Fäviken is one of, if not the most, unique dining experiences you can indulge in. It is worth making a trip halfway round the world for, deservedly claiming the title of ‘destination dining experience’. Although even that is putting it mildly. The two Michelin-starred Fäviken Magasinet Restaurant is situated in the tiny town of Järpen, 200 miles below the Arctic Circle in the rugged wilderness of Jämtland, Sweden. ‘The world’s wildest restaurant’ and its head chef phenom Magnus Nilsson have won accolades from all corners of the culinary world for their sophisticated but rustic Scandinavian food.
It is a restaurant that demands a place on any foodie’s bucket list. It is far from an easy place to reach and its treasures do not boast but speak softly; however, BUCKiTDREAM aim to give you the definitive lowdown on how to get the most of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity during your visit to the world’s most exciting restaurant, Fäviken.
A consistent feature in Michelin guides and The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Magnus Nilsson has featured on the critically acclaimed fine-dining Netflix documentary series Chef’s Table. Innovative yet traditional, a mixture of modern techniques set in an historic farmhouse, Nilsson has been called ‘the rising star of Nordic cooking’.
Reindeer wander the restaurant’s grounds and Nilsson is known to hunt grouse, moose, and reindeer himself to serve his guests for that night’s dinner. His team of talented chefs forages herbs, mushrooms and seeds from the surrounding countryside and half of the restaurant’s food is grown directly on the site or specially selected from the restaurant’s traditional underground larder.
Fäviken is a foreboding place to build a restaurant; in winter temperatures can reach -40°F. There is a reason why the jam derives its name from emat, meaning persistent, efficient, enduring and hardworking. But these harsh extremes are counterbalanced by the sheer majestic tranquility and isolative peace of Fäviken’s location and by the food and drink, sourced locally and in complete harmony with the Jämtland countryside.
Arriving at the farmhouse buildings at Fäviken is to be transported back to 1885 when the wooden buildings were first constructed. Very little has changed in Järpen and that is the way Magnus Nilsson likes it, forging a new direction in rural mountain farm cooking. The land, its animals, and its people co-exist in a way here that is being lost in the dizziness of city life.
Stillness, immersion and a lack of distraction intertwine perfectly with Nilsson’s culinary philosophy. Fäviken seeks perfection and the only way to do that is with a head chef and team that thoroughly understand that everything before cooking is equally important. Nilsson is an expert in farming, hunting, fishing, harvesting, storing and preserving. Mastering these skills and techniques will reflect itself on the plate.
Fäviken’s cooking combines simplicity with perfection; you will find very few ingredients on your plate but each element will be grown, handled and cooked with the utmost precision. A perfect example is Nilsson’s pride and joy and his signature dish – scallops, poached in their own shell, cooked over wild juniper branches. The sea and the woods meeting in a cacophony of sensation. Nilsson will go on a three-hour round trip to gather the freshest scallops caught on the same day. It is a simple dish but one that Nilsson has constantly improved for many years. Nilsson is a firm believer in cooking over an open flame and the scallops have a lovely smoky taste and aroma.
Scallops smoked over juniper branches
Before the meal begins, each guest is warmly welcomed at the reception, allowed to wander the grounds or soak in the iconic interiors complete with hanging fur coats, sides of beef maturing and aged wood. This may all sound a tad overwhelming but it’s counterbalanced with local flowers, wild herbs, and exquisite lamps drawing attention to lovely touches of décor. Everything has been thought and agonized over here.
The meal at Fäviken usually varies from 29 to 33 courses, the first seven or so courses arriving at breakneck speed, every three minutes or so, before the pace settles down and some of the restaurant’s signature dishes begin to arrive. Alongside his award-winning sommelier Johan, Nilsson has constructed a tasting menu that is not bogged down with pretense or an exhausting four-hour extravaganza. Bite-sized dishes arrive with speed and are supplemented by iconic main dishes, the whole dinner taking around 2 ½ hours. A lot more manageable and gives time for the guests to truly savor each main course.
Each dish has taken months or even years to perfect, and by Nilsson’s own admission, each contains a story or pulls from a rich tradition that reflects the cultural heritage of the Jämtland area. The food service is a spectacle in itself, as chefs appear in sync from the kitchen below to the open-plan barn-like dining room and finish each dish in a whirlwind. Each tasting menu changes every two weeks to reflect the changing seasons and some of the most iconic dishes are listed here:
Four-minute-old cheese floating in warm whey with petals of lavender
Tender langoustine tail served with burnt cream
Rib-eye steaks, from a retired dairy cow, aged for four months before being cooked over open fire with some dandelion leaves and grains
Head of cabbage slowly cooked on embers, sheep’s cream whisked with vinegar-fermented beer, grated salt moose and dried oregano
Black grouse cooked in hay
Line-caught brown trout grilled whole over birch coal, turnips roasted slowly in good butter, alcoholic vinegar, green juniper berries, and a cream of duck eggs and gammelost
Blue shell mussel and wild pea pie
Fermented lingonberries, thick cream, caster sugar, wild blueberry ice
Pine tree bark cake, pudding of milk and cream, acidic herbs and frozen buttermilk
Sorbet of milk churned like in the old days, whisked duck eggs and blueberry jam from last autumn
Hundreds of years of Scandinavian rural culture have gone into these dishes and although some of the ingredients or techniques may be unusual, every guest is left with a sense of wonderment after eating food which borders on the artistic.
Fäviken books up extremely quickly and is currently fully booked until February 2017. This is because the dining room at Fäviken has only five tables, which can accommodate 16 people. There is no snobbery or hierarchy about the place though; it is simply a case of planning and booking well in advance for the dates you wish to travel. Fäviken used to be closed for around 20 weeks of the year so that the farm can be restocked and the chefs can hone their skills and recipes. Plans are currently underfoot to open the restaurant all year round (Aug 2016).
For around $290 a night, to save a long taxi ride, you can choose to stay upstairs at the Fäviken B&B. There is a choice of five beautiful, individually-tailored and themed two-person rooms. Included in the price is a free Michelin-quality breakfast made entirely to your needs and specifications.
The journey is part of the experience of eating at Fäviken. Unless you are driving, the easiest ways of reaching the restaurant are to fly or catch a train to the nearest large town, the ski resort of Åre. Flights to Åre/Östersund airport are frequent from Vaernes Airport in Trondheim. Train-wise, the Nabo train runs daily from Trondheim and you can reach Åre by train from most major Scandinavian cities such as Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö.
Once you arrive at the town of Åre, Fäviken recommends you reserve a taxi with Björn Olsson Taxi (+46 (0)647/50555); Björn knows the people at Fäviken and the terrain of Jämtland very well and will deliver you in a smooth, hassle-free journey. If you have any questions, contact the restaurant directly here, as the staff are very helpful and can assist you with any travel/accommodation queries you have.
Mountain vistas and stunning spruce forests pass by the window and, depending on the time of year, saturated green meadowlands with cows grazing or a blanket of snow will be your stunning panorama as you weave your way towards this dreamlike destination.
It may get lost in the drinks menu but the mead, made at Fäviken itself, is to die for. Sweet, bitter, sour…it’s a concoction to make your taste buds explode. Also, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try the farm’s own homemade, hand-rolled Swedish dipping tobacco?
Should your budget allow for it, we definitely recommend to plumb for the wine pairings with the meal; Johan the sommelier is an expert in matching wine with the courses and there is a reason why Magnus Nilsson sees Fäviken as a joint endeavor alongside his sommelier.
We hope you add Fäviken to your own dream list, as it is as worthy as any restaurant in the world. If it appeals to you then why not add it into your own BUCKiTDREAM planner, share it on the app or combine it with other Scandinavian travel aspirations? Enjoy!