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If we could give a score to the most difficult to reach restaurants in Europe, multiplying the number by the level of imagination of the chef in the kitchen, Oaxen Skärgårdskrog would beat off all competition. To Magnus Ek, one of Sweden’s most influential chefs, and his wife Agneta Green, sommelier, even a civilised city like Stockholm looked like Sodom. This is why, in 1991, they packed up everything they owned and transferred their silent organic show to Oaxen, an island populated more by orchids – which are very rare in Sweden – than by people (108 according to the last census).
The vegetable tank was behind the restaurant building (very elegant, no Ikea) and it yielded vegetables, fruits of the forest and herbs which left us lost in translation, not because we’re ignorant, but because here there are species which we Mediterranean humans don’t even know exist, never mind their names. On the other hand, the restaurant overlooked the delightful little harbour where Swedish high society moored its boats and the desire to taste simple smoked prawns and sausages with whiffs of iodine which calmed both nose and spirit.
But the best was on the hill. We can’t remember a Baltic cod cooked on coal with crab in oatmeal flour, roast fish bone stock and cockerel with marinated carrots and cucumbers for which we’d have swum the distance from the capital in the icy cold water. Fortunately no such effort will be necessary from the end of 2011: Magnus and Agneta have decided to close the island chapter of their life and return to Stockholm. So everything will be a little less poetic but definitely much easier. We still don’t know exactly where though.
born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since 2007, he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches History of gastronomy and Culinary global trends into universities and institutes.
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From the top left corner, clockwise: Juan Camilo Quintero Merchan, Michele Lazzarini, Gianmarco Ferrandi, Giacomo Devoto and Dario Pandolfo
Group photo with the chefs invited to the first edition of Bogotá Madrid Fusion
Östersund, in northern Sweden, an hour’s drive from Järpen, where you can find Fäviken, the destination of Chiara Nicolini’s journey, who wrote this this feature