Slippurinn: The restaurant reinventing Icelandic cuisine

Though many of his ingredients may be unrecognisable, his food is comforting and approachable. Whether you call his style New Nordic, New Icelandic or even Modern Icelandic Comfort, the most accurate descriptor isn’t an official culinary classification: transformative.

American chef and TV host Ming Tsai had Auðunsson on his show, Simply Ming, in 2018, and was blown away by his signature bruleed cod head. Tsai, known for his East-West fusion cuisine, grew up cooking in his family’s Chinese restaurant and admitted to eating his share of fish heads. Yet, in the span of 30 seconds, Tsai said, “oh my God” five times, followed by “unbelievable”, “incredible”, “this is freaking delicious” and “seriously, one of the best ever”, with a grand finale of, “my grandma is so jealous right now.”

Tsai’s reaction shows how Auðunsson’s reimagining of Icelandic cuisine is so unique that even those familiar with what he’s serving are moved by their experience of it.

One can only imagine what Tsai might have said had he tried Auðunsson‘s simple, yet remarkably rich appetiser of trout on burnt flatbread with horseradish cream and red onion. Auðunsson smokes the trout over sheep’s dung, fusing modern preparation with a cooking tradition created when alternate fuel sources were necessary, not optional. He supports local farmers who compress dung and hay, then semi dry it, just as it was done hundreds of years ago.

“The dung never touches the food, but gives it a special kind of smokiness,” he says. “It’s unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.”

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Guillemot eggs as blue as the sky are also unlike anything most people have tasted – or seen. Foraged by rope on the edge of cliffs throughout the Westman Islands, the speckled turquoise eggs are emptied out and used as serving dishes for a custard Auðunsson serves with rye bread, lovage and pickled onions.

Slippurinn is not easy to get to, does no advertising and is only open four months every year. Yet an old shipyard machine factory on an island with less than 5,000 people has become a destination dining spot. 

“We all had a big ambition to have something different from other restaurants, but I never dreamed Slippurinn would be as famous and good as it is,” Gísladóttir says. “I am really happy about how it turned out.”

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