I will always regret it. The year must have been 2002, perhaps even earlier. I had rented a flat in Barcelona to test recipes for my offal book and was there for 3 weeks. During that time, I could have easily gone to El Bulli whenever I wanted. I had a well-connected friend who would have organised it for me — in fact he had organised an amazing offal dinner at Can Fabes and an exquisite lunch at Ca L’Isidre where the owner gave me their recipe for tripe. But El Bulli was far and I was not so taken by molecular cuisine after a disappointing meal at the Fat Duck. So, I didn’t even try to get a booking. Then it became incredibly difficult to get in and now it is closed. Since then, I decided never to miss eating at a restaurant I was interested in even if it means travelling. Last year I went to Noma and I am just back from Faviken where I had the most amazing dinner followed by a terrific breakfast in the most serene if slightly ascetic atmosphere.
I have to admit that my first impression was not so great. The welcome was perfunctory and the rooms were small, rather dark and even if they were nicely decorated, they didn’t look so comfortable. And we had to share the bathroom!
But then we went to have a drink and things immediately started looking up. Our waitress was delightful. The setting marvellous and our cocktails incredibly pretty, not to mention also delicious. From that moment on there wasn’t a single wrong note. I loved sitting on the sheepskin covered chairs looking out onto the snowy mountain with the occasional immaculately dressed chef walking by and I particularly liked the pickled carrots and home-cured sausage we had with the cocktail — I can’t remember what the drink was except that we all enjoyed it. I should accept the fact that I no longer have any memory and start taking notes!
When the time came for dinner, we were first offered drinks in the bar downstairs before being taken up to the dining room. The choice was rhubarb wine or bubbly. I wish we’d gone for the bubbly because the rhubarb wine was more interesting than delicious. What was delicious though were all the delicate nibbles served with the drink that showed off the brilliance of Magnus Nilsson before we had even started on the proper dishes. First to come were the thinnest possible crackers made with flaxseed and vinegar and served with a mussels dip. I normally eat very quickly but the crackers and dip were so exquisite that I savoured them slowly only to have the last bit swiped by the waitress without me noticing!
But it was quickly replaced with an extraordinary lump of cheese that reminded me of tofu, wobbly and silky, and swimming in warm whey with one lavender bud dried the previous summer as garnish. Heavenly.
Then came the prettiest sushi-like concoction filled with trout roe except that the shell was not nori but a crust made with dried pig’s blood. Stunningly good.
After that we were treated to the most amazing preparation that trumps Blumenthal’s meat fruit by a mile: pig’s head dipped in sourdough and fried. Not only did it look beautiful but it was astonishing to bite into a crisp ball that looks like a fruit but tastes and feels exactly like pig’s head. Spectacular and one of my favourite things that evening.
The crispy lichen that followed reminded me of something similar I had at Noma. It was very delicate and tasty, and pretty and I am not sure why I never took a good picture of it. But I managed to take a good picture of the next gorgeous nibble: salted and aged herring slices laid on rusks with curd in between. As beautiful to look at as it was to eat.
The last appetiser was a few slices of wild cured goose, a fitting finale to an extraordinary procession of edible delights!
I am not sure if Magnus is a fan of Ingmar Bergman but sitting at the large table we were allocated for dinner, overlooking the other diners and the table where the dishes were plated made me feel as if I were the lord in the Virgin Spring as he presided over the family meals. The room had a medieval atmosphere without being claustrophobic — Swedes definitely have a knack for wonderful interiors. And the beautiful soft music suited the mood which wasn’t the case at breakfast but then I hate jazz and they very sweetly turned it off when I told them.
Our dinner started with the most perfectly cooked scallops that came in their shell on a bed of juniper branches — in fact they had been cooked over the burning branches. The chef took off the top shelf and gave us each our scallop with the instruction that we should eat it with our hand. Being a good Arab, I love eating with my hands and was very happy to comply.
The langoustine that followed, served with a dollop of almost burned cream, was the most perfect langoustine I ever had. Probably the best dish that evening, at least as far as I was concerned.
We carried on with the fish theme with a very pure skate (that I had watched the chefs prepare earlier in the kitchen) livened up by a green sauce made with onion tops.
We continued with another perfectly cooked piece of fish, cod this time, seared in a dry pan then brushed with honey and served with one lone carrot cooked in whey and a dollop of spruce and ättika vinegar jelly. Perfect for a tasting menu. In fact, the whole dinner was a model of what a tasting menu should be: tiny portions so that you don’t feel bloated at the end of the meal, contrasting flavours and textures and terrific variety.
Tiny little pies made with pea flour, filled with eggs and sprinkle with dried cod’s roe came as an interlude before the prettiest and most delicious porridge ever, made with grains and seeds from Jämtland, covered with wild leaves and moistened with meat broth filtered through moss. Unexpected but totally welcome.
Then came another masterful creation, bone marrow extracted from a huge bone as you can see in the top picture that Magnus sawed right in front of us mixed with dices of raw cow’s heart and buried under the loveliest flower petals. The contrast between the dainty petals and the hearty meats was just delightful.
I wonder if the heart and bone marrow came from the same retired dairy cow that provided the ribeye which was aged for 4 months before being cooked over open fire. In all likelihood they did. In any case, the meat was very good although not as fabulous as I had hoped.
Then came the other clou de la soirée, an egg shell cwhich we could eat ontaining colostrum and meadowsweet. Sadly I don’t remember what the shell was made of but it was amazing. An edible work of art. In fact, most of the dishes were and without any affectation which was a real feat.
Throughout the dinner, David and I were happily snapping everything that came to the table from the butter to the bread to every single dish and here he is, showing our lovely waitress some of his photos which he should be posting very soon. Sorry about the blueish colour of their skin but the lighting didn’t help and I don’t know how to adjust the skin tone in photoshop. One day I will learn and when I do, I will revisit the post to make the correction.
Finally it was time for dessert and time for my other most favourite dish, an egg yolk preserved in sugar syrup and laid on a pile of crumbs made from pine bark with on the side a very soft ice cream seasoned with meadowsweet. I am running out of superlatives here but I have to say that this was another stunning combination.
The sour milk sorbet, raspberry jam and whisked duck egg that followed was excellent but a rather pale finish after such a sophisticated creation.
But then came the wooden box filled with meat pies, raspberry ice, tar pastilles, meadowsweet candy, dried berries, sunflower seed nougat, anise seeds coated in crystallised honey and beeswax, smoked toffee, pine resin and cake and we were again dazzled. The whole evening was dazzling. Actually make that our whole stay.
And just as dazzling was the herbal tea that Magnus made for us, picking leaves from a variety of herbs he had beautifully arranged on a tray with jars of spices. He stuffed the herbs into the strainer of the pretty glass cups, added a few grains of this and that spice and poured boiling water over them. A marvellous finish to a marvellous dinner. Unfortunately I went to bed early and missed out on a very interesting conversation with him, a walk in the garden and a visit to the butcher house. Well, I intend to go back and next time I will make sure to be the last to go to bed!
The next morning, I thought I would go for a walk before breakfast but the weather was too sad which was a shame as I wanted to go down to the lake but the breakfast, which was just as fabulous as our dinner even if a lot more restrained, made up for the disappointment and set us up for our journey back to Stockholm and more beautiful people although again not on the plane!
Tagged : bone marrow, colostrum, David Lebovitz, edible delights, edible works of art, egg yolk preserved in sugar syrup, faviken, great culinary experiences, ingmar bergman, magnus nilsson, meadowsweet, meat from dairy cows, noma, raw cow's heart, virgin spring no comments