The restaurant reinventing Icelandic cuisine

On the small island of Heimaey, chef Matthías Auðunsson is at the helm of a food movement that honours Iceland’s history while coaxing it into a new era of innovation.M

Much of what chef Gísli Matthías Auðunsson serves at his restaurant, Slippurrin, comes from outside his door. Only instead of a backyard garden with haricots vert and artichokes, there are meandering hills that look like green dragons dusted in fairytale-pink arctic thyme; cliffs perched dramatically over untamed fields of lemony sorrel; beaches dotted with briny oyster leaf and deep craters full of yellow-topped pineapple weed growing in volcanic soil as black as night. These, plus dozens of other wild-harvested ingredients like yarrow, sea beans, spruce and rowanberries, are pureed, dried, pickled and fermented in Auðunsson’s kitchen apothecary. 

Slippurrin, which means “boat slip” in Icelandic, draws inspiration from its location on Heimaey’s harbour, as well as the former shipyard machine workshop in which it’s housed. Many original parts of the workshop were restored, and reclaimed ship parts and tools are tucked into the bright, modern and minimalist decor, resulting in a space deeply connected to its roots.

Auðunsson has roots here, too. He was born on Heimaey – the oldest, largest and only inhabited of the Westman Islands archipelago located off Iceland’s southern coast – but moved to Reykjavík when he was six. Despite being just 6km long, Heimaey is home to the largest Atlantic puffin breeding colony in the world, the windiest point in all of Europe and the world’s first open water beluga whale sanctuary. It was evacuated in 1973 when the Eldfell volcano erupted, and though most of the island’s residents returned to rebuild, the agriculture that existed previously was destroyed, and hasn’t flourished since. But despite the loss and devastation, magic still flourishes in this tiny paradise.

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