mustard and others) are almost too weird for my simple, tired and slightly drunk self. The downside of choosing the wine tasting menu.
Only Danny is brave enough to stick a bit of snus (like snuff) in his mouth to finish the meal. Cowards, the rest of us!
Now, to answer that first question. I always wanted to visit Sweden (and Scandinavia), and the Fäviken reservation we managed to get just confirmed that this was the time to do so. So the answer is sort of.
Fäviken is truly a magical dining experience, a must-do if you’re going to be almost nearby.
Scandinavia is definitely on my ‘need to return’ list and I would love to see Fäviken in the middle of winter and again in summer. One day.
(All photos, except for the last four, are by Raj Garigipati. Thanks Raj! You can see his great pics on instagram @troubadour1980)
P.S. By the way, breakfast at the Copperhill Lodge is (unsurprisingly) a ski lodge buffet affair. My highlight is without a doubt the iconic Swedish Knäckerbrod, a large round (think LP record) cracker with a small hole in the middle, stacked in a pile of 10 or so and served in a round tin. Delicious, nutty, much-better-than-a-ryvita-but-in-the-same-genre and perfectly matched with Swedish butter and cheese. Yum. Apparently they are sold at Ikea.
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