Poul Andrias Ziska

Once upon a time, the Faroe Islands – an archipelago of 18 rocky volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and Norway – were famous for two things: their remoteness and sheep. (The Faroese famously quip that there are more sheep than people living on the islands). More recently, the country has established a new attraction: Koks, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant that has put the Faroe Islands and its chef Poul Andria Ziska on the dining map. Born and raised in Tórshavn, Ziska highlights where to find comfort food, coffee and good lamb in the Faroese capital.

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Welcome to the Faroe Islands

A lot of people here live a very traditional and, perhaps, very conservative life. I’m not going to talk about Tórshavn like I would about a big city because it’s really not. Its population is of 30,000 people, but it still has plenty of supermarkets, a theatre and a symphony orchestra. There’s quite a big contrast between the villages and the capital. I was born and raised in the capital, so it would be difficult for me to live anywhere else on the islands. We have a warm winter and a cold summer, so it’s between five and 15 degrees year-round. It’s very windy, very rainy, very cloudy and very foggy. People often describe experiencing all four seasons in one day. You’re most likely to get good weather in the summer, although personally, a good winter’s day in the Faroe Islands is equally as good as a summer day. When the snow is pilingup, and it’s blue skies – I really, really like that.

The Fermented Food Capital

Traditional fermented flavours is something that you need to experience on the Faroe Islands. It’s not like anything you get in other places. Visitors are sometimes afraid to try the stronger fermented flavours. [the Faroese hang food in a fermentation shed called a hjallur that allows the salty sea air to slowly ferment the food] We get a lot of Danes travelling to the Faroe Islands, and their palate is not at all the same as ours, so they’re quite afraid of it. Faroese food is not factory-made. There are no big companies producing fermented fish or lamb. It’s all made by small farmers and families that are making these different things themselves. Some are really good at it, and others not so much. Many people came to the Faroe Islands a long time ago – like in the 80s or 90s – tried fermented lamb and found it horrible, but came back and tried it from another person and actually found it quite good. So there are a lot of variation in Faroese food. Ræst is the best place to try this fermented food. The menu changes frequently, so it’s difficult to recommend exactly what to order. I think they just serve one tasting menu, so you kids have to take it all. But their approach is very cool: they work exclusively with Faroese traditional and fermented foods but are serving it in a more modern way.

Where Home Cooks Shine

Dining out is not part of the culture here. We are so used to living off nature on the Faroe Islands, so going out and spending up to 1000 (156 USD) or 2000 (313 USD) króna on food is absolutely absurd for a lot of people. My in-laws are from smaller places and grew up in a different time, so we don’t even tell them when we go out to eat because they would not understand how we could spend so much money on food. If you want a fish, you can just go out and catch it, or you get a whale in a box or meat from some farmers. But the younger generation are beginning to get excited about it although the price remains an issue and it’s mostly because we are isolated from the rest of the world.

“A Must on the Faroe Islands”

Having said that, the lamb shoulder at Áarstova is a must for any visitor to the Faroe Islands. They really know what they’re doing. They’ve hit the right technique. I believe that they braise it in beer for eight hours and then bake it in the oven before serving with gravy, so it’s really succulent and crispy. You get a nice flavour from the liquid that it’s been braised in. It’s just beautiful.

Hot Dog Culture Reigns Supreme

You’re very tired after a very long shift, and a hot dog and soda is just nice to have. It’s not something I eat a lot, but it happens every now and then, and when it does it’s usually from Effo, the gas station. I usually go for the open hot dog with mustard, ketchup, roasted onion, pickled cucumbers, and a side of chocolate milk.

Where To Eat Lunch in the Faroes

There are not many lunch places on the islands, but Restaurant Tarv, which is a grill house, is open during the summer and is great for lunch. It has really nice grilled fish and steaks from all over, including America and Sicily. It also has super nice cocktails and a pretty nice wine cart. I like it because everything is cooked on a grill in a very simple way, be it fish or grilled bell peppers, and is served with a green salad, which I think is a fantastic way to eat.

Coffee and Hygge Vibes

I’m a black coffee person. Paname Café is a really nice place to go. Brell Café, which is more or less across the street from Paname, has better coffee, but Paname is a more cosy place to chill. I’m not a regular, but I stop by every now and then. It’s such a friendly place you can bring your kids to, have a cup of coffee and play some card games. It’s just nice.

The Place To Go for Pizza

Skeiva Pakkhús is the only place that has decent pizza on the Faroe Islands. It also has some tapas and it’s all nice, comfort food. You can get focaccia bread with olive oil, some salted almonds, olives and different types of salami or ham. There is anchovies on bread and pappardelle and different pasta dishes. Most people like Italian food and this is actually on quite a high level.

The Faroe Islands’ Only Two-Michelin Star Restaurant

It’s important to highlight two aspects to those wanting to visit our restaurant Koks: that since it is far away we drive our guests to it in a special car; and that the restaurant’s ceiling is only 1.80-meters-high. We are not a classical French, two-Michelin-starred restaurant: you won’t be getting huge amounts of truffles and foie gras on your plates. We try to give our guests as much of the Faroe Islands as possible throughout the menu, and I think that that’s really what people want when coming all the way here.

Fresh, Honest Seafood

The fish and seafood of the Faroe Islands are very, very, very high quality. That is definitely what you should be on the look-out for. It’s because of the clean water around the islands; it’s because of the temperature; it’s because of the way we handle and pack it. We opened a sister restaurant called Roks, a seafood and wine bar where we serve very low-key dishes made with products from the sea. Things like crab that is broken up but that you have to peel out yourself, and langoustine that is grilled, cut in half and placed on a plate. No tweezers and no precise cutting. It’s just high-quality seafood prepared in an honest and simple way.

Photography Credit: Claes Bech-Poulsen (photos of Poul Andrias Ziska) and Beinta á Torskilsheyggi (photos of the restaurant’s exterior)

Our guides are fact-checked and updated regularly. Read more here.

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