Pronounced 'Fair-VI-ken', last night was an experience that put Magnus Nilsson and his exceptional approach to ingredients into our group of top four favourite restaurants. Fäviken sits alongside longside Noma, El Bulli and Arzak.
After an eye-opening evening, Magnus came to chat, charming his guests table by table. It was the icing on the cake to find him so gentle and personable. He happily explained his methods for each dish when asked, and we had an interesting discussion that included comparing his Swedish ättika vinegar with British non-brewed condiment for fish and chips and how he makes the skin on his squeaky fresh curd cheese.
Magnus' approach to his food seems to me to be similar in some ways to Fergus Henderson's of St John. Most notably in its adherence to a set of self defined fundamental principles. All his ingredients must be sourced locally and available at that time in the season. This resulted in a scarcity of vegetables in our dinner, and any that did appear were generally pickled, fermented or preserved in some other way. And his dishes are not there to appeal to the masses, but instead to give the diner an experience of what lives and grows on the Fäviken estate and to eating, Magnus Nilsson style.
This is what we ate.
To start, a succession of little savoury treats while we reclined in the downstairs lounge.
Thin, transparent crackers with flax seeds and a blue shell mussel emulsion for dipping.
Warm teacup with whey and a square of freshly made cheese (left to form a skin for about half an hour) and powdered lavender.
Fresh, unseasoned wild trout roe in dried pigs blood croustade with sea salt flakes.
A lollipop of pig's head meat dipped in sourdough batter, deep fried and topped with a slice of fermented gooseberry and pine salt.
Reindeer 'cloud' lichen dusted with dried trout roe and icelandic lichen with dried egg, served with a mild garlic cream.
Thin slices of cured wild goose.
Then we were invited upstairs to the dining room, decorated with hanging sides of cured pork and bunches of dried flower.
Scallop au natural, cooked in its shell over birch coals, cleaned and served in its own juices on moss and juniper wood.
Hot plate seared langoustine with 'burnt cream' - cream cooked down until it caramalised and thickened.
King crab leg poached in butter and burnt onion infused 'ättika' vinegar, with lobes of burnt shallots and an emulsion made from burnt onion, egg and king crab stock.
Cod brushed with honey and pan seared and a quartered preserved carrot, cooked in whey, both served with spruce oil and ättica vinegar jelly.
Raw blue shell mussel dusted in powdered birch leaf, with raw Brussels sprouts and toasted sunflower seed emulsion.
Pea flour tart with sea urchin, sea urchin cream and pickled Rowan berries.
Porridge with fresh and toasted local seeds and grains, a lump of salted butter, fermented root vegetables, dried chives, beef broth and chive oil.
Cow femur marrow roasted and sawed open in the dining room, served mixed with raw ox heart and grated turnip, to be topped on toast and sprinkled with green lovage salt.
Seared beef (hung for a month and then aged for four more months), shaved raw vegetables - beetroot, carrot and turnip and soft, shredded sour onions.
Blueberry ice, lingon berries preserved in water served with sour cream and sugar.
Egg yolk preserved in sugar on pine bark flour cake, with meadowsweet ice cream (churned by our table) and preserving liquor.
Raspberry jam, whisked duck's egg and milk sorbet.
To finish we returned downstairs to drink herbal tea or coffee, and nibble sweets from a wooden box.
Paper twists of raspberry sorbet, freshly baked cake, meadowsweet candy, a salty sweet tart of sticky birch sap with shavings of cured reindeer, sunflower nougat, smoked toffee, pickled gooseberries, pine resin, tar liquorice and dried blackberries.
Dinner menu for January 10th, 2013
Welcoming fire pits on arrival, along with Johan and Sara, who braved minus 10 degree temperatures in only a cardigan.
The downstairs lounge.
An alchemist's dream of pickled and dried ingredients behind the bar, and a reindeer fur coat.
Slightly salty-sour and very moreish, the dip reminded me of unsmoked taramaslata, or the fish roe pastes the Swedish seem to be fond of.
Surprisingly unseasoned except for the sea salt flakes, so you tasted more of the 'fishiness' of the roe, in contrast to the deeply earthy dried pigs blood mixed into the pastry casing.
Warm and comforting, with a thin skin that burst to release the creamy curds inside. Couldn't taste the lavender myself.
One of the highlights. Fried outside, slightly sour, gooey batter and then soft, fatty meat, gooseberry tang and a floral pine finish. You could eat bowls of these.
This was pretty weird. I liked the texture of the cloud lichen, but the flatter Icelandic lichen tasted bitter and I couldn't taste the dehydrated egg yolk
Very dark, strong tasting, blood-rich meat. Reminded me of the elk we have tried.
Upstairs dining room.
So simple - perfectly cooked and sweet, with salty, smoky cooking juices.
Incredibly seawater juicy and soft. The 'almost burnt' cream was a subtle but well conceived foil for the meat.
Another juicy piece of shellfish, this time buttery and mildly sour, paired with tastes of charred onion. The ättika vinegar used here is apparently historically a uniquely Swedish product - similar to acetic vinegar but made from wood. Ferociously strong, here it was infused with burnt onion and became the dark brown sour note, blended with melted butter.
The combination of soft, flaky cod, sour slightly chewy carrot and sharp ättika jelly was sensational, all rounded off with the clean, floral taste of the spruce oil.
Interesting...raw shellfish, green, leafy powder, almost cloying sunflower seed paste and raw sprout crunch. Wasn't entirely sure what to make of this - tasty yes, but I wouldn't go for a main course sized portion.
Despite sea urchin being one of my favourite things, this was challenging. Not sea urchin in the Japanese super clean, super sweet sense, but in the Mediterranean earthy, tastes of the sea, slightly bitter sense, with floury almost sandy pastry and sharp pickled rowan berries.
Absolutely heavenly, another highlight. Different textures of toasted, crunchy, chewy seeds and soft oat porridge, a very light beef stock and the chives only adding a mild note due to being dried.
Oops I forgot to take a photo of the raw ox heart with bone marrow. The heart was an interesting texture, surprisingly tender with little bounce. I liked the celery-ish lovage salt. Here is Magnus having at the ox leg bone with a hacksaw.
The white, silky sour onions underneath the discs of raw root vegetables were an unusual accompaniment to the beef - looking almost like horseradish cream but tasting sour and fermented instead. The beef was deeply meaty. We realised why it tastes so intense when Sara told us it had been matured for 5 months in total.
Who wouldn't like blueberry sorbet?
A taste from Magnus' childhood - his grandmother would give him thick sour cream with lingon berries preserved in water. A lovely, delicate sweet.
This tasted overall of liquorice and honey, chewy-sweetish yolk and crunchy crumbs.
Churning the sour milk sorbet.
The whisked duck egg seemed too rich to me, but I find duck eggs almost too...much so this is a personal thing. Sour sweet raspberry jam and cool milk ice. The whole thing reminded me of a cold savarin, sort of.
What a lovely box of treats. The reindeer and birch resin tarts were sensational. We all liked the paper wrapped raspberry sorbets, toffees, nougat wrapped in leaves, sour gooseberries, dried blackberries and golden meadowsweet candies. The tar liquorice was for those liquorice lovers out there and the pine resin that looked like an inviting square of chocolate? Very good for your teeth and breath apparently. Think everlasting Christmas tree chewing gum.
What a dinner!
Magnus has also recently published his cookbook - Fäviken