The train from Kiruna, via Abisko, Björkliden, Låktatjåkko, to Riksgränsen isn’t just a beautiful journey. If it’s done right it can also be a culinary hit.

Small portions are for armchair people. At least least that’s my point of view – you have to earn your portions. That’s why I’ve been up on the mountain tonight, on touring skis. Sure, I could go cross-country skiing along the tracks around Hotel Fjället in Björkliden as well. But sometimes, when the mood strikes, I think that cross-country skiing tracks are for people without imagination.

The view towards Lapporten – the Laponian Gate – is absolutely stunning. No matter how often I see this view, this valley among the mountains, I never get tired of it. It keeps changing, but it’s always as new, and as beautiful. I can’t imagine a more tempting breakfast view preparing for a day on skis than the panorama that greets you in the dining room at Hotel Fjället.

I carry on, higher up the mountain, aware that I’m getting more and more hungry.

Food experiences, be they small or large portions, might not have been the first thing on your mind as you set off north towards Riksgränsen. But times change and these days it’s a big part of the pleasure. To some, it’s even the entire pleasure.

Arctic char, a delicacy and true rock star in any menu.

This evening smoked reindeer heart, a sausage made with arctic crayfish, and arctic char sautéed in butter are served in the restaurant at Björkliden. And this is after I’ve just descended from Låktatjåkko, the highest mountain station in Sweden with restaurant and bar, earlier in the day. Yes, you can see why I’m out on the bare mountain, above the treeline, on touring skis, in deep snow. I need to work up an appetite. The three-course dinner I had yesterday was followed by breakfast today. But because the wind was howling and the forecast promised better weather later on in the day we stayed a while longer. Of course we took the opportunity to have another waffle. You can’t leave ‘Låkta’ without having a waffle. It’s like being in Brussels without eating chocolate, in Istria without eating truffles, or in Champagne without drinking bubbly. It’s just wrong.

You can’t leave ‘Låkta’ without having a waffle. It’s like being in Brussels without eating chocolate, in Istria without eating truffles, or in Champagne without drinking bubbly. It’s just wrong.

So this is not a complicated tour. It’s an arctic taste experience on rail. Call it a food safari. It’s up to you how much of an appetite you choose to work up between your sessions at the dining table. Will you take the alpine skis nine kilometres to Låktatjåkko, or catch a ride on the comfortable tracked vehicle? Will you be at the gates when the lifts start running, or choose to read another chapter of the exciting book you packed? You can choose to do the journey yourself, as a romantic couple, or group of friends or family. There’s plenty of space and adventure for everyone. You can exchange one of your nights at Hotel Fjället for a night at Låktatjåkko. And if I may interfere, I think you should. The fireplace, the tranquil atmosphere and the good life 1,228 metres above sea level is worth the detour. As is their bar. And before I ended up here, at Fjället, I had a couple of days in Kiruna as well. ICEHOTEL is always going to be the Ice Hotel with a capital I. And Camp Ripan has a really good SPA not too far from a cross-country skiing track that I’ve always liked. A loop around Jägarmilen is standard if you visit Kiruna. It’s a good way of working up your appetite before enjoying a dinner with flavours from the many cultures that meet in Kiruna.

The waffles at Låktatjåkko Mountain Station are the bestests.

From Björkliden I continue to Riksgränsen. It’s comfortable, magnificent, wild and beautiful, on rail. I can see reindeer from the window and a couple of ptarmigans fly off into the next valley. I’ve always loved this ski resort. Especially when the weather is nice. Our relationship with food always depends on where we come from and where we are going. In the restaurant of the hotel, Lapplandia, the obvious choice of menu would be the classic ‘Svarta Björn’. But since I’d already been lucky enough to enjoy perfect reindeer roast beef and löjrom (vendace roe) on a Låktatjåkko waffle, I feel free to choose from the menu. The most exciting thing on this trip is the local produce available. Something that’s completely natural where the mountains meet the sea. This is a world where local produce, from the Atlantic Ocean as well as the mountains, is never far away. From the Riksgränsen Mountain you can look straight down to the Rombakk Fiord. The flavours are there to prove it.

Of course simpler food is available as well. Or, my apologies: that didn’t come out right. Let’s call it typical food; the kind of food we recognise. You can find a cut of meat with deep-fried potatoes and Béarnaise sauce on the menu in Björkliden. Sometimes that’s what we want. Gammelgården will serve you a planked steak. At Låktatjåkko you can have a waffle with bacon and egg if you’re particularly hungry after trekking up there. The Bar Burger at Riksgränsen, served at Grönan, is a classic of course. Even if I normally go for a prawn sandwich there.

Good food, good wine, because you're worth it.

When I have a meal at Meteorologen Ski Lodge, in the old customs building by Lapplandia, I’m often less interested in the food – the menu is always good and surprises you – than in the wine list the sommelier Patrik Strömsten has put together. His way of explaining the world of wines is a school. The other day he served the red wine Chassagne Montrachet Village Rouge from 2007 in a more ‘closed’ white wine glass, so the wine wouldn’t ‘take over’ the starter. Then the white wine – a Chardonnay from Brewer Clifton in Santa Rita Hills, not aged in oak barrels – was allowed to flower in a more bombastic Bourgogne glass. Don’t take your wine glasses for granted. Most things are hidden in the details.

At Lapplandia I also see that this year’s version of the restaurant’s classic – the menu ‘Svarta Björn’ – has been adjusted slightly from the previous year. A cheese board has been added and the dessert offers new takes on the cloudberry flavour. This is important. Without adjustments a Volvo would still be an Amazon and not the modern XC. To say that things were better ‘in the old days’ just proves you’ve got no imagination whatsoever. When it comes to food the truth is as natural as it is with skiing or love: it’s best in the moment it’s experienced. The waitress brings Northern tapas: elk steak tartare, Kalix löjrom and smoked arctic char. I choose an American Pinot Noir to accompany this as well as the main course, mostly because I’ve become a great fan of the grape and also because they have a 2009 version of it here tonight.

These tapas, small, precious mouthfuls, look truly promising. This is the moment I love most about the food experience. The moment just before digging in and get taken in by the food. The moment my mouth starts watering.

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