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The puffin, the adorable horn-billed seabird called lundi in Icelandic, is native to Iceland. The bird’s image is almost as iconic as the smoked way in which it is prepared as food. This small seabird, sometimes known as ‘the clown of the sea’ because of its humorous appearance and multicolored beak, has almost become a symbol of Iceland itself, and for good reason, because the country has the largest puffin population in the world, with 60% of the world’s population breeding there.
Colonies of puffins in their natural habitat are dotted all over the country, and there are many places where you can visit and observe them. There are also many mouthwatering establishments where you can taste this traditional Icelandic dish. They are typically eaten at the end of the summer, in August, but are hunted from September to April. The bird actually spends the autumn and winter in the open ocean but returns to coastal areas at the beginning of the breeding season in late spring. Iceland is the only country in the world where you can hunt puffin.
A popular way of eating puffin is in a sweet milk sauce, or mjólkursoðinn lundi, similar to how you would prepare rock ptarmigan. With a mixture of bacon, butter, milk and redcurrant jelly, this especially Icelandic way of preparing puffin is best served with caramelised potatoes and boiled vegetables.
One of the most well-known restaurants in Reykjavik to enjoy puffin is Þrír Frakkar, or Three Coats, which has been managed by the chef Úlfar Eysteinsson and his family since its opening in 1989. Located on a quiet street close to downtown, the restaurant offers a classic, laid-back atmosphere. Regarded as one of the best places for traditional Icelandic food in Reykjavik, Þrír Frakkar offers a variety of dishes, including cod, halibut, catfish, plaice and puffin. At þrír Frakkar, Puffin is served tender and delicate and with a side of house-made mustard.
Another great place to try puffin is at the luxury Hotel Ranga on the south road between Reykjavik and Vik. Here you can try smoked puffin served with beetroot and apples with a spiced cream cheese sauce as an appetiser. You can also taste other traditional Icelandic dishes, including arctic char, reindeer and lamb.
At Grillmarkaðurinn, another excellent place to try traditional Icelandic food in Reykjavik, you can taste puffin in a unique way. Here, they serve whale, puffin and langoustine sliders (mini-burgers) accompanied by pesto, chorizo and horseradish mayonnaise.