Why would anyone want to read a book about a closed restaurant? That’s the question at the heart of Magnus Nilsson’s latest tome, which painstakingly - and often hilariously - documents the inception, evolution and graceful closure of one of the world’s most revered restaurants.
And what a run it was. The chef-turned-sommelier-turned-chef-again took the reins at the remote Swedish restaurant in 2008 and soon turned it into a must-visit destination for adventurous gastro tourists. The restaurant became a regular on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, attracted a brace of Michelin stars and was featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table.
Comparisons can certainly be drawn to Denmark’s Noma - which had a similar hyper-local sourcing policy - but Nilsson had more of back-to-basics, hunter-gatherer approach than René Redzepi (he caught all the restaurant’s fish in a nearby pond for example).
Part dairy, part memoir, part cookbook Fäviken: 4015 Days, Beginning to End does an impressive job of documenting the restaurant and contextualising it within the wider food world. Nilsson is a contemplative and articulate chap and the book makes for compelling reading despite knowing how it ends.
Over 324 pages, we get to known Nilsson to such an extent that we understand his motivations, the demands of running such a remote and singular establishment and - ultimately - his reasons for bringing the Fäviken chapter of his life to a close. His observations on haute cuisine and how the global restaurant industry has changed over the last decade or so are well worth a read, too.
And yes, as with most other New Nordic Cuisine cookbooks, recreating the recipes is going to be tricky. It would be an intrepid supplier indeed that can score a chef moose or rakfisk (fish that’s salted before being autolyzed for up to a year). But that’s not the point of this sort of book. Besides, chefs looking for an insight into his culinary approach and techniques - from forming a cartouche to how he cooks a pigeon with direct heat - won’t be disappointed.
Fäviken: 4015 Days, Beginning to End is an extraordinary book about an equally extraordinary restaurant.