THE CLOSEST I’d come to a Guillemot was listening to the Avant-Gard Indie rock band with the same name, so when I saw it on the menu at Prir Frakkar , a tiny restaurant in Reykjavik, Iceland, it piqued my curiosity.
Keen to try weird foods, I draw the line at cannibalism, so it was a relief to discover that a Guillemot was a black seabird with a white belly, thick beak and bright red feet, native to Iceland.
Prir Frakkan, which translates as ‘The three overcoats’ is apparently a favourite of Jamie Oliver. Owner-chef Ulfar Eysteinsson has built up an excellent reputation for serving Icelandic delicacies such as salt cod, plokkfiskur (fish stew with black bread), seal, puffin and reindeer steaks.
Its décor is as quirky as its menu – a china Charlie Chaplin bust peeks out from a shelf on the bar, a surreal painting of a jellyfish straddling a kitchen chair adorns one wall, and plastic fish, like the ones in novelty gift shops that sing at the touch of a button, is on another.
The wild guillemot breasts are served with a game sauce and accompanied with carrots, new potatoes and a dip made from skyr, an Icelandic yoghurt, and celery.
The dark meat is tender with a strong gamey taste, like pate. So rare it leaves my white plate looking like the handkerchief of a TB sufferer, the slightly metallic taste is well-balanced with salty and sweet flavours that I can’t quite detect.
‘It’s jam,’ the blond waiter, who looks like a younger, blonder Daniel Craig explains. ‘And blue cheese.’
Wow! A weird combination but somehow it works.
Icelanders are pragmatic and willing to eat most meats, provided the animal it comes from is not threatened with extinction.
So next up is whale steak in a pepper sauce.
I have to try it. When in, er, Iceland…
Matchstick-thin, it looks like a pork escalope bathed in a buttery, creamy sauce and served with new potatoes, but it had a beefy taste and a melt-in-the-mouth texture that makes it one of the nicest meats I’ve ever eaten.
After a long flight, feasting on seabird and whale with a hefty glass of wine, I didn’t think things could get any better.
But suddenly, Daniel Craig comes over, his mellifluous voice, rising with excitement.
‘If you go outside now,’ he beams. ‘You can see the Northern Lights.’
So we leave our meals half-eaten and duck out of the tiny restaurant doorway. Standing on the silent street, we watch a wisp of green light snaking above a rooftop, like the smoke from Elphaba’s house. It’s magical.
Unusual meats cooked to perfection, air so clean it makes you high and a light-show that looks like it’s from another planet, if the Guillemots needed inspiration, they wouldn’t go far wrong with Iceland.
Have you ever eaten whale or another unusual meat? Or is there something you’d like me to try? Let me know by commenting below or tweeting cat_chats