Wants to make Icelanders proud

Travellers coming to Iceland just love tasting traditional Icelandic food. Chef Gísli Matthías Auðunsson realized this when he opened his new restaurant Matur og Drykkur (e. Food and Drink) in Reykjavik. The restaurant has been frequented by foreign – and Icelandic – visitors since the opening in January 2015.

“I had been running a restaurant in the Vestmanna islands for almost four years and now I wanted to open a restaurant in Reykjavik. When I got the facilities by Grandi harbour I was wondering what kind of restaurant it should be. I decided to make the traditional Icelandic cuisine in a different way from others. I wanted to make it more fun,” chef Gisli Matthías Auðunsson says.

He felt many restaurants were offering food based on Icelandic ingredients but no one offering dishes honouring the traditions. Gísli went investigating. He talked to people and read old books and manuscripts until he came to the decision to offer traditional Icelandic food honouring the old traditions but making it interesting and fun at the same time.

“My restaurant isn‘t necessarily offering the traditional singed lamb heads and skate (a putrefied fish). We are trying to do something different based on the old stuff. That‘s the idea. In church Skálholt we found for example mead recipes from around year 1000. We started playing with the recipes and ended up with a mead ale that has all the same qualities as mead even though it‘s a mixture of mead and white ale,” Gísli explains.

Cod head is one of Matur og Drykkur’s most popular dishes.

One of Matur og Drykkur‘s main dishes is cod head. “We found sources about how to cook cod head and we‘ve been developing that. We‘ve also been working with the nostalgia of the Icelanders. Our dessert menu offers for example pancakes with liquorice and chocolate. The Icelanders love that. If you go to a supermarket you might realize that a majority of the Icelandic candy is different versions of chocolate and liquorice,” Gísli tells me.

Matur og Drykkur is a restaurant where imagination and playfulness is leading the development. On the lunch menu there is a hot dog with everything, which is a popular Icelandic classic, halibut soup, twisted doughnuts called kleinur and soup made of traditional rye bread just to mention a few examples. Gísli points out that the goal is not necessarily to attract only tourists. Every one is welcome.

“Icelandic food can be exciting and fun just like Italian food if we just keep our minds open and ready for development.”

“The main goal is to make Icelanders proud of the Icelandic food. When Icelanders are asked about the food they often answer that the taste is sour and the food boring. That‘s not the case at all. Or it doesn‘t have to be like that. Traditional Icelandic food can be exciting and fun just like Italian food if we just keep our minds open and ready for development.”

Restaurant Matur og Drykkur is located in the Grandi harbour area in Reykjavik. The restaurant has been getting great reviews on Tripadvisor so Gísli is very happy with the receptions.

“It‘s very exciting to have the restaurant located by the harbour because there are so many new and interesting things happening in the area,” he says. “I love participating in that.”

Main photo: Chef Gísli Matthías Auðunsson fooling around at Matur og Drykkur. The restaurant offers traditional Icelandic food. All photos by Karl Petersen.

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