Alison MacNeil

Alison is a musician, writer and artist from Canada. She's lived in Reykjavik since 1999. 

5 minute read 03 Dec 2016

Interview with Hrefna Rósa Sætran

Hrefna Rósa Sætran is an owner of Fishmarket and Grillmarket, two of Reykjavík's most popular restaurants. For the first interview in our series with local chefs and restauranteurs, we talked to Hrefna to get her tips on Icelandic cuisine.

What made you decide to become a chef? 

We used to go out for dinner a lot when I was young, which is kind of unusual, but since it was only me and my mum it made sense. I am an only child. I loved going out to any restaurant and I gave everything a lot of thought. I didn’t understand why they put parsley on top of the butter with the bread. That was how I much I thought about food at the age of 5, so... :)

I started to cook at a very young age and I learned a lot from TV chefs. I taped the shows on VHS and watched them over and over....

Who is your favourite Icelandic chef? 

If I have to pick only one, I will offend many of my friends. But I have to say I love Axel & Kirill, who are the chefs at the Fishmarket, and Gulli & Haukur at the Grillmarket. I have worked with them for many years and they still surprise me with their skills and their fresh take on things. We all work really well together and finish each other’s food sentences.

If you’re planning a big night at a restaurant with a bunch of friends, who do you think has the best tasting menu to get the best of Icelandic cuisine? 

There is this newish restaurant called ROK close to Hallgrímskirkja and they are doing kind of new take on Icelandic small dishes so you can try many things at the same time. You could order many small dishes and share with friends. Also if you are going for more fancy meal, Dill is great for that. They have a 5 or 7 course menu and wine pairing to go with it.

Where do you eat most often on days off? 

When I eat alone I try to eat as healthy as I can so Garðurinn is my number one choice for that. If I have my family with me, the kids are in an “I love pizza” age, so we often go to Ítalía at Laugavegur for pizza. I can’t wait for them to outgrow the pizza love.  

What is your favourite Icelandic ingredient? 

I love wild salmon. Love it raw, cooked, cured, smoked. It is the best.

What is the best place to eat outside of the city? 

There is this guy in Hólmavík called Sverrir and he runs the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft and he cooks the best mussels in the world. We go there every year at least once. The atmo plays a big part in this and it is a must to take a look at the museum.
What would you most likely order from your own menu?

I would go for the tasting menu at the Fishmarket. There you get to sample of a big part of the menu and see what it’s all about. At the Grillmarket, (I would choose) the hamburger for lunch or for dinner I would go for the salted cod with grilled apple purré, langoustine and shellfish sauce. Delish! 

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