Over 30 Norovirus Cases at Reykjavík Burger Chain

Health authorities in Reykjavík have received at least 15 reports of illness connected to two locations of the Reykjavík burger chain Hamborgarafabrikkan. One of the locations has since been closed, RÚV reports. The illness seems to be a norovirus infection, according to Óskar Ísfeld Sigurðsson, department head at the Reykjavík Health Authority. Óskar says the total number of people who have gotten ill is between 30 and 40.

The symptoms of norovirus infection are typically vomiting and diarrhoea. The infection can be dangerous for those with underlying illnesses or chronic conditions. A norovirus outbreak occurred at a hotel in East Iceland earlier this month, but there are no indications the two outbreaks are related.

Hamborgarafabrikkan is a popular chain and no such cases have occurred at the restaurant previously.

Blue Lagoon Restaurant Awarded Michelin Star

Moss Restaurant Agnar Sverrisson

Moss, the restaurant at Iceland’s popular attraction the Blue Lagoon, was awarded a Michelin star in Turku, Finland yesterday. The restaurant’s Executive Chef Agnar Sverrisson says he and his team are still digesting the news. RÚV reported first.

Moss is the third restaurant in Iceland to be awarded a Michelin star: the first was Dill, which received the distinction in 2017, and the second was Óx, which received one last year. Both Óx and Dill retained their star, and in addition to its star, Dill also boasts a green star, awarded for gastronomy and sustainability. One Michelin star means that a restaurant is “very good in its category.” Two stars mean a restaurant is “worth a detour” while three warrant “a special journey,” according to the Michelin rating system. Other Reykjavík restaurants mentioned in the guide this year are Middle Eastern spot Sümac, the recently opened Tides, seafood restaurant Brút, and traditional-food-with-a-twist favourite Matur og Drykkur.

Agnar said that Moss had been working towards earning the distinction since 2018. “It’s not easy to get this star and you have to sacrifice many things,” he stated. “The Retreat at Blue Lagoon has been ready to do that and finally we got it. We’re on cloud nine.”

Agnar previously worked as head chef at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, the oldest restaurant with two Michelin stars in England, and opened his own venture, Texture Restaurant & Champagne Bar, in London in 2007. Texture was awarded a Michelin star in 2010 and retained it until 2020, the year that Agnar returned to Iceland and took the position of Executive Chef at Moss.

Moss’s menu features modern Icelandic cuisine with a sustainable focus.

Explosion and Smoke from a Reykjavík Restaurant Last Night

police car

Police and firefighters responded to a call around 2:00 last night at the Dubliner, a bar in downtown Reykjavík. An explosion and smoke were reported as issuing from the bar. No one was reported injured in the incident.

According to a statement by an on-duty officer in the fire department, something had been thrown into the bar, but the fire department could not tell the exact nature of the object. When firefighters arrived on the scene, they reported smoke, but no fire.

“There was a window pane that was smashed to bits,” reported a firefighter to Vísir. “Our task was to clear the smoke out of the area, but it’s the police that are investigating the matter.”

This is notable as the second night in a row that Reykjavík police and firefighters have been called out to respond to firebomb attacks in the Reykjavík area. The previous night, two firebomb attacks were reported in Fossvogur in Reykjavík and in Hafnarfjörður.

Reykjavík police have confirmed that the incidents are connected to the recent stabbings at a Reykjavík night club, which authorities believe stems from a gang conflict.

 

The recent spate of violence has caused both American and British embassies in Iceland to issue travel advisories to tourists, warning them to avoid large crowds downtown this weekend.

Additional Relief for Struggling Restaurants On the Way

The Icelandic government is promising additional relief subsidies for suffering businesses in the restaurant sector, RÚV reports. It is hoped that the measures—which include tax relief as well as extensions of existing subsidies—will be implemented within the next few days.

The announcement comes in the wake of tightened domestic restrictions as COVID cases soar in Iceland and authorities scramble to ensure that the health system does not become overwhelmed. As of midnight on Friday, the general gathering limit is now 10 people and bars and clubs will be closed. Events and performances will also not be permitted. The current regulations will be in effect until February 2.

See Also: Iceland Tightens Domestic COVID-19 Restrictions

Restaurant and bar owners have repeatedly requested stronger governmental support to help weather financial insecurities created by the pandemic. On Friday afternoon, the government announced that it intends to allow restaurants to postpone paying tax and social security contributions. Relief grants will be extended. These measures are expected to be implemented right after the weekend. Closure subsidies are also expected to be extended and special subsidies for restaurants in distress should also be available.

Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, who is acting Minister of Finance in the absence of Bjarni Benediktson, said that there isn’t much work left to be done on the proposal and she hopes that it will be on Monday’s parliamentary agenda. She noted that the relief measures come as a result of conversations with people in the events, tourism, restaurant, and cultural sectors.

“What we’re doing right now is primarily focused on restaurants,” she stated. “[…] But we need to be mindful of the economy as a whole remaining strong. As such, we need to be smart about directing this targeted support to those who really need it.” Þórdís Kolbrún estimated that the government would spend over ISK 1 billion [$7.78 million] on these measures.

Find No Evidence of Seafood Fraud in Iceland Despite 2016 Study Results

fish restaurant

Restaurant inspections in Reykjavík have failed to find evidence of seafood fraud indicated by a 2016 study that made international headlines recently, Vísir reports. The study indicated that Icelandic restaurants had some of the highest rates of mislabelled fish in all of Europe. Óskar Ísfeld Sigurðsson, head of food control at the Reykjavík Public Health Authority, says the study results do not reflect food inspectors’ experience.

UK media outlet the Guardian published an article last week consolidating 44 studies of seafood products sold in restaurants, markets, and auctions around the world over the past several years. The article stated that of some 9,000 products, nearly 40% were incorrectly labelled. In some cases a cheaper fish was labelled as a more expensive variety, while in others potentially poisonous species were mislabelled, leading to health risk.

Study Suggested 40% of Fish Mislabelled

One of the studies cited was published in 2018 and concerned restaurants across Europe. It found the highest percentage of incorrect labelling in Spain, Iceland, France, and Germany. The Icelandic samples for the study were taken at 22 restaurants in 2016. DNA analysis revealed that 23% of the samples belonged to another species than was advertised and fish had been mislabelled at 40% of restaurants.

Jónas Rúnar Viðarsson of Icelandic Food and Biotech Consulting Company Matís was one of the authors of the study. He stated that a comparable inspection has not taken place since. Conducing such studies is expensive and requires special funding. “It is mainly the Public Health Authority in Reykjavík that has some ability to do something, but it also has to monitor a lot of restaurants. These kinds of studies are expensive,” he stated.

Mistakes More Likely Explanation than Scam

Óskar Ísfeld Sigurðsson, head of food control at the Reykjavík Public Health Authority, says the organisation has placed great emphasis on tracing the origin of food products in recent years. While they do not carry out DNA testing like that conducted in the 2016 study, they inspect restaurant menus and whether the correspond to raw ingredients in their freezers and fridges.

“If we see expensive fish on the menu and some cheaper fish in the fridge, it would arouse our suspicion, but we do not see any examples of this. These results don’t match our experience,” Óskar said about the 2016 study. Óskar says he expressed doubt about the study’s results when it was first published, saying he didn’t believe it painted a realistic picture of the situation. He requested information on which restaurants had been found to falsely label fish, but was denied, as the data was collected for a scientific study and not public health monitoring.

According to Óskar, the mislabelling could more likely be attributed to servers incorrectly naming fish on the menu or simply unintentional mistakes. There have even been examples of restaurants selling more expensive species as cheaper species, something no restaurateur would do on purpose.

Hungry for More

When opening acclaimed restaurant Agern in New York, Gunnar Karl Gíslason tasted twenty different types of butter before he found one he liked. His pastry chefs sourced several kinds of organic milk because the ice creams made from regular milk tasted off to him. He never did end up finding lamb that met his standards in the US, though he found a single farm in the mountains of Pennsylvania whose grass-fed sheep he deemed adequate to serve his guests. But in Reykjavík, he’ll scarf down the local classic – a hot dog with ‘everything:’ crispy fried onion, fresh onion, mustard, remoulade, and ketchup – like the Akureyri-raised country boy he is. There’s a catch though: he’ll only get one from certain shops where they heat the sausages the way he likes them and serve the right kind of ketchup.

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Icelandic Chef Regains Michelin Star

Dill restaurant Michelin star

Reykjavík’s Dill restaurant was awarded one Michelin star last night at the Michelin Guide’s 2020 awards ceremony for the Nordic region. Dill was the first restaurant in Iceland to be granted the distinction, but then lost it last year. Gunnar Karl Gíslason, the restaurant’s chef and owner, says his sights are now set on getting a second one.

When Dill lost its Michelin star last year, Gunnar Karl was living in New York. He decided to return home to Iceland and work to regain the star, whatever the cost. He says there was a lot of work behind getting the star back and praised the restaurant’s staff for their efforts. “It’s a very good feeling. We are unbelievably pleased and happy,” Gunnar Karl told RÚV reporters after the award was granted. He hopes the distinction will spark more opportunities in Iceland’s restaurant industry.

Gunnar says it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what changes led the Michelin Guide jury to change their mind about Dill – they publish no comments on their decisions. “Michelin makes sure no one has any idea about what they’re doing, what you have to say, how you have to build up your restaurant.” It’s clear, however, that Dill is on the right track.

Asked whether his goal for the coming year was to hold onto the star or to add a second, Gunnar said: “In the old days, I said I would be very happy with one star, but when you have one then you want two.”

Icelandic Chef Awarded Michelin Star

Souvenir Restaurant, run by Icelandic chef Vilhjálmur Sigurðarson in Ghent, Belgium, has been awarded a Michelin star. Vilhjálmur has run the restaurant alongside his Belgian wife Joke Michiel since 2014. It’s a big week for the couple, who are expecting their third child in a few days.

https://www.facebook.com/souvenirrestaurant/photos/a.585305098218145/2574671619281473/?type=3&theater

“I moved to Belgium at the time to work at a restaurant here. It was meant to just be a short stopover but life took over. I met Joke and eventually I got stuck,” Vilhjálmur told Belgian newspaper HLN, describing the culinary atmosphere in Ghent as “ideal.”

“Initially we didn’t even think of coming to this ceremony since the baby is supposed to arrive this week,” Vilhjálmur confessed. “Fortunately, we came anyway.”

Souvenir’s menu is built around local vegetables and seafood. Ghent has a five other restaurants with one or more Michelin stars: Restaurant Vrijmoed, with two starts; and Restaurant Horseele, Chambre Séparée, Oak Restaurant, and Publiek with one star.