A curious facet-effect of Iceland’s banking crisis has been a next increase in tourism and a growing buzz around the kingdom’s particular cuisine, writes Amy Guttman
Strolling down Laugavegur, evaluating it to a visit here six years ago, little on Reykjavik’s excessive avenue is recognisable apart from the memento save selling volcanic rocks and Northern Lights-themed trinkets.
Boutique windows as soon as filled with international labels now show off regionally designed visions of the Icelandic life-style: warm, however fashionable garb, and minimalistic, practical goods. Reykjavik may be very a lot in style, thanks to tourism officials and a savvy advertising and marketing team at Icelandair.
When the 2008 banking crisis devalued the krona, Iceland became, for the first time, an lower priced destination. Officials fast shifted their advert campaigns and turned a volcanic eruption and a economic downturn into a traveler boom. That fulfillment and Iceland’s financial healing suggest it’s not cheap, however the delicacies that has emerged as an unintended consequence of each the crisis and the inflow of travelers makes Iceland a vacation spot for meals adventurers.
Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir, a food historian, says a mixture of things, inclusive of the excessive value of imports, a renewed interest and pride in buying nearby, and tourism demand for an authentic meals lifestyle, has fuelled a culinary revolution.
‘There was no contemporary Icelandic delicacies before the tourism boom,’ she says. ‘Before the crisis, humans ate amazing, imported foods, like caviar and Kobe pork, but that all stopped whilst it have become too expensive. Many Icelanders notion we handiest had things like fermented shark, however our food is a lot greater than that. We had just forgotten.’
Chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason, who co-based Iceland’s first Michelinstarred restaurant, Dill, become a few of the pioneers. Gíslason has on the grounds that moved to New York to open Agern, wherein he’s already earned a Michelin big name for his Nordic dishes.
Following in Gíslason’s footsteps is a wave of cooks who’re excessive in call for. At the time of my go to (though he has considering the fact that moved directly to launch his very own restaurant), Haukur Már Hauksson is head chef at Grill Market, a restaurant presenting a custom-made grill with coals that warmness up to one,2 hundred°C.
The impact is food that’s seared at the out of doors, soft on the inner. Grill Market’s rooms, decorated with slabs of wood and stone, are full every night time. Its purchasers, says the chef, are a barometer for the u . S . A .’s financial health.
‘Before the disaster, it changed into Icelandic bankers consuming foie gras, making plans trips on their private jets,’ says Hauksson. ‘But then the balance tipped. During the peak of the crisis it was simplest tourists. Now our clients are about 70 per cent travelers.’
The appetites of this new consumers have pushed a collective desire among cooks to be greater creative. Grill Market’s menu has emerge as increasingly more Icelandic, with gadgets inclusive of lavasalted Skyr butter and beetroot-cured Arctic char. A smooth, succulent shark dish arrives tableside on a smoky grill with a trifecta of textures, flavours and visuals. The food is innovative, memorable and nice of all, light.
‘That’s the first-class thing that got here out of the tourism rush,’ says Hauksson. ‘They desired local substances. We don’t have a whole lot of variety, so it’s no longer that smooth, however people are working with what we’ve. For instance, we purchase sea truffle from a provider who infuses seaweed with truffle. It has a diffused, buttery flavour.’
Nine months of winter limits Iceland’s agricultural output. Barley is the only grain that may be grown, but Icelanders possess a survivor’s intuition and its isolation forces invention. Hauksson excels at pairing ingredients that seem like unlikely bedfellows, yet bring about best suits, like poached cod with a purée of inexperienced apples. It’s a dish that, pre-disaster, wouldn’t were served in any Icelandic restaurant, says Rögnvaldardóttir, due to the fact fish turned into in no way on the menu: ‘Before, you can only get suitable fish at home. It was an regular aspect you cooked five days per week. You didn’t want that in case you ate out. And cod changed into some thing we were given money for exporting. It became too highly-priced to devour. Now the eating place fish subculture has exploded.’