True hospitality in an inhospitable environment
With his long hair and beard and an ability to retain a certain style when dressed in all-weather gear – shotgun slung over one shoulder, a brace of hazelhens in hand – Magnus Nilsson has become the poster-boy for the new wave of Scandinavian cooking that has captured the world’s imagination.
The aforementioned look isn’t for the glossy magazines either: the tiny Fäviken lays claim to being among the most isolated restaurants on the planet (it has the same latitude as Iceland) and Nilsson can regularly be found foraging and hunting in the 20,000-acre hunting estate for ingredients to serve in his rustic dining room. This is no mean feat considering that the landscape in which Nilsson stalks is frozen for half of the year, meaning that his skills in preserving vegetables, meat and game have to match his talent behind the stove, which he possesses in abundance.
More than mere sustenance, a meal at Fäviken is something of a rite of passage. Nilsson’s cooking is bold and creative with seemingly simple preparations often requiring a time-honoured skill and patience that has long died out in many kitchens. A dish of rakfisk (fermented trout) and sour cream, for example, requires a three-day brine followed by a six-month maturing process where pH levels must be kept under continual observation. All this effort amounts to one, albeit delicious, bite for the lucky diner.