Snow and a frozen lake
My first impression of Faviken was that it could be the PLACE good people want go to instead of heaven. Magnificently wooded, shrouded by snowy mountains and curbed by a frozen lake (I went in winter), Faviken Magasinet is a private estate north of Stockholm in an area called Jarpen. You may reach Faviken by a 1-hour flight to Are or Ostesund and a subsequent 1-hour car/taxi ride. Luckily, Faviken offers a B&B service. 8 not-so-large rooms dominate the left wing of the first floor of this sizable hunting lodge. Very cozy and equipped with Wi-Fi. Also on the first floor overlooking the snow-covered ground was a spacious sauna with (all-inclusive) beer and champagne for guests to indulge. On the ground floor are the kitchen, the common room and the lounge. The dining room is on the right wing of the first floor. You need to gain access via the lounge. The price for dinner+room+breakfast was 2250SEK per person (approx £207).
The service at Faviken used to be a one-man show. Youthful (and still is), Magnus Nilsson was Astrance-trained and helmed both the kitchen and FOH since 2008. Then, Faviken was pretty much a private dining space where Magnus cooked on request. Magnus would cook a fixed multi-course meal for one sitting only; and all diners were booked in at 7pm.
7pm. All guests were led into the downstairs lounge for drinks and snacks. The space was dreamily lit, whilst the only signification of noise was the burning fireplace. The meal (I heard) conformed to a philosophy of rektún food (“real” food), paying respect to the raw beauty of the produce, the ways flavours should naturally be maximised, and the gastronomic timelessness as opposed to flashy and fashionable cooking. The produce were sourced locally – many raised and grown on the estate, some from Jamtland and Norway. Before other guests arrived I took an opportunity to speed eat cured pork sausage and pickled carrots. (Yes!!). It was porky and well-rendered with fat content. The carrots had mild acidity and a good crunch. No other diner would ever know of this. Five other diners joined my section (unaware of the existence of the pork sausage) and were straightaway entertained by light and fragile with flaxen and vinegar crisp. There was an element of risk picking the piece up. Fresh cheese in warm whey was silky and memorable. The incredible burst of aroma from the little lavender petal raised my expectation of the meal. Smoked trout roe arrived disconcertingly Japanese – like a gunkan maki of salmon roe – but the black cup-like base was immediately revealed as pig’s blood. Explosive. The smoky liquid from the roe contrasted with the musty crispy blood cup. It was very comforting, too, and not a dish that sounded quirky just for the sake of it. Crispy lichen and reindeer moss did not do it as much for me. They tasted like dried sponge-y crisps. I preferred the one with dried egg yolk. Cured goose slices rectified all this. Shiny and maturely cured, the goose reminded me of some very good Jamon Iberico with high fat content. Interestingly, the aftertaste seemed to linger a lot longer than when I have a good sliver of Jamon Iberico.
All amused, guests (me included) were led into the first floor dining room..
The upstairs room was bare. The only ornaments that graced the room were dried fish roe, dehydrated trout and cured pork chunks hanging from the ceiling. Scallop cooked over burning juniper branches was the first to mesmerise me. This was a simple construction at its best. Just scallop. Grilled alive in its shell. Over coal and burning juniper branches. Perfectly done, the scallop was firm, translucent and sweet. The iodine rich broth was a natural result of the cooking and captured the deep and soulful primitive-ness of the sea. The best of my life. My langoustine was a supreme 5-or-6incher immaculately presented. The seasoning of fermented mushroom juice – made with soy and vinegar I think – was distinctly minimal but yielded umami acidity to juxtapose with the sweet and succulent meat. Another best of my life. Cod “lightly brushed with honey and fried in a dry pan” also hit the highest note. I oouuu-and-aaaa-ed over the burnt sweet crust that immersed itself with the firm sea-sweet cod. The pairing of carrot cooked “almost burnt sour milk” (bitter) and spruce and alcoholic vinegar jelly was striking and effective. Trout barely cooked was another marvel. The oatmeal sauce helped douse the fish with caramelised robustness, while the grated carrots allowed the palate to refresh with zings.
I moved on to beetroot cooked to a burnt effect in the fire. The charred skin left smokey bitterness to contrast with the ruby red, mellow and sweet beetroot. Along with the pungent, precisely salted cod roe powder, the mead-infused whipped cream – smooth in texture and mediating in taste – provided another dimension of bittersweet contrast. Porridge served with steamed and pickled onions was dainty. Unique layers of texture – gummy porridge, soft and crunchy onions. The dressing of grain vinegar and kale juice tasted, bluntly speaking, of diluted chlorophyll with rice-y acidity. At this point, Magnus and his troop marched into the dining room with a bone bigger than my shoulder and began sawing it. This was to become my next course of marrow, dices of raw cow heart and grated turnips. I was struck by the pure taste of the heart – rich but sans smell – made pleasing by the warm, unctuous gelatin of the bone marrow. The grated turnip played a zingy, natural ‘slaw with kicks, while the green crystal of salt (I deducted as celery infused) lent a herbal note to the bleeding compilation. I forgot.. to take a picture of the next dish “Pork chop fried in a pan and then rested on the grill. Sour onions. Swede.”.. and (what’s worse) I even forgot what it looked like (!!). What I remember was a big chunk (again) was presented at the table and sliced per guest. The pork was moist and tender. There was a healthy ratio between fat and meat, which left a glistening after-texture on my lips. It was preceded by the mussel in consomme below.
Desserts looked understated but brought about joy. Fermented lingonberries with thick cream and a sprinkle of sugar had a good contrast of sourness and sweetness. Raspberry ice was an intense sorbet with tangy complexity. Sourmilk sorbet was prepared minutes before serving. It rested amid the sabayon-like foam of whisked duck eggs. To me, it felt a reincarnation of custard – aerated and freezing to the tongue. The surprise lay at the bottom in form of raspberry jam. Cheeky. I am sure this would bring about nostalgic memories for many. The multi courses concluded with pine bark cakes toppled with hyssop, creamed pudding and frozen buttermilk. The note from the pine bark was distinct but it melded into a vision of a pasture embraced by a scented forest. A little of dairy-sweetness and a sensation of snow. A metaphorical dish of the place itself..
I didn’t have much time to metaphorise or metamorphosise as I was shown the way back into the lounge, with the guests (who still did not know I had an extra pork sausage dish). There were nibbles of dried berries and meadowsweet candy, but I was taken by tar pastilles. Not the best way to describe it but it reminded me of liquorice gum. Slightly tougher and less fragrant. There were last shots of booze, too. Four bottles. Brought to the table by Magnus himself. My pick was the alcoholic eggnog (far right), which was sensuously creamy. The rest (I had a sip) was not so much to my liking. The red one (far left) made from berries was (with all due respect) very musty.
A good friend of mine often uses the term “life-changing” to judge or define a meal. And to me, my dinner at Faviken was life-changing to the point of no return. This is a world-class produce-focused restaurant, while the philosophy of rektún food is truly and skillfully materialised by Magnus and his (very small) kitchen brigade. Dishes are thoughtfully constructed. No fuss. No pretense. Real, raw, high quality and tasty food. The FOH team led by manager Johan was also knowledgeable and exceptional. (The only downside of my experience at Faviken is that ever since the meal I have been feeling disheartened by seafood anywhere else).
Interestingly, Faviken has so far been a restaurant of no recognition. It has fallen beyond the Michelin route and is not yet noted by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. (I am sure this will change)… and I’ll leave it here for you to reflect ^_^
Have I NOT shown you the fish!!?!?
GO FOR: An unforgettable experience
830 05 Järpen
Tel: +46 647 40177