Suðureyri is a small fishing village in the Westfjords with a population of roughly 300 people. Once isolated, it is now connected to Ísafjörður, the largest town in the area, and since October last year Suðureyri has had an ambassador in the affluent Reykjavík neighourhood of Vesturbær in the form of a fishmonger and restaurant called, simply, Fisherman.
Fisherman is also a travel agency for “slow food travel” in the Westfjords. Visitors stroll through the tiny fishing village with an English-speaking tour guide and taste the wonderful local seafood while watching people at work in the industry. That way people can see the lifecycle of the produce, from being pulled up in the fishing vessel until it is packaged, ready for the market.
Elías Guðmundsson, manager of Fisherman, says his life simply revolves around fish and his dream of giving people a chance to try the country’s staple food and number one export. “Opening the restaurant was an attempt to bring the produce closer to the people,” Elías says. “Most of our clients in Suðureyri are travellers, people who might be visiting us for just a day from a cruise ship, wanting to experience fisheries through the eyes of the locals. Opening up in Vesturbær gives the people of Reykjavík a chance to eat delicious fish with minimum hassle. They can eat there, or have dishes cooked for them to take away.”
A fast-growing business
Fisherman has grown rapidly in the first year of its existence. The most popular menu item is a build-your-own-dish, requesting one type of fish, a sauce, and some vegetables. This is assembled by the staff, who prepare the dish, either cooked or packaged and ready to put into the oven at home.
Elías says that business has been booming. “This is a model that has been working really nicely,” he explains. “We also cater workplaces who use this system to put together terrific lunches and our staff has a well established routine in putting everything together from the early morning. This gives us time to serve the lunch crowd, most of whom try our menu items in the house.”
A fresh option
Fisherman is also selling through the Hagkaup supermarket chain. “We had some ideas about what the market needs,” says Elías. “So we started our own line of products and made them available for people to buy.”
Elías adds that the supermarket brand offers similar products to the dishes sold in the restaurant. “People want to get a healthy and delicious meal for a fair price,” he says. “Be it in our restaurant or at home. We have our doors open until 9 PM every day, and people are calling and coming in until the last second, assembling their favorite dishes from the best possible ingredients—and that is our local fish.”