Chef Friðgeir Ingi Eiriksson introduces us to his uninhibited brasserie
The classic Belle Époque brasserie is basically the la-di-da cousin to the American diner. It welcomes you from your first omelette jambon in the morning ‘til you quaff your last boisson in the evening. You can sit down at any time to nurse a simple cup of coffee or attack a full menu of pan-fried fish, soft cheeses and grilled meats.
Iceland’s relatively new Eiriksson Brasserie mutates the classic brasserie concept, taking on some of the heft of a place like New York’s Balthazar, but expanding the formula into some unexpected arenas and cultural mélanges.
Cutting his teeth
Chef Friðgeir Ingi Eiríksson does not seem the type to pull a Gordon Ramsey on his crew (although Instagram tells me that Ramsey atet at Eiriksson during his latest trout run in Iceland). Slender and softly spoken, it’s hard to believe that Friðgeir cut his teeth in the cut-throat environment of French Michelin restaurants like Domain de Clairefontaine, where he was the chef de cuisine.
Following his stint there, Friðgeir returned to Iceland, where he and his father took over Hótel Holt, one of Iceland’s oldest culinary institutions. In 2017, after an extensive and celebrated revamp of the hotel menu, Friðgeir refocused his energy on what would eventually become Eiriksson Brasserie.
“People here knew us through fine dining after our stint at Hótel Holt,” Friðgeir explains. “And we wanted to signal to them through the name and atmosphere [of Eiriksson Brasserie] that we weren’t just doing another version of that.”
A divergent menu
The lofty space and reflective brass railings of Eiriksson certainly harken back to the Belle Époque roots of the brasserie, but those historical accents are broken up with Scandinavian minimalist furniture and, somewhat oddly, waiters with string bow ties. Add to that the 4,000 bottle wine cellar encased in a former bank vault and you got yourself one odd duck.
The menu also reflects this divergent style. On it, crème brûlées sit cheek-to-cheek with tonka bean ganache. You can pick out classics like duck breast orange or wander into the hinterlands of langoustine tempura and enoki over charcoal flatbread.
Italy is also well represented in several ways, including a selection of pizzas decked with truffles, goat cheese, and other umami-boosting toppings. “We liked having pizza because I’ve never been abroad wining and dining, even just for a weekend, where people didn’t at some point say ‘Let’s go grab a pizza!’ because we’re not just the sheep generation, we’re the pizza generation—like it or not,” explains Friðgeir. “We wanted to keep that loose, family-style atmosphere we know from Italy.”
“Opening a new place keeps you on your toes,” concludes the chef. “Personally, I’ve only managed to go out to eat at my restaurant once and that was for my birthday. But I’m not complaining. Seeing this dream come true and getting such a warm welcome has been an amazing blessing.”
Visit Eiriksson Brasserie at Laugavegur 77, 101 Reykjavík.
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