Image taken from Koks book

Tórshavn, on the island of Streymoy, the largest of the eighteen that make up the Farøe archipelago, halfway between Norway and Iceland: certainly one does not expect to find a notable concentration of ‘haute cuisine’ restaurants, normally located in metropolises. We are in the realm of a chef who is also zoologist, anthropologist, explorer: ten years ago Poul Andrias Ziska, after being part of the new wave of Nordic cuisine in Copenhagen where he worked at the Geranium, decided to return to the Farøe, where he was born. He joined the Koks restaurant, became its chef in 2014, then moved into an 18th-century blacksmith’s barn, was awarded his first Michelin star in 2017 and his second in 2019, becoming the ‘two-star’ in the most extreme place on the planet. Koks is half an hour from the centre of Tórshavn (the capital, population 19.000), a lonely little house of dark stone marbled with lichen, its roof covered in grass as is the custom here, wedged between the green valley and Lake Leynavatn: constantly lashed by rain and wind, Ziska decided to move the restaurant to a more comfortable location, but in the meantime it is possible to eat his cuisine in the two restaurants twinned by Koks, ‘Rocs’ and ‘Ræst’, which in Faroese means fermented and this is the key to Nordic cuisine in general, Faroese in particular. Ziska defines his cuisine as simple, pure, fresh and traditional: here tradition means preserving food, such as lamb and fish, by drying them in the wind, because salt did cost too much; the chef has adapted them to contemporary palates. The local raw materials are the ubiquitous sheep (there are 70,000 of them, almost twice as many as humans: Farøyar literally means ‘island of sheep’); fish from the frigid Nordic sea, i.e. cod, salmon (the bays teem with fish farms), urchins, langoustines, prawns, scallops, horsemussels; very rare petrel eggs; very few vegetables: potatoes, turnips, mushrooms, cabbage, rhubarb. And then there is the whale, which is eaten quite widely, but which can only be caught here according to very strict sustainable fishing rules (800 out of 800.000 per year are caught). The classic dish is skerpikjøt, lamb dried and fermented in little houses called hjallur: today’s version in Ziska involves an eight-month exposure to the salty wind. Koks’ adventure was so successful that it triggered a virtuous process: gourmets from all over the world began to arrive in Tórshavn, and this prompted the other restaurants to grow as well. At the Barbara Fish House, for example, seafood cuisine is served in a very hygge light wooden room: the tradition lies in serving scallops, the contemporaneity lies in treating them like ceviche, the classic Peruvian dish. We follow Ziska on a rather extreme gastronomic journey that takes us to Ilimanaq, Greenland, a ten-hour flight from Reykjavík. Here, in a little wooden house in the middle of the tundra, facing the sea quilted with icebergs, Ziska has relocated Koks in the summer of 2022: outside the poles with fish to dry, inside minimalism and scallops with caviar. Not an easy task, but what drives a chef to design such daring premises? He is one of those chefs who intertwine his craft with that of the naturalist, the zoologist, the anthropologist, the explorer. If you feel up to it, you can join him: Koks Ilimanaq has recently started bookings for the 2023 opening, from 12 June to 9 September. Read more and also book a table at Koks Ilimanaq