There is no other experience in the world that is as memorable or feels as vivid as dinner at Fäviken in Sweden. It took place almost two years ago, but it feels like last week.
I’d planned to run the Stockholm Marathon in June 2016, and then I thought, since I’ll be there, why not try for a reservation at Fäviken? And if I manage to get a dinner reservation there, why not stay the night?
Check and check.
Set in the middle of Sweden’s stunning, virtually untouched country, Fäviken is what happens when you give a European a Pinterest “rustic wedding” inspiration board. The interior’s woodsman vibe puts American “country chic” restaurants to shame. The red barn buildings were well kept, but not at all artificial. Everything about this beautiful place—from the grounds to the details in the restaurant and the bedroom—was understated and authentic.
Don’t come expecting molecular gastronomy, or morsels of food disguised as leaves, or deconstructed whatever. Just expect amped-up natural flavors—not simply a stalk of asparagus, but the very essence of asparagus. Scallop and crab retrieved from the Nordic seas and just kissed with heat before plating. And age-old Scandinavian recipes made the traditional way with in-season ingredients.
Sitting on the second floor of the largest barn with six other parties, we were led through twenty incredible bites by the regiment commander. With two claps of his hands, he beckoned the dishes’ arrival, snapped us to attention to receive his announcements and instructions and allowed us to eat. Rather than feel turned off, I was amused!
Lest you say that some of these dishes are totally ingredients in disguise, I’ll have you know that these are creative presentations, not disguises! These are plants treated—marinated, brined, cooked, uncooked—in ways you haven’t considered, morsels of meat transformed into robust bites. Some of these were old recipes with a 21st-century makeover.
Through conversation with the friendly staff, I learned that every item that arrive at the table were made in Scandinavia. The water glasses with the colored rims were handblown in a cozy studio outside a tiny village several hours’ drive away. The adorable dresses that some of the servers wore were designed and manufactured in Stockholm.
After dinner, all the guests were ushered downstairs to the sitting area, where I sat next to an American couple. (I suspect there was a strategy to the seating arrangement.) We enjoyed natural herbal teas prepared by hand before our eyes. As if we weren’t already full to the brim with dinner, we were treated to displays of sweets and herbal treats.
If you’ve ever watched the Chef’s Table episode about Fäviken, you’d be familiar with the cellar. Jars upon jars and bottles upon bottles of pickled vegetables and herbs and weeds, many several years old! And once those jars are used up, that’s it—no more of that particular years-old pickled carrots. Because I’m short, I didn’t have to bend as low to get into the door and down the steps, and I was one of few who could stand upright inside.
We guests were treated to tours of the cold building where seafood and meat were stored. Huge kitchen trays filled with whole fish that stared at you with wide, glassy eyes and gigantic hunks of meat—what was butchered from the whole animal outside on the far side of another barn.
After a restful night’s sleep on the premises (that’s an experience for another blog post), breakfast awaited. Hardboiled eggs, meats, cheese, grains, jams, coffee, tea, shortbread, juice drinks and patés made their way to the table.