Driving for a couple of hours through the snow to a red wooden farm in the middle of nowhere to have a 20 + course dinner experience. Who has seen the Netflix documentary of Faviken and didn’t want to go there?
Well, try to get it out of your head with having some people around you who had been there before Netflix showed it and didn’t stop raving about it since 2013. I never heard of a Magnus Nilsson back then and I never even visited a restaurant in the World’s top 100 list. I didn’t think it would be worth the serious amount of money you’d have to pay for food. Yes, a lot has changed in the last years.
Nowadays I save up my money to travel. My main focus: food. From take away pizzas to high dining and meals cooked by the world’s best chefs. So after having a killer hotdog at Magnus’ Korvkiosk (hotdogstand) in Åre we went for the dinner Experience at Fäviken. Yes, there it is again: Experience capital E. And the capital it deserved this time. It’s not only about the food at this place. Fäviken is an adventure. Or as I experienced it: an eating expedition. Set up by a visionary, one who tells an incredible story in a red farm on the 20,000-acre hunting estate and nature reserve in Jamtland. In ‘the middle of nature’ as the locals call it.
Our expedition started in Trondheim, Norway, from where we drove to Sweden. It usually takes you 3 hours to Järpen. We took 4 days. If you have some time I would recommend everyone to take it slow and get to know the environment the eating is gonna take place in cause that already is quite impressive. For us it included spending time at fireplaces, spa’s, magical views, walking through the snow looking for moose and climbing mountains. The perfect way to get ready for our dinner.
After hearing the stories and seeing the Chef’s table documentary I must say it was difficult not to expect too much. High expectations could only disappoint and I must admit, when I entered the restaurant I was. The first thing we heard was that the chef himself was not there that evening. A bit like you’re going to see your favourite band but then the lead singer is not there. Even though you know they’ll be able to make a performance without him, it is kind of disappointing. Until you open up, and see the rest of the band nailing it. Maybe this was actually just the perfect start, the best way to lower my expectations before the eating started. I got in again with an open mind and felt the warm and comfy welcome of the Fäviken family. And at least we got to try on Magnus his famous fur coat while he was gone..
A lot has been written about Fäviken already, and Netflix did the perfect job to share the story of Magnus and his restaurant so I won’t add too much to that. What I loved was the intelligence, the chef’s vision you could not only feel in the dishes, but in the surrounding, the interior and in the service. In my opinion everything was done correctly. I read reviews where people complain about the speed of the dishes, a lot of them think it’s too fast but it’s all part of the vision. It keeps you focussed and won’t tire you. You need the speed to be able to finish this 20+ course dinner before you start feeling tired or full.
Wild trout’s roe served in a crust of dried pig’s blood, deep-fried pig’s head dipped in sourdough and slivers of salted herring that had been aged for three years. The perfectly cooked king crab, bursting with sweetness and served with seemingly simple but perfectly executed almost burnt cream was the best crab I ever tasted and the same thing counts for the famous scallop, another signature dish by Faviken. This huge scallop “i skalet ur elden” (ye shall watch the fire) is briefly cooked in its closed shell over burning juniper branches and birch charcoal. The gigantic, juicy, smoky, sweet scallop arrived swimming in it’s own juices and had to be eaten with your hands. The juices with a lovely touch of smokiness were meant to be drunk straight from the shell. Heaven.
A few other dishes that followed: Gently poached trout with bog butter and porridge of lichens prepared in lye, cockles injected with beer, a small egg coated in ash with sauce made from dried trout and pickled marigold. Another favourite was the lupin curd gratin. Apparently lupin beans have the same amount of protein as soy, but traditionally have been relegated to cow fodder. At Faviken they reinvented the abundant protein in a delicate curd served with lupin stems and flowers.
And then on to the desserts with the brown cheese pie as my favourite. A reference to more traditional Nordic food. Brown cheese is made from left over whey, cooked for several hours so that the water evaporates. The heat breaks down the lactose and caramelises it to produce the distinctive brown colour and sweet caramel flavour. The pie was served with gompa which is a traditional sort of savoury yoghurt by the indigenous people of Northern Sweden (Sami). Gompa is made from cultured milk with herbs, traditionally angelica. A refreshing supplement to the sweet, smiley faced, rich pie.
I thought the meal ended with the brown cheese pie but after I finished a satisfying big piece even more dishes followed. Glad with my sweet tooth at this point. A meat pie with reindeer shavings for dessert sweetened by birch syrup was followed by a wooden box filled with tar pastilles, meadow sweet candy, smoked caramel, dried arctic angelica, sunflower seed nougat, dried black currants and another box with seeds coated in crystallised honey and bees wax which actually made me think of the candied seeds you get in India after dinner. I paired my desserts with an outstanding homemade duck egg yolk liqueur. After that some fermented snus (moist powder tobacco) that actually made me feel less full after the many courses we had.
Magnus Nilsson sums up his philosophy as Rektún food: Real food. Respect for the ingredients for what they are, what they look like and where they come from. Accepting nature’s own choices as the most important factor and maximise every product’s potential.
Yes, this is absolutely is a time and place meal, where the menu is completely tied to the local area. If you ever thought, is it worth it? Should I go? Worth the journey? Well, as someone who travels just to eat I might not be the best person to ask this but I can assure you that you can’t have this food anywhere else. But for me a very important aspect of destination dining is also about the things and places you experience along the way and the people you share those moments with. Spending some time in the snow in Sweden and Norway really added up to the story. It was all part of the Experience. One thing I would recommend you is try to get the dinner AND accomodation at Faviken. You’ll then be served a lovely Swedish breakfast the next morning, will be able to spend some time in the sauna and you won’t have to squeeze into a yellow cab at night or drive back to where you’ll be staying otherwise (we stayed at the Copperhill, a very good second option).
Was it worth the money? The answer can only be a personal one but I rather spend my money on a good dinner Experience then on new shoes. Surely in this case it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Immersing myself in someones philosophy, learning, tasting, enjoying, getting inspired. Once in a while, it’s worth it. Every penny.