Nordic Food Destination

Goes to a society, an institution or a community, who has assembled producers of raw ingredients, restaurants and other local actors to lift a geographic destination through food-culture, cooperation and unity.

Iceland – Vestmannaeyjar

Unique food experience in the Westman islands

The Westman islands are a archipelago south of Iceland, in the whole 15 islands with about 30 small cuts and drangar. The southern most island is Surtsey and the northern most is Elliðaey. Heimaey is the largest of the islands and the only one which is inhabited, where the town of Vestmannaeyjar is placed with 4200 inhabitants. The name Vestmannaeyjar is often used as a synonym for the town of Vestmannaeyjar. Vestmannaeyjar are the 12th most populous settlement in Iceland where fisheries are the main industry.

The Westman islands has always been a food chest where fish play a central role. In the history, puffin-catching was for a long time the second biggest industry in the islands and there are many narrations on the use of seaweed and söl. A lot of herbs were used for medicine purposes and for example cabbage, which was picked in the nearby islands, saved the islanders from scurvy. Most of the farms that were placed in Heimaey went under the eruption in ** and therefore the history of farming in the island isn´t rich although there are still some small-scale farmers in the island. For a long time people used the heat which the volcano gave and as an example it was common that people baked rye bread in the ash around the volcano Eldfell by digging a can with bread dough in the lava.

If we look back it´s not that long ago that almost every inhabitant worked in some way in the fishing industry. Whether it was sailors, in fish processing or in related companies which did everything they could to keep the fleet and the processing going. With better technology the shipping fleet went from over hundred boats down to under twenty, a fewer employees were needed at the same time when the quality of the raw materials went up. Today, a lot of companies in the Westman islands are exporting quality products from the sea like roe and liver, dried products and fresh fish which is transported at a record time to fish markets all around the world as high-quality products. In addition to that a small company has opened in the islands which emphasize on tasty and nutritious sprettur which most of the restaurants on the island and in the southern part of Iceland benefit from.

With changed emphasis in the municipality another industry has made it´s way forward in the last past years and that is the tourist industry. With a growing number of tourists traveling to Iceland the opportunity to open better restaurants has increased in the past years because more of the customers appreciate local food more than before. In recent years ambitious people from the food sector has opened restaurants in the Westman islands, which many would categories as world-class. The uniqueness of most of the restaurants is the access to high quality raw materials which is prepared with a lot of respect.

It is very positive how much variety is in Westman islands and every guest can find a restaurant with a lot of uniqueness, either they want to experience place and time through the cuisine, taste drinks which are produced on the island, want great snacks or they just want a really good meal where the main ingredients are local. Most of the operators of the restaurants are professional chefs and the ambition to build up a good restaurant service in their hometown shines through and reviews from guests travelling to Westman islands has always been leading on TripAdvisor and Google in recent years. All these restaurants are small family driven companies which aim to make the service to the customer very personal.

Reviews of the restaurants has made there way into many of the biggest media of the world where the writers are amazed how it it possible to operate a restaurant at this scale on an island with less than five thousand inhabitants. Besides that a lot of books have been published in many languages from the restaurants in Westman islands and the last example of that is when the publisher Phaidon published a book all around the world about the restaurants in the island where they dived deep in the food history of the islands and the raw materials in and around the islands. Great restaurants, a bakery and a brewery, mixed with fabulous raw materials from companies on the island makes the result unique.