Published September 19, 2018
Something interesting is happening on Grandi this summer. Victoria Elíasdóttir, who formerly ran the successful Dóttir in Berlin, is the chef at the helm of the SOE Kitchen food laboratory and cafeteria venture. She and her brother, Ólafur Elíasson, have moved their new culinary venture into The Marshall House Bar + Restaurant for three months and will be open for lunch and dinner service until the end of October.
Unlike a traditional pop-up, SOE Kitchen has created an entirely new setting within the Marshall shell, with long communal tables taking centre stage—a refreshing change from staid traditional layouts. There are sculptural mobiles and geodesic globes, suspended from the ceiling, gathered from around Iceland by Elíasson. The windows are tinted with colour, bringing a touch of “Your Rainbow Panorama” to Reykjavík as it lights the diners.
The lunch menu is remarkably simple—a vegetarian feast, with a catch of the day option. On the day that I ate lunch, this was a textbook grilled flounder, generously seasoned and with a hint of chilli. A vegetal German Pinot Gris was a lovely match. The vegetarian accompaniments—a toothsome freekeh risotto with carrots and a slinky grilled cabbage—stole the show. The dishes were so delectable, we couldn’t help but go for the complimentary refills.
With memories of that brilliant lunch still on my mind, I decided to check out dinner as well. Diners can choose from two tasting menus—‘From the Harbour’ (8800 ISK) or ‘From the Land’ (7800 ISK)—or go a la carte, like I did. SOE Kitchen works closely with Icelandic purveyors, farmers and seamen. Having tasked themselves with the challenging job of being hyper local, all the menus rotate to reflect produce at its best.
Dinner got off to a banging start with ice-cold slices of tender rutabaga, house labneh, flatkaka and lemon thyme butter. Rutabaga tends to be the haggard vegetable hiding in the background and never the star. Harvested at the right time, however, they’re a sweet and crunchy treat. Slather on some of that citrusy butter for a definite highlight of your dinner.
Our starter of miso glazed cod (1900 ISK), had us sighing with delight—the autumnal composition of carrots and a bright tomato broth was a treat for the eyes. For the main course, we decided to go Dutch on a couple of dishes. I found the risotto (1800 ISK / 3600 ISK) with beets, mussels and scallops a tad one-dimensional, although my dining companion politely disagreed, devouring the whole bowl. The seafood soup (1800 ISK/ 3300 ISK) was a tribute to plump mussels. I’ve never had a meatier mussel, and Icelandic shellfish is an underrated ingredient.
The true strength of the kitchen however, lies in its Dinner of the Day (3200 ISK, or 3800 ISK with seafood). The miso-grilled cabbage hearts sing; the fresh green beans from Hveragerði, find a match for their bright snap in the tartness of the preserved lemon and crisp green salad. Each radicchio and beet leaf is brimming with flavour, the rose vinaigrette is an unexpected but delightful paring. A glass of Monte Del Cuca 2016 pairs splendidly. We finished on a high note with a scoop of grape and ricotta sorbet (600 ISK) and a nightcap of Lambrusco from Camillo Donati.
SOE Kitchen is a veritable feast. With a nightly schedule of family events, musical performances and delicious food in a striking maximalist setting, it’d be a shame to miss it.