8 September 2016
We went to a wedding in Stockholm, Sweden. (That is another great story.) You cannot get that close to one of the world’s most talked about restaurants without going there.
So having flown for about 30 hours to reach Stockholm it was off early the next morning on the train for the 750 km journey to the far north where Faviken, the restaurant of Magnus Nilsson. Now that is a pilgrimage.
We had reservations for dinner, booked months in advance, and had also secured one of the five guest rooms so we could stay the night. We caught a taxi from Are station to the middle of nowhere, and settled into our room with a welcoming tea, and curiously, some air-dried sausage.
Dinner at Faviken is very special. Guests assemble in the ground floor of a very ancient barn and are plied with Champagne and a stunning parade of beautifully crafted hor d’oeuvres. Such unusual treats as pig’s head dipped in sourdough and deep fried with gooseberry and tarragon salt. Or broth of smoked and dried reindeer, decomposing leaves, very fresh curds and crowberries. And flowers served in a crust of dried pig blood. And more…
It’s then on to the allotted table for dinner and the parade of courses begins. The scallop to begin was perfect. Cooked in its own juices over burning juniper branches, and served in the shell. The king crab that followed could not have been more perfect either – a juicy stick of fleshy crab leg with almost burnt cream. Then, for me, the highlight of the night. A lamb tongue with a delicate array of brined vegetables, rhubarb and seasonal plants. So good.
After that there were many more courses – mackerel with spruce needles, a sourdough pancake with seaweed and beef butter, lupin curd gratin (lupins are the new thing), a small egg in ash, steamed leeks with marvellous Finnish caviar, roasted veal with fermented, roasted and ground lupin, a tasty broth with leaves and oats and then colostrum with meadowsweet, silage ice cream (!!), and potato dream. It was a dream.
Three desserts served at the table – raspberry ice, bone marrow pudding with frozen milk, and a rich brown cheese pie which was a play on an ancient dish. Much of Magnus Nilsson’s food is inspired by traditional Nordic food, although never ever did any of those ancestral cooks pay so much attention to detail in quest of perfection like this.
It was then downstairs to even more amazing sweets and tastes, including the most textbook platter of wild seasonal berries, and astonishingly, some dried reindeer pies. Tea with this, made with wild herbs and flowers gathered from the adjacent meadows.
Perhaps the best bit was next morning breakfast before we left. Far more conventional and served at the very same table we had sat at for dinner. Lovely cheese, dried ham and meat, Faviken’s knockout bread, and the best porridge ever.
Perfect food. But in the quest for perfection, somehow the true meaning of hospitality was missing. The courses were served at an alarming pace and the American sommelier maitre d’ constantly clapped his hands for attention to describe each and every course. It was almost intrusive and there was no room for relaxation, conversation and no chance of sitting back and savouring the moment.
But I’d go back if I could get another reservation. In winter, when there will only be about one hour of daylight. That would be really special.