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Book review: Fäviken: 4015 Days, Beginning to End, by Magnus Nilsson

05 November 2020 by
Book review: Fäviken: 4015 Days, Beginning to End, by Magnus Nilsson

Why would anyone write a book about a closed restaurant? And who would want to read it?' That's the question chef and author Magnus Nilsson poses in his fifth book, and the second about his restaurant Fäviken, which closed in December 2019. For those of us who made the journey to the remote hotel and dining room in rural Jämtland in Sweden, the book acts as a thrilling reminder of Nilsson's distinctive culinary style. Who else would serve diced raw ox heart with marrow from a bone that was theatrically sawn in half in the middle of the dining room?

For those who didn't make it, Nilsson delivers much more than a mere ‘here's what you could have won' experience (although an eight-page complete list of dishes served at the restaurant in chronological order is included). By contrasting text from the first Fäviken book published in 2012 with new writings, Nilsson offers an insight into the evolution of his cooking over the restaurant's decade-long lifetime.

One of Nilsson's most famous creations, almost burnt cream (served as an accompaniment to roasted king crab leg) was developed from a combination of accidentally burning cultured milk for a sorbet, which he realised as he poured it away "actually smelled pretty good", and tasting the residue of a cream sauce from a cooling pan. The result, Nilsson says, "was perfect, deep and toffee-like from the caramelised proteins and lactose".

Nilsson further explores the notion of creativity in one of the book's 17 short essays, using English social psychologist George Wallas's five-stage model, which divides the creative process into preparation, incubation, intimation, illumination and verification, to explain how his dishes go from theoretical idea to the plate.

Erik Olsson's photographs that span the life of the restaurant provide a visually stunning counterpoint to Nilsson's recipes, stories, anecdotes and musings. Who would want to read a book about a closed restaurant? When it's somewhere as remarkable as Fäviken, and written by someone as talented as Nilsson, who wouldn't?

Fäviken: 4015 Days, Beginning to End, by Magnus Nilsson (£45, Phaidon)

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