Michelin Star

nahm at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok

"I landed in 1980 in Bangkok, and I stopped to eat ten times between the airport and the hotel. It was all lemongrass and ginger and chilies." - Jean-Georges Vongerichten

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There is no better time to visit Bangkok than December and January. The sweltering heat found from March through to August is replaced with a more manageable and pleasant heat.

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If you’re in need of winter-sun and seek a city-break with world class food and accommodation, then I have just the place for you.

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One of Bangkok’s best hotels, the effortlessly stylish COMO Metropolitan Bangkok, is situated in the quieter Sathorn district of the city. 

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Located a stones throw away from the beautiful Lumpini Park, the 5 star resort is hidden away amongst skyscrapers and embassies and is found by travelling along a tree-lined path away from the busy roads.

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A sleek but understated contemporary style reception meets you. It 's clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into the design of the hotel.

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The staff couldn’t be more pleasant and willing to assist. 

Super comfy and luxurious 500-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens adorn the super-king beds.

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The rooms are spacious and well-presented and contain some nice touches, such as Bose stereos and fresh orchid plants.

Our room, an Executive Suite, even had its own private meeting/dining room.

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Breakfast is served at Glow restaurant.

A big selling feature for the hotel is its huge outdoor swimming pool, the perfect place to escape the heat.

Attentive pool attendants keep a watchful eye to ensure you’re kept well-hydrated and even offer complimentary sunscreen lotion.

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We didn’t have time to use the spa facilities, but the 1-hour COMO Shambhala Massage is said to be highly recommended.

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The hotel has another ace up its sleeve: possibly the best Thai restaurant in the world.

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‘Kin Khao Reu Yang?’

This single sentence sums up the esteem with which food is held in Thai culture and society. In Thailand, when family or friends meet, rather than ask ‘how are you?’, they will often ask ‘Kin Khao Reu Yang?’. Translation: have you eaten (rice) yet?

If any of the party has yet to eat, sourcing a good meal becomes the immediate priority above all others.

Food in Thailand is a communal affair. Not only is it normal for the entire family to eat together, but they also often cook meals together and eat from the same shared dishes. It is how traditional methods of Thai cookery are inherited from generation to generation.

In our taxi on the way to the hotel the driver enquired if we were going to be eating at nahm. When we told him that we hoped to, but hadn't made a reservation he laughed and informed us that we had little chance - you have to book weeks and months in advance in order to secure a table.

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So it was almost with embarrassment that we asked the hotel reception if they could arrange a reservation for us that evening. And, to complicate matters further, we hoped to invite several family members to share the experience with us - a table for 6 would be required.

nahm at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok frequently features amongst lists of the top restaurants in Asia. Run by the Australian-born chef David Thompson, it was recently awarded a coveted Michelin star. One of the first restaurants in Thailand to receive the award.

Thompson and his team have gained worldwide notoriety for offering authentic Thai cuisine made using the highest quality ingredients, while earning a reputation for reviving once popular traditional Thai dishes.

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This was the highlight of the meal. Alike Fäviken's "i skalet ur elden", this signature dish was bursting with flavour and worth the trip alone.

Muslim curry of oxtail with fresh nutmeg, ginger and eggplants.

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Thai vegetable and fruit salad with tamarind, palm sugar and sesame dressing. Another stunning dish.

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Steamed coral trout with Bang Rak yellow beans and pickled garlic.

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Grilled galangal relish with pork and prawn stuffed bamboo and mustard greens.

One of our party commented: "I can pay this no higher compliment than to say this is exactly how my mum cooked this dish. Beautiful!"

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A delicious Lycheetini.

Kingfish salad with pomelo, lemongrass and lime.

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Preserved shrimp and crab simmered in coconut cream with deep-fried prawns and vegetables.

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Owing to our late reservation we didn't get to spend as much time at nahm as we would have liked, and as a result weren't able to sample even more dishes.

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Each of the dishes we did sample were extremely well-balanced. It's apparent that the chefs have a clear understanding of the four fundamental taste areas; sweet, spicy, salty and sour.

We left extremely full, but with food this good you always want more!

COMO Metropolitan Bangkok

 

Photography by mahon.photo

L'Enclume

Following the success of last summer's Fäviken review, I asked my brother, Andrew, to write about his recent trip to L'Enclume.

Regarded by many to be Britain’s greatest restaurant, it’s a feast of a review, and one which I hope you will enjoy...

Foodie ‘bible’ The Good Food Guide awarded L’Enclume its maximum 10 out of 10 rating for the fifth time in its 2017 guide, and named it to be its top UK restaurant for the fourth consecutive year. 

Owned and run by British chef Simon Rogan and his partner Penny Tapsell, the double-Michelin star, five AA Rosette winning L’Enclume is their flagship restaurant amongst what appears to be an ever-expanding number of other eateries.

When I checked recently, as well as L’Enclume, other eateries in the group included the Rogan & Company restaurant and Pig and Whistle pub in Cartmel, The French and Mr Cooper’s House & Garden (both in Manchester), Michelin-starred Fera at Claridge's and the Roganic ‘pop-up’ restaurant (both in London); the Aulis development kitchens at L’Enclume and Claridge’s and, as if that wasn’t enough, a 12-acre farm just outside of Cartmel.

As we schlep northwards along the M6 motorway and then on to the A590 towards Cartmel, I have a few things mulling around in my mind.

Firstly, where on earth would you find the energy to run several award-winning restaurants, a pub, and a farm? 

Secondly, I’m thinking about this review, and one particular salacious detail: the cost of our visit.

It won't come as a surprise that dining at one of the world's great restaurants is not going to be cheap. Understandably, for some the cost will be beyond justification. So let’s get it out of the way early: our visit - including dinner at L’Enclume with accompanying cheese and drinks flights and a one-night stay in a suite, but excluding any tips - cost, for two people, £821.50. 

Finally off the M6 and driving deeper into the Cumbrian countryside, the final thing mulling about in my mind is… what are those strange noises coming from the bottom of our car, and where the bloody hell are we? 

For our last epic food adventure my wife and I travelled over 1,000 miles to arrive at Fäviken, one of the most remote restaurants in the world. We took two plane journeys, hired a car in Norway and drove across the land border to rural Sweden. Not once did we get lost.

We’re asked to arrive at L'Enclume for midday. The small historic village of Cartmel is located in a quieter corner of the Lake District. Surrounded by mile-upon-mile of farmers fields, it has a character quite different from the well-known touristy towns of Bowness-on-Windermere, Ambleside or Keswick.

Prior to being shown our room, we’ve been invited to take a tour of L’Enclume’s farm. It’s with some embarrassment that, less than 100 miles from home, with crunching noises of stone boulders forcibly acquainting themselves with the underside of our car, tyres spinning attempting to struggle up a 1 in 3 single track, that we make the call to the L’Enclume reception “hi, we’re lost!”

‘Our Farm’ is conveniently located only a mile north-east of the village. Inconveniently, we’re at L’Enclume’s former farm which is still listed on their website. It is 1 mile west and, to complicate matters further, we’ve taken a wrong turn along a path which is car-destroyingly craggy, narrow and steep. Very steep. Reception kindly direct us back to the restaurant and arrange for us to be driven to the farm.

Our farm was conceived and built by chefs with a clear vision - to strengthen the link between food, its development, and the environment - advancing the relationship between cooking and growing.
— L'Enclume

At the farm we meet one of the growers, Simon. A more patient and laid-back character you could not wish to meet.

Red baron onions (also known as shooting onions)

Red baron onions (also known as shooting onions)

Simon walks us around a handful of polytunnels showing us the raised beds where many varieties of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers are grown.

Chickweed

Chickweed

We’re encouraged to pick and taste the fresh herbs and flowers. 

Peach trees in blossom

Peach trees in blossom

Simon explains that the farm is in its 4th year and that the ingredients grown here are used in Rogan’s Cartmel restaurants, as well as being transported down to London to be used in Fera and Aulis at Claridge’s. The farm is said to supply over 90% of L’Enclume’s produce.

The thing I admire most is that nothing goes to waste. Even food waste from L’Enclume is recycled and used as compost at the farm; the farm-to-plate-and-back-to-the-farm ethos.

Winter Purslane (miners lettuce or claytonia)

Winter Purslane (miners lettuce or claytonia)

The effort that has gone into controlling the consistency and the quality of the ingredients is truly impressive.

Cows, chickens and pigs are also reared at the farm and there is an orchard where it is planned that a variety of fruit including apples, damsons and pears will be grown.

I’m informed there are plans to build a smokehouse and possibly a meat curing room up here. I’d go a step further and, during the summer months, move Aulis at L'Enclume to this location too.

After an enjoyable 45 minutes or so walking around the farm we are collected and driven back to the village. 

We’ve booked the Cartmel Escape package, and our room is one of the suites.

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Housed above a fantastic coffee shop in the centre of the village, the room is spacious and has a nice blend of modern features and antique furniture. It has everything you could need or expect.

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Our room and restaurant package includes “a half bottle of Classic English sparkling wine from the Nyetimber Estate, homemade nibbles in your room upon arrival, dinner for two from our full taster menu, and an overnight stay with breakfast the following morning at our sister restaurant Rogan & Co.”

It’s now 2pm and, despite wanting to save ourselves for the meal tonight, we’re ravenous. Regrettably our stay is on a Tuesday when Rogan & Co is closed so, on receptions suggestion, we try the nearby Cavendish Arms; an excellent recommendation.

The British weather is at its changeable-worst.  Sunglasses are needed to protect eyes from the sun, but also from the sporadic hail storms too. After lunch we opt to have a walk around the village, tracing the path of River Eea. 

Even if it wasn’t home to one of the worlds best restaurants, picturesque Cartmel would be worth a visit.

Possibly unfairly, it has recently been called ‘Roganville’ due to the number of establishments Rogan has here.

While we walk around we discover why. Almost everywhere you look, L’Enclume employees are busily hurrying in and out of buildings dotted around the village, all working feverishly to make the great engine work.

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Should you ever make the trip, I encourage you to play a game somewhat alike Whac-A-Mole; you win a point for every L’Enclume employee you spot entering or exiting an unexpected property. The loser pays the bill at the restaurant.

Just perfect dishes, showing faultless technique at every service; extremely rare, and the highest accolade the Guide can give.
— The Good Food Guide ’10’ rating

We arrive at the restaurant just before 7pm and are met by Sean, L’Enclume’s assistant head waiter, who shows us to our table in the conservatory.

L’Enclume is housed in a 700 year-old stone-built former smithy.

The interior is almost Scandi-style with rugged whitewashed walls, plenty of slate, glass and dark wood; bringing many of the Lake District's natural elements into the dining room. Decorative metal wall panels and a couple of anvils are dotted around (L’Enclume is French for the anvil).

Service is the perfect mix of friendly-formal. Too often in fine dining restaurants the service can be awkwardly formal, uncomfortably so. Not here. Sean takes the opportunity to ask if we have any food allergies that they should be aware of and, despite them being on the menu, takes it in his stride when my wife informs him that she is allergic to oysters.

L'Enclume vegetarian tasting menu (with optional wine flight)

L'Enclume vegetarian tasting menu (with optional wine flight)

The evenings menu is presented in an envelope on each table. The diner has the choice of whether or not to open it before the meal, or to leave each dish as a surprise.

We’re introduced to Valentin Mouillard the sommelier and, mistakenly believing it will result in fewer glasses of wine, opt for the Standard wine flight as opposed to the Signature (£70 versus £110, per person).

Before our meal begins we’re invited for a tour of the kitchen. During each 3-4 hour evening service this kitchen serves up anywhere between 800 to 1,000 plates of food. 800 to 1,000(!!) 

I expect to find a scene of carnage. Food splattered on the ceiling. Purple-faced chefs bumping into one another. Expletives. Kitchen porters whimpering in the corner.

We’re met with a remarkably calm and spotlessly clean kitchen. A comparatively compact space filled with a relatively young team. At the centre of it, Head Chef Tom Barnes. Cool as an organic cucumber (but not keen on having his photo taken). There’s not a morsel of food on the ceiling or anywhere else for that matter, but for the plates.

Truly, I make more mess when making a single round of toast.

We return to our seats. The main event is upon us. The procession of food and drink is to begin.

I'm no Jay Rayner and don’t have the word-smithery or tastebuds to be a food critic, and so will not go into detail attempting to describe the food. I hope the photographs speak for themselves. If they don't, the accolades the restaurant routinely receives surely do.

If you've read our Fäviken review, you will have read that I am vegetarian, my wife is not. I'll show each course, and where the dishes differ - many courses were the same for us both - will present my wife’s meal first followed by mine (denoted with a v).

Beetroot and vegetate (v)

Beetroot and vegetate (v)

Fermented tea and pumpkin juice (v)

Fermented tea and pumpkin juice (v)

Chickpea wafer with flowers (v)

Chickpea wafer with flowers (v)

Truffle pudding (v)

Truffle pudding (v)

Stichelton, millet and bone marrow

Stichelton, millet and bone marrow

Turnips, maran yolk, stout (v)

Turnips, maran yolk, stout (v)

Salted gooseberry and herb tart (v)

Salted gooseberry and herb tart (v)

Scallops with kohlrabi and seaweed

Scallops with kohlrabi and seaweed

Kohlrabi and seaweed (v)

Kohlrabi and seaweed (v)

Perilla bouillon & Mushroom bouillon (v)

Artichoke with stout and Ragstone (v)

Artichoke with stout and Ragstone (v)

Aged veal in coal oil, shallot and sorrel

Aged veal in coal oil, shallot and sorrel

Heritage tomato in coal oil, shallot and sorrel (v)

Heritage tomato in coal oil, shallot and sorrel (v)

Grilled prawn, carrot, nasturtium & Roasted carrot and nasturtium (v)

Grilled prawn, carrot, nasturtium & Roasted carrot and nasturtium (v)

Turbot with onions, smoked eel and monk’s beard

Turbot with onions, smoked eel and monk’s beard

Roast Cauliflower, fermented mushroom, yeasted apple (v)

Roast Cauliflower, fermented mushroom, yeasted apple (v)

Turbot with onions, smoked eel and monk’s beard

Turbot with onions, smoked eel and monk’s beard

Roast Cauliflower, fermented mushroom, yeasted apple (v)

Roast Cauliflower, fermented mushroom, yeasted apple (v)

Stuffed cabbage and offal & Stuffed cabbage and mushroom ragout (v)

Stuffed cabbage and offal & Stuffed cabbage and mushroom ragout (v)

Salt baked celeriac (v)

Salt baked celeriac (v)

English mushrooms (v)

English mushrooms (v)

George Norrie, Head Waiter (and part-time forrager)

George Norrie, Head Waiter (and part-time forrager)

Cheese course (v) (optional)

Cheese course (v) (optional)

Valentin Mouillard, Sommelier

Valentin Mouillard, Sommelier

Quince and gingerbread tartlet (v)

Quince and gingerbread tartlet (v)

Liquorice custard and sea buckthorn (v)

Liquorice custard and sea buckthorn (v)


I’m drowning here, and you’re describing the water!
— Melvin Udall

There is a scene in the movie ‘As Good As It Gets’ when Jack Nicholson's character utters the above quote.

It is never far from my mind each time sommelier Valentin Mouillard approaches the table with yet another bottle of wine together with a detailed description of its contents.

Possibly unwisely, given that we’re not big drinkers, my wife and I opt for the Wine Flight and the Cheese Flight. This guarantees that we will be served at least 11 glasses of wine during the meal and, on more than one occasion, our sneakily-efficient sommelier jumps in to top-up our glasses while we are distracted. As a result my wife and I are ‘merry’, and - as you can see - my camera is showing the signs of being inebriated too.

Interestingly, at the start of the evening I was the only person taking photos. Fellow diners look at me with quizzical bemusement while I snap photos of every course. Three-or-so hours later almost every diner has joined me in taking blurry photos of food. Drunk-face selfies appear surprisingly popular too.


Pear, rhubarb and sweet cheese Anvil (v)

Pear, rhubarb and sweet cheese Anvil (v)

Pine cones and mint cake (v)

Pine cones and mint cake (v)

We leave the restaurant at 11pm having enjoyed one of the best meals of our lives.

Overnight a decent coating of snow has fallen on the surrounding hills.

Breakfast is served at Rogan & Co. It's a delicious start to the day, and the perfect way to end our 24 hours at L'Enclume.

As we’re about to begin our journey home we pop into a local store to buy a couple of small presents for our two kids. The friendly shopkeeper enquires if we're here to visit L’Enclume. I ask if she's ever visited: "No, never. My husband probably wouldn't like it. He likes... you know... a big plate of food".

As we discussed at the beginning, for some the cost will be too hard to see past. If you see food as simply a fuel, or a means to an end, then you too probably won't 'get' a restaurant like L'Enclume. 

I struggle to fully describe my attraction to such places, perhaps it is because my wife and I have our own eatery. I was fascinated to see a business, soon to celebrate its 15th anniversary, and what keeps it at the top of its game. 

The UK restaurant industry has never been more competitive and there are more eateries trading today than at any time before. L'Enclume is currently rated as very best of them all. Such consistency is what is most impressive about L’Enclume, the fact that Simon Rogan and his team are able to deliver again and again, year after year.

In a tiny village in rural Cumbria a talented team are skilfully producing some of the world’s best food. A mile away, in L'Enclume, a team of expert chefs are creating award winning dishes from that produce.

If you visit make sure that you take in the whole experience and be sure to visit Our Farm. It is pivotal to the success of the restaurant, and it cannot be a coincidence that in each of the 4 years since Our Farm was born, L’Enclume has been named the UK’s best restaurant.

We thoroughly enjoyed our L’Enclume experience. The only way we can think to better it is to dine at the Aulis development kitchen, something we plan to do soon.

 

Many thanks to Simon, David, Amy, Mataya, Laura, Laudy, Clare, Sean, George and Valentin at L’Enclume, and Samantha at TCS for making our stay so enjoyable.

L’Enclume

Cavendish Street, Cartmel, Cumbria, LA11 6PZ

01539 536 362

Photography by mahon.photo

Fäviken Magasinet, Sweden

My brother, Andrew, recently travelled to Scandinavia with his wife to visit the double Michelin-starred Fäviken Magasinet, one of the world’s top-rated restaurants. 

I asked him to write a guest post about their trip, and to go into as much detail as possible, since very few people are fortunate enough to experience Fäviken. It’s a lengthy review, but one which I hope you will enjoy...

To dine at Fäviken is to accept a challenge.

The first challenge is simply to get a reservation. There are few restaurants in the world that have garnered as much attention, and as much hype, as Fäviken. As a result, each of the restaurant’s 6 tables need to be booked months in advance.

100 year old wolf skin coat

100 year old wolf skin coat

Securing a table at the restaurant is a walk in the park compared to being able to book one of the 6 lodge rooms which, given the amount of alcohol you are likely to drink and the relative remoteness of the location, is a necessity.

Bookings go live on their website at midnight on a particular date, it's then a race to grab a reservation; an entire season will be sold-out within minutes of becoming available. Food must be prepaid at the point of reservation, and is non-refundable. Only then can accommodation and travel arrangements be booked to coincide. 

Obtaining a reservation isn't for the faint hearted! 

The second challenge is the travel required to get there. Often referred to as ‘the most isolated restaurant in the world’, the restaurant is situated on the Fäviken Egendom estate; a 20,000 acre hunting estate and farm located in northern Sweden (1,000 miles north east of London, England), and within relative touching distance of the arctic circle. During winter, temperatures often plummet to between -25ºC to -35ºC.

Our round-trip required four flights: Manchester to Oslo (Norway), then on to Trondheim. The return journey: Trondheim to Copenhagen (Denmark) and back to Manchester. Additional to the flights are 7 hours of car journeys, from Trondheim across the border to Järpen in Sweden. Diners often travel from as far afield as the United States, India and China.

Karin Hillström (centre) and Oskar Samuelsson

Karin Hillström (centre) and Oskar Samuelsson

The third challenge is to finish the sheer amount of food you are served, and the speed at which it is delivered to you. Fäviken’s sole offering is a tasting menu; 25-30 courses of double Michelin-starred Nordic food, accompanied by an optional wine pairing. There is no menu, you are served the ingredients that are most fresh on that particular night. Each of the restaurant's diners are served identical meals at exactly the same time.

 
Magnus Nilsson

Magnus Nilsson

Magnus Nilsson (b.1983) is the head chef of Fäviken Magasinet. After training as a chef in his native Sweden he moved to Paris and worked with Pascal Barbot of L’Astrance. In 2008 he returned home to Jämtland County and joined Fäviken as a sommelier. Within a year he had taken over the running of the restaurant.

Fäviken first came to my attention in late 2012 when I saw the above video on YouTube. Fäviken the book had just been released. 

Three years later Magnus gained widespread notoriety when he and Fäviken were featured in the successful Chef's Table Netflix documentary.

The Nordic Cookbook soon followed, a weighty tome of 750 pages containing 700 Nordic region recipes. Researched and written over a 3 year period during his free time, Magnus amassed 11,000 articles and 8,000 photographs while travelling extensively throughout the Nordic countries - Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The resulting book is widely perceived to be a masterpiece of its genre.

 

Our Visit

 
Fäviken Magasinet is going to be one of the world’s great restaurants - at least, it is if I can help it. Perhaps not in the traditional way, but in its own way. I like to believe that what we do not only gives people pleasure in the moment, but also helps them to rediscover their connection with nature and their place in the world, a connection which is becoming more and more distant for many of us. I believe we need it in order to be truly happy.
— Magnus Nilsson, 2012
 

With rain clouds passing over the mountains in the distance, and heading in our direction, we decide to head to the hotel slightly earlier than instructed. Fäviken are quite particular about the time you are to arrive (and to depart): “Check in time at the hotel is between 4pm and 5pm and check out is after breakfast.”

Fäviken Magasinet

After more than three years of looking forward to a visit to Fäviken, our level of anticipation is already high enough. Anticipation turns to trepidation as we pull up to the entrance and notice that the road sign for the restaurant has been fired at with a shotgun. Being self-respecting millennials, we stop to pose for selfies with the heavily pitted sign.

Fäviken Magasinet

The path is a couple of hundred metres long and fairly hilly. As we reach the crest of each hill we sneak a glimpse of Fäviken’s falu red buildings. 

Fäviken Magasinet

We arrive to a neat collection of five-or-so separate properties, and a teepee. It’s not immediately clear where we’re supposed to park, how we access the guest accommodation, or where the restaurant is located. 

Other than two small fire pits of burning birch wood there’s no movement anywhere and absolute silence abounds; it’s like a ghost town.

Then we see the kitchen. Around ten chefs in their whites are all heads-down busily at work in what is a relatively confined space. A large fluorescent red countdown timer blinks above their heads. One chef stands out from the rest by way of not wearing a chef’s hat, the other chefs aware of his every move.

A door opens and a young lady comes to greet us at our car. She leads us to our room. We’re shown the guest sauna, the communal shower and toilet facilities and the location of the complimentary drinks; herbal tea, coffee and fruit drinks.

“Dinner is at 7pm, but you may come down at 6:30pm.”

The bedrooms are compact and simply decorated. Other than a washbasin and a carafe of water there are few luxuries. Ours, the Fox room, is situated directly above the kitchen and overlooks the front of the restaurant, to what looks like a horse pen.

Fäviken Magasinet

There is very little to do. Guests have two options; take a sauna, or walk down to Lake Kallsjön. The remote location means that we're free of the usual distractions (phone calls, internet connections). Happily, we have little choice but to relax.

After our epic journey, and having been sat in a car for nearly 3 hours, we elect to go for a walk. Along the way we spot Fäviken’s famous Root Cellar. A young chef, Neil, kindly offers to show us around. It transpires he is a fellow Brit who has also been lured by Fäviken and will be training here for the next year or so.

Neil is, like every member of Fäviken staff we encounter, friendly, knowledgeable and more than happy to answer any questions we have.

The cellar is more compact than I expected. Chock full of food and drink, it appears that anything that can be pickled, preserved or fermented will be. Apples, cabbage, carrots, fireweed, marigolds, rhubarb, all stored in glass jars filled with liquids from vodka to white alcohol vinegar. Some jars date back to beyond 2014.

Neil also takes us to see the spotlessly clean abattoir and curing room. Me being a vegetarian, I am not overly keen to spend much time here.

 

Rektún Mat

 
If I had a chance to go anywhere in the world right now, I would go to Fäviken.
— René Redzepi, Noma
 

There's a certain theatre to a meal at Fäviken. Dinner begins at 7pm prompt. Guests who have arrived late are said to have been locked out of the restaurant.

We arrive at the restaurant at around 6:45pm and are greeted at the door by Magnus and Jesper Karlsson, Fäviken’s Executive Chef.

Magnus Nilsson

Magnus Nilsson

Magnus has a warmth and a shyness to his character that I don’t believe the Netflix documentary conveys. Jesper is quieter, more reserved. Both have a quiet confidence about them. 

Fäviken Magasinet

We have chosen to dine at The Gateleg Table; a ‘communal dining experience’ on a table for eight people. In retrospect this was both an excellent decision, and a questionable decision. 

Fäviken Magasinet

Our fellow diners at the table, Swede’s Gordan and Pernilla, Norwegian’s Frikk and Iris and American’s Bill and Julie (who are part-way through cycling The Saint Olaf Pilgrimage) are all fantastic company.

During the meal we discuss topics from as wide a subject range as American dairy farming, strange Nordic cuisine traditions, how Russian King Crabs have obliterated the sea life around the Norwegian and Swedish coasts, Donald Trump's hair and, of course, the distance we've each travelled to dine here - even the Scandinavian's amongst our group have had to drive for 2 days to arrive.

Unable to secure one of the lodge rooms, Gordan and Pernilla are staying at a hotel in Åre, while Frikk and Iris - admirably - have elected to camp out down by the lake.

Our fellow diners are each and all very nice people; you could happily spend many an hour in their company.

So why was it a questionable decision to sit at The Gateleg Table?

“Hello, my name is Karin Hillström, I am your sommelier this evening. Would you like to take part in the wine pairing?”

One by one each person sat at our table confirms that they do wish to take part. Had we not been sat at the Gateleg Table we most probably would have ordered just a single bottle of wine, as neither my wife nor I are big drinkers. Yet here we find ourselves nodding while uttering the words, “yes, that would be great!”

 < CLAP, CLAP >

Magnus wants our attention. He is stood at the centre of the room and declares that the meal is about to begin. He informs us that the first few courses will be served in very quick succession - with little more than a couple of minutes between each course being served.

In other words: don’t just sit there admiring the food, eat it (a lot more is to follow!).

While I am vegetarian, my wife is not. Below I will present each course, with my wife’s meal first followed by mine (denoted with a v).

Charcuterie with pickled turnips

Charcuterie with pickled turnips

Linseed and vinegar crisps, with mussel or herb dip (v)

Linseed and vinegar crisps, with mussel or herb dip (v)

Wholegrain wheat cracker with carrot salad (v)

Wholegrain wheat cracker with carrot salad (v)

Broth of smoked and dried reindeer, decomposing leaves, very fresh curds and crowberries

Broth of smoked and dried reindeer, decomposing leaves, very fresh curds and crowberries

Broth of morels, decomposing leaves, very fresh curds and crowberries (v)

Broth of morels, decomposing leaves, very fresh curds and crowberries (v)

Wild trout roe served in a crust of dried pig's blood

Wild trout roe served in a crust of dried pig's blood

Pickled carrot with sour cream (v)

Pickled carrot with sour cream (v)

Pig's head, dipped in sourdough and deep-fried, rhubarb, tarragon salt

Pig's head, dipped in sourdough and deep-fried, rhubarb, tarragon salt

"Gammelost', dipped in sourdough and deep-fried, rhubarb, tarragon salt (v)

"Gammelost', dipped in sourdough and deep-fried, rhubarb, tarragon salt (v)

Slices of cured pork

Slices of cured pork

Slices of fermented jerusalem artichoke (v)

Slices of fermented jerusalem artichoke (v)

At this point the pace slows a little.

The food we have so far eaten has been delicious. Small appetisers, each with a predominant single overriding taste. My wife struggled slightly with the wild trout roe and for me the jerusalem artichoke was not overly memorable, but all other courses have been very nice.

Fäviken Magasinet
Scallop "i skalet ur elden" cooked over burning juniper branches

Scallop "i skalet ur elden" cooked over burning juniper branches

Fäviken's signature dish: Scallop "i skalet ur elden". Diners are asked to “eat it from your hands in one bite, and then drink the juice”.

The scallop is sourced from Hitra, near Trondheim in Norway. Briefly cooked over a fire of juniper branches and birch charcoal it is served straight from the kitchen. 

This is a dish I am very proud of. In my opinion, not only is it very close to perfection at every stage, from the raw product to the technique used to cook it to the presentation, but it is also our only truly iconic dish…it never seems to stop surprising diners with its simplified complexity and deliciousness.

The reason I love this particular recipe is that it exemplifies everything that I think is desirable in a dish. It is a perfect product cooked very simply and presented with an even greater simplicity, which tells the diner a story of passion, and in which you can sense the skill of the chef’s cooking in every bite and sip.
— Magnus Nilsson

For many this is the highlight of the meal. Frikk sums it up nicely: "what a combination of presentation, quality and taste!"

Braised bean shoots (v)

Braised bean shoots (v)

King crab and almost burnt cream

King crab and almost burnt cream

Zucchini flower and almost burnt cream (v)

Zucchini flower and almost burnt cream (v)

Lamb tongue according to Cajsa Warg, brined dandelion

Lamb tongue according to Cajsa Warg, brined dandelion

Gently fried duck egg, brined dandelion (v)

Gently fried duck egg, brined dandelion (v)

Burbot stew and nettles

Burbot stew and nettles

Pointed cabbage and nettles (v)

Pointed cabbage and nettles (v)

The king crab and zucchini in 'almost burnt cream' dishes are astoundingly good. I also very much enjoyed the pointed cabbage but, mental note to self: nettles will sting your tongue if you eat them, it should not be a surprise. Sticking your tongue out in the middle of a restaurant while guzzling water will not help. Neither is it a good look...

Sourdough pancake, seaweed, and beef butter or butter (v)

Sourdough pancake, seaweed, and beef butter or butter (v)

Lupin cured gratin (v)

Lupin cured gratin (v)

A small egg coated in ash, sauce made from dried trout and pickled marigold (v)

A small egg coated in ash, sauce made from dried trout and pickled marigold (v)

Chef Oskar Samuelsson introduces this dish as “a quails egg rolled in ash made of sheep shit”.

A steamed asparagus, very good cream and Finnish fish eggs

A steamed asparagus, very good cream and Finnish fish eggs

A steamed asparagus and 'gammelost' (v)

A steamed asparagus and 'gammelost' (v)

Mutton with fermented, roasted and very finely ground lupin

Mutton with fermented, roasted and very finely ground lupin

Beetroot cooked in the fire, roasted and very finely ground lupin (v)

Beetroot cooked in the fire, roasted and very finely ground lupin (v)

Colostrum with meadowsweet (v)

Colostrum with meadowsweet (v)

Raw jerusalem artichoke, dark roasted cereals (v)

Raw jerusalem artichoke, dark roasted cereals (v)

Silage ice cream (v)

Silage ice cream (v)

Potato dream (v)

Potato dream (v)

Oskar Samuelsson

Oskar Samuelsson

Brown cheese pie and gompa (v)

Brown cheese pie and gompa (v)

Raspberry ice (v)

Raspberry ice (v)

Bone marrow &amp; Bread marrow (v) pudding, frozen milk

Bone marrow & Bread marrow (v) pudding, frozen milk

Pickled semi-dried root vegetables (v)

Pickled semi-dried root vegetables (v)

Malted cabbage and birch pie (v)

Malted cabbage and birch pie (v)

A wooden box filled with tar pastilles, meadowsweet candy, dried rowan-berries, smoked caramel, sunflower seed nougat, dried blackcurrants (v)

A wooden box filled with tar pastilles, meadowsweet candy, dried rowan-berries, smoked caramel, sunflower seed nougat, dried blackcurrants (v)

Liqueur of duck egg yolks, bitter, liqueur of sour cream and blackcurrant digestif

Liqueur of duck egg yolks, bitter, liqueur of sour cream and blackcurrant digestif

Aromatic seeds (v)

Aromatic seeds (v)

Like clockwork our meal ends 4 hours after it started. During one sitting I've drank the equivalent amount of alcohol to what I would usually drink in a whole year, and am full almost to bursting point with some of the finest food I've ever eaten.

Photo taken at 11:05pm

Photo taken at 11:05pm

We step outside to daylight, at this time of year the sun seldom sleeps. Some guests head to the teepee, but with a long day of travel tomorrow we head back to our room. 

The kitchen is still a hive of activity. Clean down is in full swing.

We wake the following morning at 8am. The guests cars have been moved to the front of the lodge, ready to be driven away after breakfast.

Breakfast is a simpler affair than last nights meal. It includes some of the finest sourdough bread and butter I've ever tasted.

With the bill paid we drive away from Fäviken reflecting on what has been a remarkable couple of days.

 

The Experience

 
The dish will never be better than the produce, the difference between ‘good’ and ‘fantastic’. You will be surprised at how may chefs don’t see that difference.
— Magnus Nilsson
 

Fäviken is all about the ingredients. The majority of those served in the restaurant have been grown, foraged or hunted in the surrounding environment on the Fäviken estate. 

Fine-dining restaurants will often leave no stone unturned to source their chosen ingredients. Such ingredients are then flown in from every corner of the globe. Yet, here at Fäviken it is we, the customers, who travel to the ingredients. It is a restaurant in reverse.

Our visit is in mid-June. The mild temperatures and endless green forests belie that for a large part of the year this is an unforgiving and inhospitable location. It is to Magnus’ credit that he has used this to his advantage; the isolation of Fäviken is a large part of its seduction. 

Prior to visiting Fäviken you wonder how a fine-dining restaurant even exists in such a location. On visiting you discover that Fäviken not only exists here, but that it is flourishing. It is clear that it flourishes because of its location, not despite of it.

Magnus and his team evidently have a deep understanding of food, and the environment it comes from, but they also clearly understand our relationship with food. How else can you explain why so many people go to such great lengths - both distance and cost - simply for a meal?

And this brings to the fore the final challenge: the price. 

To eat at Fäviken is not cheap. At the time of writing the menu at Fäviken costs SEK 3,000 per person, with the optional wine pairing an additional SEK 1,750. The accommodation, for two people, costs SEK 2,500 per night, inclusive of breakfast. Total: approximately £1,050 GBP for two people. Once added together with flights, car rental and other incidentals, the total price will be closer to double the above figure. 

Can any dining experience truly be worth the amounts stated? No, I don't think so. Yet not for a single moment do I regret spending that money - I would happily do it all over again, preferably when the snow is at its deepest and when the northern lights are visible in the night sky.

The food is exceptional, but it is only part of the story; Fäviken is about so much more. It is a unique experience, one which we're likely to remember for the rest of our lives. It may be clichéd, but you can't put a price on that.

Magnus set out to make Fäviken Magasinet into one of the world’s great restaurants. I’ve not yet visited enough of the true ‘greats’ to be able to pass judgement on whether or not he has achieved that ambitious goal, but I can confirm that he has created a truly magical dining experience.

I didn't know it at the time, but my journey to Fäviken had already begun when I spotted the eponymous blue book in 2012. 

Maybe your journey has begun too... 

 

Photography by mahon.photo


Sketch, London

I love a good afternoon tea and there is one place in particular that’s been top of my list to try. Sketch in London offers what can only be described as an afternoon tea extravaganza. 

Image courtesy of  Sketch

Image courtesy of Sketch

It’s the brainchild of international restaurateur, Mourad Mazouz, and three-time Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire, who is something of an icon of 'fusion cuisine'. Together they have created a wonderland destination for food, art and music. 

Based in a Georgian Mayfair townhouse, which was previously the London Atelier of Christian Dior, the outside looks inconspicuous enough, except for a guard-dog sculpture climbing the exterior. However, once inside, you’re awoken to a whole different world. It’s sensory overload with art everywhere that you look. 

After a quick game of hopscotch in the entrance, we were shown through to our restaurant of choice.

There are five different rooms to choose from, the Gallery, for afternoon tea and dinner; the Lecture Room, a Michelin-starred dining room serving lunch and dinner; the Glade, a woodland themed bar serving afternoon tea and comfort food; the Parlour, a relaxed area for all-day dining which converts into a private lounge of an evening; and finally, the East Bar, a small, dome-shaped bar located below the famous toilets (more about those later!) Each room is decorated with a unique theme, to transport you to a different world. 

We booked to have afternoon tea at the Gallery. This is a beautiful huge pink room, created by Paris based architect and interior designer India Mahdavi, with 239 witty sketches by British artist David Shrigley displayed all over the walls. It forms the largest group of original drawings Shrigley has ever exhibited, exploring the themes of life, death and beyond. They offer great points of conversation between servings. Shrigley's art also extends to the crockery, giving an Alice and Wonderland feel with humorous references to the food as you eat. 

Pink velvet booths are dotted all around which reminded me of ladyfinger biscuits. A stunning copper bar-back takes centerstage where fantastic cocktails are created. Behind the scenes, a team of over 50 beaver away in the kitchen making all manner of creations. The Gallery team wear bespoke uniforms of T-shirt dresses and smart, grey boiler-suits. The whole experience is surreal, playful and magical and is probably the most decadent space I’ve ever had afternoon tea.

While oohhing and ahhing at our surroundings, we ordered a couple of glasses of rosé champagne which were poured, theatrically, overhead. Soon after our lovely waitress, Isabelle, wheeled a trolly over to us and began serving our afternoon tea delights. Never have two hungry ladies been so happy, our eyes twinkled as each of the cakes and sandwiches were unloaded in front of us. 

The usual afternoon tea sandwiches were on offer (salmon, cucumber, egg mayonnaise and cheese) but all served with a twist. The cheese sandwich, for example, was made with melted mozzarella and wrapped as a gift with a bow, my favourite. The egg sandwich was served with caviar (which I declined) and a little quail egg on top, which looked just like a Haribo fried egg sweet.

The cakes consisted of small patisseries, chocolates, cheesecakes and macarons as well as the obligatory warm scone with clotted cream and jam. 

After impressively ploughing through all of the food in under an hour, we were offered complimentary refills which, as tempted as we were, we had to pass on simply due to a lack of space. We did, however, order a couple cocktails which we sat enjoying while watching the team set up the tables for the evening’s a la Carte sitting.

The service we received made the experience so special. Isabelle was exceptional and nothing was too much trouble, constantly topping up our tea and making sure my sandwiches and cakes were vegetarian friendly. I have never met such a cheerful waitress, she told us how much she loves working in Sketch and I can fully understand why!

After eating we went in search of the famous Sketch toilets. These really have to be seen to be believed! A simple trip to the loo becomes a space age odyssey. An all white room with a technicolour ceiling is filled with egg shaped pods. I began to wonder whether my little cakes had contained a hidden ingredient…. As I locked the door to my pod, a voice boomed around me, as though I was in a space-rocket, “Houston we have a problem.” I got out of there as quickly as I could before “blastoff”. 

On our way down we spotted a cave like bar under the stairs which we went in for a cocktail. Entering the East Bar was like being in an igloo (not that I’ve ever been in an igloo you understand, but it’s how I imagine it would be.) It’s dimly lit inside and takes a minute for your eyes to focus, rather embarrassingly we walked in clinging to the walls to avoid falling over. The bar itself is an intimate space with only a limited number of people able to sit there at any one time. The whole area is covered in yet more sketches. The bar is in the centre of the room and is sunk into the ground, all adding to the quirkiness. 

Like brave explorers, we left the safety of our little igloo and ventured on into a wild woodland, also known as Glade bar, for yet more cocktails. Happiest in our natural habitat we stayed there for several hours taking in the enchanted fairytale forest. Mirrors rotate around the room to give you an ever changing view. At least I think (and hope!) they were rotating, it could have just been the cocktails!

Sketch opened in 2003 and, despite many critics claiming it was too gimmicky and wouldn’t last, it has stood the test of time, constantly reinventing itself by featuring different artists. Apparently the décor in the Gallery is transformed by a new artist every two years - though I understand that the current set-up has been so popular that there are no immediate plans to renovate. 

It’s not surprising that only two years after opening Sketch was voted as the 18th best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine. I absolutely love the concept and wish there was something similar closer to home. It’s not cheap by any means, the Champagne Afternoon Tea costs £57.00 per person, but it is definitely worth a visit. 

I’m pleased to have ticked the afternoon tea off my list but unfortunately I now have several new places to try, starting with the Lecture Room, then the Parlour, a meal in Glade, a return trip to the Gallery…..