Between the snowy mountains in Siglufjörður, you can find a hot and passionate chef from the warm country of Morocco, Jaouad Hbib. He fills this former herring fishing town with an exotic aroma from the warm lands of North Africa, brightening the day with his cooking, and his enthusiasm when it comes to cheese.
You can’t really separate the restaurant from the guesthouse itself. My family and I stayed at there over Easter, and went skiing in the town. The first thing we noticed when we came to the guesthouse was the thick scent of cinnamon. We asked immediately if we could get a table at the restaurant, but it was booked out for four days straight. They squeezed us at the last minute for Easter Sunday. Lucky us.
We arrived at the restaurant straight from the slopes of the local ski resort, tired and starving. It wouldn’t last long: the restaurant’s decor was cosy, with the strange light of the Icelandic spring playing over the space’s warm wooden textures.
The waiters were a young staff who also work at the hotel. They weren’t the most experienced, but they made up for it with a welcoming and relaxed attitude.
The first course was a traditional Moroccan soup, Harira, with coriander, celery, tomatoes, chicken, and sweet dates on the side. It was an explosion of flavours, and we instantly realised that these courses wouldn’t take any prisoners. It was a delicious and filling appetizer for the tired and hungry skiers, and the dates were a delicious addition.
Taste buds on overtime
Shortly after we got the main course. I had the Lamb Tagine with figs and nuts, which was served in a clay pot, still sizzling when it arrived at the table.
The first taste was strong and distinctive. Cinnamon was the main flavour, as you might expect from Moroccan food, but the sweet figs added balance. My taste buds wore working overtime. I had the house wine, a Californian Merlot, but it didn’t really go well with the food—a better wine pairing would have elevated the food even further.
The weird cucumber soup
For the desert, I opted for the cucumber soup with thyme, rosewater and vanilla ice cream. The first taste was a little confusing; it was good and sweet in a weird way. I had trouble finishing it. I think it’s fair to say that it doesn’t really matter if it’s good or bad when it’s this intriguing and original. It was an experience. What more would you like from a restaurant?
The chef and his cheeses
I talked briefly with the chef himself, Mister Hbib, who said that the darkness can be overwhelming in Iceland, so he forgets himself in his cooking.
His real passion, however, lies in cheese—he keeps a room full of different cheeses, stored at the perfect temperature. I’m no cheese expert, but the ones he let me smell had a pungent aroma, like everything else that Hbib cooked for us that evening. He’s obviously someone who is passionate about his profession.
All in all, the restaurant at Siglunes Guesthouse is one of the most interesting restaurants you’ll find in the North of Iceland, with an intriguing combination of cold arctic air and warm and flavoursome North African cuisine.