Olafur Eliasson’s new Reykjavik restaurant fuses art, food and community

Olafur Eliasson’s new Reykjavik restaurant fuses art, food and community

On 11 August, chef Victoria Eliasdóttir and her brother, artist Olafur Eliasson, are opening a culinary space in Reykjavik, hosted by Marshall House. Running until November 2018, the temporary restaurant will serve lunch and dinner, inspired by the atmosphere of the Studio Olafur Eliasson (SOE) Kitchen in Berlin, in direct response to the Icelandic context.

Marshall House – a fish factory turned art hub, converted by local architects Ási Sturluson and Steinþór Kárason of Kurt og Pí in 2017 – is an unlikely cultural haven, hidden in Reykjavik’s industrial port neighbourhood; an up-and-coming magnet for creative spaces. Eliasson’s only Icelandic studio, located on the second floor, is a star attraction among locally run art initiatives, and an existing bar and restaurant. Because of the area’s burgeoning art scene, Marshall House is often frequented by academics, designers and writers, catching a quick bite or private view; alongside adventurous tourists who pile off liners, daring to stray a little further from the docking bay.

Olafur Eliasson pictured inside his new cafe in Marshall House, Iceland

From left, Olafur Eliasson, owner of Marshall House Leifur Kolbeinsson and Victoria Eliasdóttir in SOE Kitchen 101

In everything but locale, the pop-up embodies the ethos of Eliasson’s Berlin kitchen, which is currently reserved for his 100-strong studio team. ‘It’s been a wish of mine (and many others) that the food at the Studio Olafur Eliasson (SOE) Kitchen in Berlin will be accessible to the public,’ explains Eliasdóttir. ‘SOE Kitchen 101 in Reykjavik is an experiment on how to bring the nature of the communal studio lunches out of a working space and into a place where a broad variety of guests will dine together while experiencing the spirit of the Berlin-based studio through both food and art.’

In line with Eliasson’s philosophy of food – that taste is a key sense through which we experience the world – the project aims to facilitate thinking, as much as consuming; a safe space for experimentation and impromptu encounters. To aid this creative atmosphere, artworks by Eliasson with their imposing, light-refracting, almost healing qualities, will be peppered round the dining table, bolstering its atmosphere of artful eating.

Marshall House restauarant and bar

The Marshall House Restaurant and Bar

Each sitting, Eliasdóttir and the SOE Kitchen team will invite guests to join a long table, upon which healthy food and conversation will flow – much in the spirit of the daily lunches that are served family-style to Eliasson’s studio kitchen in Berlin. Eliasdóttir has prepared a special menu based on recipes popular with the Berlin team, with the added benefit of local Icelandic produce. ‘For the last few weeks I have been visiting farmers on the south west corner and from their produce our menu is built,’ Eliasdóttir explains. Think an abundance of seafood, earthy native herbs like yarrow, and warming bowls of fresh pasta.

The project is an interdisciplinary adventure, an apt reflection of both Eliasdóttir and Eliasson’s work, which jumps the narrowing divides between art, food and social initiative. Eliasdóttir hopes it will attract a visitor base that represents this diversity, gathering people ‘from different places, for different reasons.’ It also bridges two cultures dear to Eliasson’s heart – who split his childhood between Denmark and Iceland, before setting up home in Berlin. As he explained during a conversation earlier this year, ‘I see myself as both Icelandic, Danish and German, but before that, as native to the world.’ Kitchen 101 is an invitation for other global natives to join him, breaking boundaries by breaking bread. §

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