In a unique culinary venture that seems right out of a movie, a floating restaurant nestled in the heart of a Norwegian fjord has been captivating the attention of gastronomes and adventure-seekers alike. The recently opened restaurant Iris is housed within a striking metallic structure resembling an orb, called the Salmon Eye, which is one of world’s largest entrable floating art installations.
The restaurant’s innovative structure is more than just an architectural marvel. It serves as a platform to champion the cause of sustainable seafood, advocating for responsible consumption to nourish the planet. With a unique double-curved ellipsoid design, the Salmon Eye is a remarkable floating artwork spanning four levels, including one submerged underwater. Housing a weight of 1,256 tonnes, a diameter of 25 meters, and a vast area of 1,000.6 square meters, this structure not only captivates the eye but carries a three-fold mission: to inspire a mindshift whereby the ocean is recognized as an important food source, to Inform current and future generations about sustainable seafood practices and to Improve, always raising the bar and setting the standard for the future of aqua- culture.
This bold establishment, that embarked on its journey on June 21 2023, has not only become a subject of fascination but also sparked comparisons to the fictional restaurant “Hawthorn” depicted in the acclaimed 2022 horror-comedy film, “The Menu”, which features a couple traveling to an exclusive coastal restaurant that takes a dark turn. Its viral popularity on platforms like TikTok has turned the spotlight on its remote and exceptional fine-dining setting. However, thankfully, Iris promises a way less fatal experience, with the only thing you can expect to be killed being your hunger.
Nestled within the stunning waters of the Hardangerfjord, one of the world’s longest fjords, Iris offers a culinary journey like no other. Patrons are treated to an ‘expedition dining’ experience, where they indulge in a tasting menu comprising a remarkable 18 courses. The objective is to introduce innovative ingredients from the ocean, accentuating the paramount importance of sustainability. The cost of this immersive experience is €285.50 for a seat at the table. However, patrons typically find themselves spending up to $560 to partake in Iris’ culinary symphony, with the restaurant accommodating a maximum of 24 guests per evening, divided into two seatings of 12 each.
Parallels between Iris and “Hawthorn,” the fictional restaurant from “The Menu,” are undeniable. In an interview in November 2022, the movie’s writers, Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, revealed that they drew inspiration from existing real-world restaurants. They referenced a Scandinavian island eatery for the concept of Hawthorn: “We did start with a restaurant on an island in Scandinavia that I went to, where you’re there for four hours, and they’re serving you a bunch of food and they give you a tour of the island. Everything’s hyperlocal from the shore”, said Tracy. This theme also echoes in Iris’ commitment to incorporating lesser-known sustainable ingredients into its culinary creations.
As for the idea of having the chef come out explaining the dishes, the writers got their inspiration upon visiting EL ideias, in Chicago, where either the Chef Philip Foss or the sous chefs come to the dining room to introduce each dish.
Access to Restaurant Iris is strictly via boat, much like its fictional counterpart, adding an element of exclusivity to the experience. The entirety of the “expedition dining” escapade can stretch to a leisurely six hours, encouraging guests to dress according to weather conditions. While there’s no dress code, the unpredictable sea conditions necessitate precautions in that sense, with life jackets provided for the boat journey.
Prior to arriving at Iris, visitors are extended an invitation for a brief sojourn at Madsen’s boathouse situated on a nearby island. The commencement of the boat journey is marked in the town of Rosendal, where patrons embark on a detour to Iris’ Chef’s boathouse nestled on the charming isle of Sniltsveitøy. Following an interlude filled with snacks and local cider, the guests find themselves once again aboard the boat that ushers them to the pinnacle of the experience—the much-anticipated “main event” hosted at the floating restaurant.
The culinary narrative then unfolds in the intimate space of the Salmon Eye, a setting offering a multisensory underwater experience. Guests are led to a subterranean chamber where a film delves into sustainability challenges faced by the food sector, highlighting the Iris menu’s endeavor to address these issues. Comprising 18 courses thoughtfully themed around global food system challenges and threats, the menu intertwines innovative culinary solutions with a feast for the senses. The experience culminates “in the dining room where stunning views of the fjord and mountain ranges create the backdrop for our set tasting menu”, reads Iris’ website.
Restaurant Iris is the brainchild of Chef Anika Madsen, whose illustrious career includes stints at Michelin-starred establishments such as Formel B in Copenhagen and various restaurants within the Kadeau group. Renowned as the “umami queen” during her tenure at a Copenhagen restaurant, Madsen’s commitment to sustainability drives her innovative culinary vision. “If I discover an ingredient that will lead to a greener future, I am not afraid to push boundaries. But to convince people to love it, it needs to be truly delicious”, she stated.
The waters of the Hardangerfjord serve as her muse, supplying some of the world’s “most exciting seafood”, she said. Thus, anchoring her mission to create gastronomic marvels with a greener impact.
With a nod to nature, dishes at Iris artfully reimagine the landscapes of the Hardangerfjord, renowned for its awe-inspiring waterfalls. Amid the fjord’s waters, the ingredients are sourced from their natural habitat, embodying the ethos of bringing guests to the source.
Akin to the fictional Hawthorn’s emulation of nature, Iris crafts its own narrative, with a menu that, like the movie, is meant to be read as “a story”. As “The Island” course mimics the ecosystem of an island with a composition of seaweed, plants, flowers, scallop, and frozen seawater, each course at Iris is thoughtfully designed to evoke a storyline, grappling with the challenges faced by the global food system.
With its popularity surging, patrons are advised to make reservations months in advance to dine at Iris. At the moment, there is only the option to join the waiting list.