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Åre Sweden Report

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Not too much (so far) on Sweden generally, but Åre is reputedly the finest ski resort in Sweden – and we visited this month (August), so clearly we weren’t there for the skiing. But maybe half of the lifts still run during summer for some spectacular mountain-biking – but we weren’t there for that either – but it describes the demographic which local restaurants need to satisfy. Accordingly there’s a plethora of pizza places and bars, supplemented by fast food providers. The ‘promised’ hotel dining rooms were also closed for the summer (or at least on Mondays, when we arrived), but we did luck out with Dahlbom på Torget, which was more bistro or brasserie-like with mostly local foods and suppliers. In particular their breads were all superb (that region is famous for its local breads and judging by the stuff here, that fame is justified). The smoked lamb appetizer was memorable and the other courses were good quality for the prices charged (considering Sweden is at the high end of cost internationally).

But the main attraction around here for Chowhound readers is almost certainly Fäviken, which is about a 30-40 minute drive outside Åre and is featured in the San Pellegrino Top 50 restaurants. Certainly this must be one of the most difficult places to visit in that list. So is it justified? Not surprisingly, “it depends”. Certainly it’s a very good restaurant and trades heavily on its local personality (including the chef). But, from a Top 50 contender, I expect a WOW factor and those were few and far between. I had originally intended to attempt a blow-by-blow description, but before writing this I searched this Board for any references. And indeed I found the following (relating to a meal in May 2011)

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/790014

While this is clearly copied from a blog posting, the illuminating point (for me) is that my meal, some 2 years later, was almost identical. When one is serving locally sourced ingredients from the North of Sweden, I would have expected more variability some 2 years (and 3 months) later, although maybe it makes more sense economically to stay with the ‘tried and true’. From the fermented rhubarb juice starter (OK, what else grows there that can be fermented?) through to the berry-based desserts, the food courses were almost identical. However, the wines were different (except the house-branded beer) – so they almost seem a ‘what’s available’ selection, rather than a superlative match. In fact the only significant change was the substitution of lamb (for the beef), and the vegetables in the middle (between the mussels and the Cows Heart dishes) were a bit different, although served with dried cods roe.

So overall a bit disappointing as a complete meal, although I wouldn’t dissuade people from trying it once. And if you’re in the area anyway, certainly worth a detour.

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