Why would you leave somewhere cold like London and travel to somewhere even colder like Sweden? Well that’s easy – the food.
It’s certainly not the first thing that comes to mind when you travel to Scandinavia especially if the food you have in mind is a soggy hotdog from Ikea or a sad little herring swimming in a pickle jar.
Fortunately I was guided by a chef from the uber cool Carousel Restaurant in Marylebone London towards some of the best Michelin starred restaurants the country has to offer.
My first stop would be Faviken – Michelin starred restaurant of Magnus Nilsson famed for his innovative approach to products and star of the chefs table (Netflix series), just a few pages of Magnus Nilsson Faviken book and my flights were booked.
The journey to Faviken is an adventure in itself. We took a Norwegian airline flight from London Gatwick to Stockholm. From Stockholm we had to change terminals. Stockholm airport is fairly small and it’s a 10 minute walk to get from one terminal to another. Don’t expect to break the bank with duty free shopping as we found only a handful of shops and a few cafes. Luckily it was a short wait until our second flight into
Ostersund. The flight was only an hour. From there we hired a car and drove the 55 minute route to Are, the most local town to Faviken.
Although I’m used to driving in various terrains the snowy roads were unpredictable, driving through the sparsely populated, somnolent villages you’d be forgiven for wondering how lucrative a high end restaurant would be in the middle of what feels like nowhere but I was soon to realise the international pull a unique restaurant like Faviken has.
After a somewhat treacherous drive we arrived in the ski resort town of Are, it’s a long drive winding around the mountain to reach Copperfield Lodge but it is absolutely worth it.
The hotel is nothing short of magnificent – a huge glass fronted wooden lodge that instantly makes you forget the -8 degree temperature, – its appearance is as warm and inviting from the outside as the staff on the inside.
Copperfield Lodge has 112 suites and hotel rooms making it a perfect choice for families and larger groups. There are also conference rooms, restaurants, bars and an award-winning Sámi-inspired spa. It is part of the Nordic hotels group so you know to expect high end interiors and a first class service
Our hotel room was small but cosy and the floor to ceiling windows provide fantastic views over the small village of Are. The alpine style decoration of the room made it feel warm despite the temperature outside. And if that’s not enough to warm your cockles then the large reception area with a huge open fire will surely do the trick.
The thing I liked most about the resort was the myriad of spaces to relax. This allowed you some personal space whilst in a nearly fully booked resort. Each space had comfy sofas with plump cushions to lounge on. The high ceiling of the reception area allowed views of each floor.
The star of the show at this resort is most definitely the spa. We were lucky enough to have the space to ourselves as we decided to go for an early morning swim in the infinity pool. No Swedish trip would be complete without a trip to the sauna and the spa has 4 to choose from including male and female only if you’re a little shy.
The outdoor hot tub was great however even the short trip from the door to the water was enough to challenge even the bravest.
The hotel was recommended by Faviken restaurant and it’s easy to see why. If you are eating at a world renowned Michelin star restaurant then you would want to follow that with a luxurious stay in a beautiful hotel and that’s undoubtable what you would get with a stay at copper hill lodge. My only regret is that we didn’t have an extra day to take full advantage of the ski services the hotel has to offer.The hotel has ski-in/ski-out access to Are’s large piste system and a hiking trail right outside the hotel door.
I feel so comfortable I’m not quite ready to leave however we have a dinner date and I’ve heard it’s not advisable to keep Magnus waiting so off we go on part one of our gastromical adventure.
After driving for miles along snow covered country lanes that seem endless you arrive at what appears to be a private residence. All the lights are out and you would be forgiven for thinking you have taken a wrong turn. Add to that the intense snow and pollution free night sky that we are not accustomed to in London and I’ll admit it was starting to feel slightly eerie.
After taking a wild guess at where the restaurant was (the only place with lights was a clue) we headed towards the door not knowing what we would find. I’m aware that we are a little late and my FOMO is slowly creeping in as I wonder what all the other guests are doing whilst we are lost. I was sure there were supposed to be fires burning outside to guide us then we walked past two sad looking ember piles as we headed towards the large wooden doors. As we get closer the darkness engulfs us, the icy cold has crept past my outer layers and I’m really really hungry. Please let this be the right place I thought as the doors begin to open.
Then I can feel the heat and I’m happy and more than a little relieved that we have found the restaurant – I walk into the hallway and am greeted warmly by not only the waiting staff but by Magnus Nilsson himself. I pretend I’m not star struck but I am, just a little.
Faviken currently sits at no 25 in the San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna Worlds 50 Best Restaurants list. Situated in an 18th Century barn on a 24,000 acre hunting estate it is considered one of the most isolated restaurants. With just 12 covers in the dining area and an additional 8 on the Gateleg (sharing) table there is an intimate feel as you enter Faviken. The dining area is a dimly lit wooden space decorated with animal skins and kitsch furniture. The wooden interior creates a warm and inviting atmosphere.
Most of the diners here will be staying in the onsite hotel however the rooms get booked up very quickly which led to my companion and I staying in the local town of Are.
The multiple course menu is outstanding. The majority of the food we are eating is farmed foraged and hunted on site and as you will know if you have watched the chefs table series Magnus has a passion for pickling, curing and aging onsite in this foodie wonderland.
The next part of our trip took us to Stockholm – the capital of Sweden, so it was back to Ostersund airport for the 1 hour flight into the capital.
Much to our dismay we were unable to purchase any alcohol at the airport due to Sweden’s strict tax laws.
The trip from Stockholm airport to the city centre was fairly simple – there is a train service that runs into the city termalen and takes just 20 mins. From there if you are familiar with the underground system you can access most of Stockholm however I was pleased to find that uber is available and much cheaper than the Swedish taxi system
Stockholm is a super cool city, and Story Hotel Riddargatan is one of the coolest places to stay. There are computers in the entrance hall so you can check yourself in although there are staff on hand if help is needed. Rather than a key you are given a code that will allow you to access your room as well as the main doors if you return after hours. Initially I was a little sceptical about trying to remember a code or having to find a piece of paper with a scribbled number on it however it is actually quite convenient. En route to the rooms the dark and gloomy hallway is in stark contrast to the bright and trendy rooms. In our room there was a small balcony looking out onto the local streets below. The modern art on each wall although not to my taste fits well with the trendy interiors
the bathroom was small but the rainfall shower is the perfect antidote to a cold day of sightseeing.
The location is great – its walkable to most places including Gamla Stan, a great place to wander the cobbled streets and get lost in the beautiful architecture.
For our first evening in Stockholm we reserved a table at Ekstedt.
As soon as I entered Eksted I felt welcome. An open kitchen makes the diner feel part of the service and a view of the pass means you get to see first-hand the hard work that goes into prepping and plating up the dishes you are about to be served.
Food is prepared using the tradition Scandinavian method which is over an open flame
A low number of covers makes the restaurant feel intimate and cosy.
This totally adds to the experience of dining in a Michelin star restaurant however we are all there for the food…and what a dining extravaganza we had – beautiful dishes served by super friendly staff that sold every dish so well with their explanations that you were almost begging them to leave so you could get started. I was genuinely sad at the end of every dish and yet beside myself with excitement for the next one. Michelin dining doesn’t come cheap but if you are into great quality food prepared to perfection then it’s worth it. We were lucky enough to have a quick beer with owner Nicholas Eksted after dinner, he was as delightful and charming as the food we had eaten and it was easy to see why he is often described as Sweden’s Jamie Oliver.
When we mentioned that we wanted to dine at Gro the following evening Nikolas couldn’t have been more enthusiastic – Henrick the owner and head chef is highly recommended by Nikolas as a chef to watch out for. His food and his ethos around his ingredients is to be admired. As a pescatarian I was eager to try the mainly vegetarian restaurant.
The following day we decided to try museum island also known as Djurgården – Stockholm is a city built on islands so what better way to travel to the island than by one of the local ferries.
Museum Island deserves at least a day of your time. If you are short on time I would say definitely visit the VASA – it’s a magnificent sailing ship that has been restored– it’s seeped in history and Swedish culture
The spirit museum is great fun and a better option for those that prefer a more interactive experience. The focus is around the historical Swedish drinking culture but there are also other art based exhibitions if that doesn’t float your boat.
After a day spent sightseeing we checked into the grand Rival Hotel in Sodermalm.
Rival hotel has a great location on the edge of a square – visually you could almost be in central London.
The hotel is owned by Benny Andersson of ABBA and if his music makes you feel happy and uplifted his hotel will do exactly the same.
The minute you enter the building you can feel a sense of old school opulence in the décor that has been modernised to be brought into keeping with your expectations of an upmarket fun 5 star resort.
The staff are so friendly and the head concierge couldn’t have been more accommodating.
Our room was great – the choice of pillows was a nice touch but the piece de resistance had to be the bathtub positioned next to blinds that you could open to reveal your room but more importantly a view of the huge flat screen television – yes that meant I could watch television from the bathtub and could even adjust the sound in the bathroom – seriously what more could you want from a hotel.
The entertainment system was second to none – a vast collection of music and DVDs available made it hard to leave. Each room features an iconic cinematic image which fits perfectly with the bold colours and modern design. If like me you are looking for a hotel with everything you can have that at Rival, great rooms, excellent staff, bars, a café and even a concert hall.
Our final day in Stockholm left us just enough time to visit the Photographic Museum and it really is a must for your stay in Swedens capital – they have a fantastic range of exhibitions that takes from the funny and macabre to current political and emotive.
Sweden is a fun, vibrant and cultured city, there is so much to see and do.
No longer will it be IKEA that comes to mind when thinking of Sweden instead it will be that amazing food and focus on the celebration of local fresh produce that goes towards creating some of the best menus that I have had the pleasure of sampling. Next time though I’ll try and leave the credit card behind.