Noma Move Over: Best Restaurant Contender Is in Sweden
Faeviken Magasinet is one of the world’s best restaurants.
It needs to be. While it’s not in the Arctic Circle, it might as well be: Central Sweden is a long way for most of us.
Just reaching the place, housed in an old farm, involves big travel costs for those without a sleigh. Dinner is 1,250 kronor ($188), wine another 1,250 kronor, and a room for the night costs 2,000 kronor. Faeviken seats fewer than 20 diners.
If your helicopter can’t make it through the mist, you drive for a couple of hours on icy roads between snow-covered fields from Aare/Oestersund airport in Sweden or Trondheim, Norway. When you arrive, the ground is so slippery, you may fall over, as I did twice. Before I reached the bar.
The evening begins with snacks and drinks before a blazing fire. The canapes are a fair guide to what is coming. They may include fresh cheese floating in warm whey with a single petal of lavender from last summer; trout’s roe served in a warm crust of dried pig’s blood; braised pig’s head dipped in sourdough and deep fried with seasoned and fermented gooseberry and pine salt.
The chef is Magnus Nilsson, 29, who honed his skills at L’Astrance in Paris, where chef Pascal Barbot holds three Michelin stars. Barbot says, “My job is to be simple.” Including the snacks, a meal at Faeviken may feature 20 to 25 servings, including a signature dish of a large Norwegian scallop.
It’s heated over fire and served in the shell with its juices on a bed of moss from the forest outside, with juniper branches and a lump of glowing charcoal. After drinks in the ground-floor bar, you climb the stairs to the dining room, to be greeted by smoke and the smell of trees.
Magical isn’t a bad word for the experience as you dine by candlelight while the snow falls and the icy winds blow outside. This is no tourist trap: Faeviken placed No. 34 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards (for which I work unpaid) in April, its debut in the top 50.
Just don’t go thinking the food will be as comforting as the dining room. Nilsson uses Nordic ingredients and -- to state the obvious -- it’s not the beautiful, colorful produce of the Mediterranean. This is a cuisine born of a harsh climate. I personally don’t mind if I never again taste lactic-acid fermented turnip, or a fermented carrot for that matter.
Highlights of the meal included skate poached in butter and vinegar with shallots and a sauce of shallot tops and butter. Another dish involved marrow from a bone served in the center of the dining room. The meal ends with some great desserts.
I first met Nilsson in October, when he was visiting London to promote his book, “Faeviken” -- or Faviken, with two dots over the first A. He is boyish and charming, and took guests on a tour of his cold store and his pickling room. That was after a spectacular array of petit fours, served in the bar.
Nilsson has reservations about comparisons with chef Rene Redzepi’s Noma, which holds the title of world’s best restaurant, and with the concept of a new Nordic cuisine.
“This term new Nordic cuisine is not one of my favorites because it’s lumping too many things together: diverse food and cultures and a large geographical area into one,” he said.
“What I do like is what’s happening in the Nordic countries at the moment. Noma, which is a great restaurant, opened the door to Scandinavia for the rest of the world and brought attention to the area. Thanks to Rene, a lot of other people -- like me -- have gotten the chance to reach for an international audience in a much simpler way than before.”
Nordic cuisine may not be for you. I’m not sure it is for me, though I applaud the creativity of the chefs. But visiting Faeviken was one of my most exciting dining experiences.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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