Deep into the wild forest of Järpen in northern Sweden there’s an amazing place unlike anything else. Fäviken Magasinet is a two Michelin starred restaurant situated in the middle of fucking nowhere. Chef Magnus Nilsson has become world famous for his unique cooking style and the way he utilizes the limited produce of Fäviken’s frostbitten landscape. Recognized as one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, the artist and his studio has also been featured in the Netflix series “Chef’s Table.”
Getting There, and Back Again
Fäviken, in the region of Järpen, can only be reached by car from either Værnes airport outside Trondheim in Norway or from Östersund airport in Sweden. You can also drive the whole way, of course. Last year we rented a car at Værnes airport and drove from there. In total, the route takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes, but you’ll be wise to calculate 3 hours in case of icy tracks. Especially the last stretch, which is about 15-20 minutes of gravel road. This shortcut across the mountain can take way longer if the weather is bad, so consider driving around via Undersåker and Järpen (35 minutes).
In our case, we drove the shortcut in pitch dark with snow on the ground and a thick fog in the air. While such extreme conditions certainly add to the drama and authenticity of the experience, I’m not sure I would recommend it. No matter how rough the weather is, it will all be worth it when you arrive at Fäviken Magasinet, though. Two bonfires are burning at the end of the road. The assistant restaurant manager comes out to greet you, and offers valet parking for your car.
Checking in at the Fäviken Accommodation Room
Fäviken Magasinet offers accommodations, but the availability is very limited. They have a total of five rooms, which each can host two people – unfortunately, not enough to cover all guests in the restaurant. Check-in is at 4 PM on the day of the dinner, and check-out is by 11 AM the next morning. The rooms are small but cozy with two single or a double bed (only the room with the bear face) complete with bearskin rugs to warm your feet.
Each room has a wash basin, while the showers (one in the bathroom and two in the sauna) and toilets (one in the bathroom, one in the sauna and one downstairs) are shared among all the guests. The cost is SEK 2500 per night, and that includes waking up to the most fantastic breakfast the next morning at 9 AM. It’s so great that I have decided to dedicate a separate post to it.
Complimentary Drinks and Snacks While You Relax in the Sauna Before Dinner
An essential part of the Fäviken experience which you cannot miss out on is to hit the sauna before dinner. This luxury is restricted to guests who sleep over, as the sauna is located in the “hotel” part of Fäviken Magasinet. Enjoy complimentary wine, beer, and cider and pre-start the dinner with some pickled vegetables and beer sausages. Sweat out all your stress and achieve total relaxation. There’s no better way to get into the Fäviken mood than this, in my opinion.
Pre-dinner Drink in the Fireplace Lounge
If you’ve planned your stay well, you should have time for a pre-dinner drink, which is nice to calm down and relax before the show starts. The fireplace lounge is where the dinner opens with a selection of snacks and ends with the petits fours. A big part of the meal takes place right here.
You’re welcomed into the room by the Fäviken staff like an old friend. The door opens before you reach it. They are expecting you. Magnus’ old wolf fur coat hangs on the wall. If you ask nicely, they might let you try it on. The wall behind the bar is covered in jars of “everything pickled.” Afterall, Fäviken Magasinet is all about preservation throughout the seasons – pickling, fermenting, curing, salting, drying – due to its challenging location in a place where hardly anything grows half of the year.
You can enter the lounge area up to 45 minutes before dinner. Sit back and relax. Enjoy the slow pace of time. You’ll get some nibbles of pickled carrots and cooked local salami. Remember to reply “yes, please” when asked if you want Champagne. The sooner you show up for dinner, the more they’ll pour. I think we got about half a bottle each. Jonas Sandberg was our sommelier and host this evening. Unfortunately, he has since decided to leave Fäviken to open a wine bar in Stockholm.
At 19.00 Hours the Show Starts
Whatever you do – don’t be late. Fäviken Magasinet does not wait for you. Dinner starts at 19.00, and everything is served to everyone at the same time. Linseed and vinegar crisps with a mussel emulsion arrived first. Crunch to be dipped in fat. Next, a crust made of pig’s blood filled with rainbow trout roe. Salty and rich. Then, a stick with pig’s head meat dipped in sourdough and deep-fried – topped with pickled gooseberry and tarragon salt. Umami and acidity in harmony.
“Don’t eat the head or the tail!” – head chef Jesper Karlsson
“It’s normal in Sweden to pickle herring for Christmas. However, this herring has been in a salted barrel for three years, so it’s much saltier and more savory – almost like anchovy. It’s placed on a little crust along with fresh cheese. Don’t eat the head or the tail!” head chef Jesper Karlsson explains as one of the most eye-catching dishes are presented. A few more bites arrive and finally some slices of cured pork. Cut just thin enough to be enjoyable, but with a good bite to them.
Moving up to the Main Dining Room
After these initial snacks, everyone is asked to go upstairs. Unless you have booked a seat at “Slagbordet,” which is a shared table in the lounge area for a group of eight. The main dining room on the second floor, “Matsalen,” has five tables and a total of 16 seats and can be booked by 2, 4 or 6 people. Watch your head as you walk up the stairs – the wooden beams hang low. The set menu cost SEK 2200 per person when we visited in 2015, but since gaining two Michelin stars, the price has gone up to SEK 3000. You can choose wines by the glass, non-alcoholic options or a wine pairing menu priced at SEK 1795.
A huge scallop cooked in its own shell over burning juniper branches is a classic at Fäviken Magasinet. “This scallop comes straight from our fisherman in Norway. We place it live over a fire,” chef Jesper explains. You lift up the lid, grab the scallop and eat it with your hands. It’s almost raw. Make sure to drink the broth out of the shell as well.
Next up, another classic: “King crab fried in a very hot pan with just a little bit of butter. Then we spray it with vinegar. We serve it with almost burn cream that we reduce quickly. When it starts to get burnt, we take it off. Eat a little bit of this cream with each bite of the crab,” Jesper guided us.
Very soon, Jesper is back to present the next course. “A very long time ago in this region, people would make something they called “bog butter.” They would take their excess butter from spring and summer and wrap it in moss and birch bark and then bury it. Over time, the various flavors of herbs and grass that you would find in the marshlands would go into the butter. We’ve recreated that butter and serve it with a poached piece of trout from the lake just behind Fäviken. Then the plate is finished with the various leaves and herbs and mosses that we find here.”
The time between each dish was quite short – between 4 and 7 minutes. There was barely any time to take photos even (I managed, though). By listening to the sounds, you can tell when a new dish is on its way. First, the door from the kitchen downstairs cracks open. Feets march across the floor, and then up the stairs. The old wooden planks screech with every step. All the chefs help carry the plates upstairs on big boards, while the wait staff bring it further on to each table.
Roasted duck was the main course, and a chef came out to showcase the whole birds before they were returned to the kitchen for the final preparations. Meanwhile, another chef was busy roasting lamb tongues in a copper pan, and Jesper clapped his hands to get the attention again: “We fry the tongue with a bit of butter. Then we add a few tablespoons of liquid, and let it simmer, and as the water reduces it starts to fry again. Then we add a few more tablespoons of liquid, deglaze the pan, and turn the tongues and then repeat that process over and over again. So it takes about 5 minutes on each side of the tongue every turn, going from boiling to simmering to frying, and in total it takes about 4-5 hours for a piece of tongue like this.”
Desserts at Fäviken is an endless amount of tiny bite-size sweets. Some of them are served upstairs at your table, like potato and caramel, and colostrum and blueberries. The head chef went into a bit more details about the main dessert this evening – a brown cheese pie: “This is the reduced whey from cultured milk, so it’s very acidic. We punch a hole in the top, so it runs down to the cake underneath. When you spoon it out of the box, make sure you get some of the soaked cake as well.”
Petits Fours are Served Downstairs
Approximately 20% of the meal at Fäviken Magasinet is served in the lounge at the start. You enjoy the main part, roughly 60%, at your table on the second level, before you finish with the last 20% downstairs again. From a savory meat pie, a bone marrow brûlée, to a box of candy, duck egg liqueur and homemade Fäviken “snus.” I had never tried snus before my first Fäviken visit during the Gelinaz shuffle last year. I must have been drinking a lot less alcohol this time because now it made me really dizzy. I’m happy to say I don’t need that in my life.
The box of snus marks the end of the meal, but you can still order more to drink and buy cigars if you want to. Outside, there’s a lavvu complete with a bonfire burning inside, where you can sit for another hour until you feel like crawling under your bearskin rug in the hotel room. You’ll wake up next morning to the sun shining on the forest of Fäviken, and the world’s best breakfast awaiting.
Waking up the Next Morning in Paradise
When we visited in November 2015 there was hardly any snow and the temperature was almost minus 10 degrees C. It felt more like minus 30 degrees, though. The cold went through my shoes and gloves instantly, and my skin felt like it was about to rip apart. Yet, the place was so beautiful that we couldn’t help but to walk around in the forest for a while before we headed back to Fäviken Magasinet for another marvelous meal. You can read more about that here.
Have you been to Fäviken, or did my story inspire you to go? Please share in a comment below.