For centuries, the Faroese diet was primal and austere, one based on local foods like lamb, wild sea birds and root vegetables, including turnips and rutabaga, because it was impossible to grow much else in these wind-swept islands. Fermentation and salting were the primary means of conserving foods, which include fermented ocean perch, wind-dried pilot whale and the wind-dried and fermented mutton known as skerpikjøt. The only regularly imported foods were flour, rice, citrus and spices.
A younger generation of Faroese turned their backs on a globalized diet and sought to revive the dishes that had nourished their ancestors.
This changed when the islands became more prosperous after World War II, and newly opened supermarkets stocked such exotic goods as tomatoes and olive oil. With the rise of the New Nordic food movement, however, a younger generation of Faroese turned their backs on a globalized diet and sought to revive the dishes that had nourished their ancestors, using as much locally produced food as possible. A growing restaurant scene, rising tourism and Faroese pride gave this movement momentum and established the islands as a place with some of the world’s most inventive cooking.
For anyone interested in a taste of traditional Faroese cooking, the islands’ government has established a unique and very rewarding dine-with-the-locals program called heimablídni, or “home hospitality.” Many of these places cater to groups, but at the home of Anna and Óli or Durita and Fróði, couples and solitary diners can reserve spots at communal tables.
Here is a selection of our favorite tables in the Faroes, all on the island of Streymoy.
The candlelit dining rooms in this old wooden house — once the home of a pair of brothers who later became locally famous poets — offer a cozy setting for a meal of contemporary Faroese cooking. There are three- and five-course tasting menus, the latter comprising smoked salmon, langoustine bisque, two different preparations of locally produced lamb and dessert. Dinner only.
Gongin 1, Tórshavn. Tel. (298) 333-000
Low beamed ceilings, rock walls and a turf roof make this atmospheric house in Tórshavn a must-visit. (Interestingly, it was the fictional home of one of the most famous characters in Faroese literature, Barbara Salling, in the bestselling 1939 novel “Barbara,” by Jørgen-Frantz Jacobsen.) This popular seafood tapas restaurant serves delicious dishes like smoked shrimp with chile mayonnaise, horse mussels escabeche, fish soup with cod and scallops, and lemon sole with capers. Dinner only; closed Sunday-Wednesday.
Barbara Fish House
Gongin 4-6, Tórshavn. Tel. (298) 331-010
A perfect spot for lunch, this small, friendly sushi bar in the heart of Tórshavn showcases the excellence of the Faroe Islands’ just-caught seafood. Highlights of the menu include scallop ceviche roll, langoustine and halibut sashimi, and grilled salmon poke bowl. Closed Sunday lunch.
Áarvegur 3, Tórshavn. Tel. (298) 319-319
The tapas-inspired small plates menu at this popular downtown Tórshavn restaurant, set in a historic 18th-century wooden house, runs to dishes like salt cod with smoked paprika, and battered cod tongues with edamame. The platter of langoustines, crab claws and shrimp, which is meant for sharing, is excellent. A traditional Faroese meal of roast lamb with potatoes and red cabbage is served every Sunday at lunchtime.
Bringsnagøta 6, Tórshavn. Tel. (298) 313-243
Ever since it first opened in 2011, Michelin two-star Koks, which means “flirt” in Faroese, with the connotation of someone who fusses and fiddles in search of perfection, has been on a mission to couch traditional Faroese products and recipes in terms of the New Nordic food movement, which has made Scandinavia a mandatory destination for adventurous international food lovers. Head chef Poul Andrias Ziska’s challenge has been to tempt foreigners to sample intimidating Faroese foods like fermented lamb — which is made by allowing the meat to cure in the breezes of a curing shed and has a shockingly potent flavor somewhere between strong cheese and carrion — and at the same time to persuade the Faroese themselves to eat the locally harvested foods they had come to disdain. These shunned foods included the islands’ superb shellfish, which was once only eaten by the poor. The small-plate tasting menus here evolve constantly but include dishes like cured locally raised lamb on a bed of lichen and sea urchin, with lemon pulp and pickled parsley stems. Suffice it to say that many people will find some courses rather harrowing, since fermented lamb tallow and whale meat are acquired tastes, but other dishes are accessible, indeed unforgettably magnificent, like the mahogany clams with kale purée and seaweed or barley risotto. Since Koks only seats 24, reservations should be made as far in advance as possible. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Frammi við Gjónna, Leynavatn. Tel. (298) 333-999