Every year in February, Reykjavík foodies start preparing for the annual culinary extravaganza of the Food & Fun festival. Now in it’s 18th year, this five day event brings vaunted chefs from around the world to Reykjavík, pairing them up with top local restaurants to bring some fresh flavours to the 101 dining scene.
This year, the festival has 21 visiting chefs, collaborating with 19 different restaurants all over the city, from classic joints like Holt and Vox to upscale eateries like Nostra, Apotek and Essensia and recent newcomers like Reykjavík Meat and Skelfiskmarkaðurinn. The tasting menus are priced at 8,900 ISK—and with only five nights to choose from 19 eateries, the rumour mill gets to work fast. Hungry diners gossip furiously about the hot tips of the festival, make their bookings and flood the city en masse to try out the various tasting menus on offer.
“This year, we have guests from all over the world—from Africa to Canada to Belgium to the US, and more,” says Krista Hall, one of the members of the family behind the event. “We’re very excited about it—the menus look amazing.”
Arrival of the off-menu
For those with a bit of commitment-phobia when it comes to multi-course meals, or with pockets too shallow for fancy meals, the festival is also hosting an “off-menu” selection this year. In line with the recent trend towards small courses, gastropubs and street food, four different spots will offer a taste of some Food & Fun flavours in a less formal setting. “It’s places that have a big Food & Fun menu with smaller courses,” says Krista. “You can pop by and taste a little bit rather than the whole menu. It’s a nice addition.”
There are some eye-catching pairings to consider this year. Georgiana Viou brings flavours of Benin to Apotek, including duck with tamarind sauce and the seldom seen on Icelandic menus octopus; in Kopar, vaunted and Michelin-starred Belgian chef Kobe Desramaults will serve his enticing haute cuisine. At Grandi Mathöll, Deuki Hong brings the Korean barbecue from hit NYC joint Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, available as single courses, or a 4,900 ISK tasting menu.
Spices and twists
The partnerships come together in a variety of ways. “Sometimes the restaurants have picked up on chefs they want to bring over,” says Krista. “Then, my father, Siggi, also goes abroad to eat a lot and check out different restaurants, then pairs them with restaurants here. It’s a mixture of methods.”
Visiting chefs collaborate on the menus with their local counterparts. “Many chefs wants to try out local products, and put their own twist on it,” says Krista. “Then others will bring products that are new to Iceland with them, like spices we’re not used to. So it’s both a very good way for Icelandic products to be introduced to foreign chefs, and for the chefs here to experience something new in the kitchen. I’ve tasted things at the festival I never would have tried anywhere else.”
But the food and the fun isn’t just for the chefs—it’s for Reykjavík residents too. Find out what’s cookin’ at foodandfun.is, follow the festival on Instagram for a peek behind the scenes, and get stuck in; check our next issue to see what went down.
Food & Fun runs Feb. 27th-March 3rd at restaurants around the city. Check foodandfun.is for the programme. Bookings are essential.