“Drama, drama, drama.” Gunnar Karl chuckles as the photographer and I set up shop for his portrait in the ascetic foyer at Dill’s newest location. It’s hard to imagine that Laugavegur is right outside these very walls. In here, it is a womb — dark, calm, and a little surreal. Hand stained black wood panels run the length of the double volume space, “I stained those myself,” Gunnar confides. Furthering the stylised country vibes, dried angelica flower heads brush against a faux window. “There will be dried fish and smoked lamb here, suspended,” Gunnar continues enthusiastically as we walk up the winding staircase to the restaurant, “sort of like those fish drying houses out West.”
Within three months of the abrupt closure of Dill hitting the news, like a phoenix from the ashes, Dill 3.0 has taken flight, and would’ve already served its first guests by the time you read this.
New Dill isn’t shy of colour — the rusts and deep greens are a whiff of the outdoors. “For a while now, I’ve been walking around with this idea in my head,” Gunnar pauses. “I even thought about opening up a space in Brooklyn and a couple of investors were involved too. I guess I could’ve pushed for this small fine dining space, but we’d been in New York for four years, and we weren’t quite ready to put down roots. So I bought the brand Dill from my former colleagues at Hverfisgata to relocate it here,” he says, gesturing to the dining room.
Testing the tested
“We’re trying to tweak our menu to the point where it is”, Gunnar pauses, searching for the right word, “as nature-friendly as possible. I don’t know if you can use the word ‘sustainable,’ but think more about nature, think more about utilising everything that we get in-house. Using the scraps, ensuring nothing goes to the bin.”
Unlike a Japanese omakase where the diner is treated to what the chef finds best on that day and season, Western tasting menus have long been a way of showcasing the chef’s greatest hits. Dill has been no stranger to this, but with their emphasis on vegetables, they haven’t quite played to the gallery either.
“We’ve always been vegetable-focussed, I guess we might become more vegetable focussed,” he nods. ”The old tasting menu is getting bigger as well.”
After their customary snacks and a few vegetable plates, the chef has a bold new direction for the mains and will serve multiple courses of the same meat or fish, “we’ll do just cod, cod, cod,” he smiles, “or just goose, like on our winter menu,” in line with their focus on using every ingredient thoroughly.
Stripped off frivolities
Gunnar wants to exorcise the staid ghosts of fine dining by, ”making it more fun, making it interactive.”
The wine pairing format is being redefined too. “There will be no wine-pairing,” Gunnar declares. “There will still be wines, but more in a ‘here is a red wine which will go with the three courses of goose you are about to have.’” It allows us to be more extreme with the wines, and it opens up the conversation with the guests about what they felt went best with the goose or vegetables for instance.”
I once described dining at Dill as a careful narrative that gets you from the start. Dill pioneered the use of local ingredients and traditions in fine-dining, today a high-street mainstay. Gunnar’s ability to evoke memories through food made it possible for an askur and harðfiskur to grace Michelin-worthy tables. Stripped off frivolities in his drive for the next chapter, I can only imagine the fireworks that await us when the doors open.
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