Photography By Jeaneen Lund.
The biggest tourist attraction in Iceland also happens to have one of its top restaurants. But the most striking thing about the Blue Lagoon’s LAVA restaurant isn’t its view of milky-blue waters or its volcanic rock walls. It’s the fact that half the diners are wearing swimsuits or draped in bathrobes while they dig in. That casual atmosphere doesn’t seem to affect Viktor Örn Andrésson, who’s been head chef since 2010 and was recently named Nordic Chef of the Year — quite an accolade in a region that is having an extended foodie moment thanks to inventive figures such as Denmark’s René Redzepi and Marcus Samuelsson, the Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised mastermind behind the Red Rooster in Harlem.
Andrésson, whose arms are covered in colorful tattoos, is a shy man who creates stunning dishes, such as a slow-cooked cod with langoustine salad (punctuated with a tart salsify puree). Although you won’t find bizarre native flora or poached gull’s eggs on the menu (as with Copenhagen’s celebrated Noma), Andrésson, a proponent of honest cooking, has a remarkable palette of fresh ingredients from which to work.
“Modern Icelandic cuisine is very young, so we’re under strong influence from our neighboring countries,” he explains, but it’s clear he luxuriates in the island’s abundance of seafood and free-range lamb.
Despite his ability to transform traditional ingredients into art, Andrésson is unassuming when it comes to his favorite things, citing his mother’s simple home cooking as his ultimate treat. “My perfect day in Reykjavík is enjoying summer with friends and family and good barbecue,” he says. “You simply cannot go wrong with that combination.”