Poul Andrias Ziska

Once upon a time, the Faroe Islands, an archipelago of 18 rocky, volcanic islands between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic Ocean, 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 is your go-to for where to find comfort food, coffee and, of course, lamb in the Faroese capital.

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Welcome to the Faroe Islands

A lot of people here live a very traditional and maybe very conservative life. I’m not going to say Tórshavn is a big city because it’s really not. The population is 30,000 people, but you have supermarkets, a theatre, and a symphony orchestra. I think there’s quite a big contrast between the villages and the capital. I was born and raised in the capital, so, for me, it would be difficult to live anywhere else. 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. Many people describe experiencing all four seasons in one day. You’re most likely to get good weather in the summer. Personally, a good winter’s day in the Faroe Islands is equally as good as a summer day. When you have the snow laying, and it’s blue skies, I really, really like that.

The Fermented Food Capital

The more traditional fermented flavours are something that you need to experience in the Faroe Islands. That’s not something you can get in other places. Obviously, people are afraid to try these strong fermented flavours if they’re not used to them. [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’s no big company producing fermented fish or fermented lamb or whatever. It’s all small farmers or families themselves that are making these different things, and some are really good at it, and some are not good at it. So we have a lot of people that have maybe been in the Faroe Islands a long time ago, in the 80s or 90s, and they once tried fermented lamb, and it was horrible. But then you come back, and try it from another person, and now it’s actually quite good. So there is a lot of variation in Faroese food. For somewhere to try all these fermented foods, Ræst is the best option. They change the menu frequently, so it’s difficult to say exactly what to order, also I think they just serve one tasting menu, so you kids have to take it all. But their approach is very cool, working exclusively with Faroese traditional and fermented foods but serving it in a more modern way.

Where Home Cooks Shine

On the Faroe Islands we are so used to living off nature, so going out and spending hundreds or even maybe up to 1000 (156 USD) or 2000 (313 USD) króna for food is absolutely absurd for a lot of people. Dining out is not a big cultural thing here. It is catching up with the younger generation, but the price is also an issue. It’s very expensive to dine out on the Faroe Islands, and that’s because we are so isolated. 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 think it’s completely absurd to spend so much money on food. If you want a fish, you can just go out and catch it, or you have some whale in the box, or some meat from some farmers.

“A Must on the Faroe Islands”

The lamb shoulder at Áarstova is a must on the Faroe Islands. They’ve hit the right technique. I believe they braise it in beer for eight hours and then bake it in the oven before serving, so it’s really succulent and crisp, and it has a nice flavour of the liquid that it’s been braised in and served with gravy. It’s just beautiful. They really know what they’re doing.

Hot Dog Culture Reigns Supreme

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

Where To Eat Lunch in the Faroes

There are not a lot of lunch places, but during the summer, Restaurant Tarv, which is a grill house, is open. It has really nice grilled fish and also steaks from everywhere including America and Sicily. It also has super nice cocktails and a pretty nice wine cart. I like it because everything is from the grill: simple grilled fish, maybe some grilled bell peppers, plus a green salad. I think it’s fantastic.

Coffee and Hygge Vibes

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

The Place To Go for Pizza

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

The Faroe Islands’ Only Two-Michelin Star Restaurant

For the people that are visiting us, I think it’s good to know that our restaurant is far away. We drive you to it in a special car, and the ceiling is only 1.80 meters high. We are not a traditional classical French two-Michelin-starred restaurant, we are something different. They know that they won’t be getting huge amounts of truffles and foie gras. 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.

Fresh, Honest Seafood

Fish and seafood from the Faroe Islands are very, very, very high quality. It’s the clean water around the Faroe Islands; it’s the temperature; it’s the way we handle it and pack it. That is definitely what you should be looking for. I would eat it at Roks, which is not open yet. This year, we will be opening up a sister restaurant, which will be a seafood and wine bar where we will be serving very low-key dishes with seafood. Just crab that is broken, and then you have to peel it out yourself and langoustines that are cut in half and then grilled and on the plate. It’s not going to be tweezers and precise cutting. It’s just going to be high-quality seafood that has been prepared in an honest way and put on a plate.

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

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