We have been a part of Icelandic history since 1933 – oldest Roadhouse in Iceland
Interview with the Manager
“I am certain that we are the only ones in Iceland to produce organic pasta”. The famous road house Hreðavatnsskáli is operated by Mathieu Zevenhuizen. Mathieu is a a chef and CEO of the oldest Restaurant at the ring road. We can accomodate 26 persons in our Guest House and we offer summer houses with the most astonishing view. On our lovely ground between Bifröst and Grábrók we also offer a tent accommodation for back packers.
“In the restaurant we can have seats for 70 guests (up to 300 upon request) and also a shop”. There he sells home made pasta that has drawn the Icelanders attention. Mathieu receives a journalist in the doorway and offers him coffee. “Select you poison, “he says, pointing towards the excellent coffee machine. “I need to start to feed the hens, so we can discussed together, “said Mathieu. In our chicken coop there are over twenty hen and four cocks. All eggs needed for cooking at the restaurant Hreðavatnsskáli are supplied by our happy hens. “Everything that can be create up here I create on the site. I bake bread every morning during the summer time and all pasta are prepared from the scratch here in the kitchen.”Mathieu says. Also he focuses on products from the neighbours. “The goal is to cook as much as possible from fresh, local products, “he says. “The meat origins from Mýrarnaut, a popular farm and I look get the tomatoes and vegetables from Reykholt, “he adds.
“I love being here” He is a Dutch citizen but finds it difficult to define himself to any specific nation. “I was born in Turkey but because of my parents I am from the Netherlands. I lived just three years in the Netherlands, “said Mathieu. “I’ve spent 55 years of his life outside the Netherlands, “he adds and smiles. For over forty years he worked in the catering sector and thus he travelled to many foreign countries. He was in Cyprus for two years and liked. Then he spent Also four years in Cairo, Egypt, such are examples of a long experience on the market. “I managed three separate restaurants in Egypt where were a total of 126 people worked. In Egypt we operated a bakery and a butcher’s shop.”he drifts to his years in Egypt. “It is strange to think that when I left Cairo in 1994 there where 18 million people living there. But now I come to a place in the far north with only 320.000 inhabitants. The proportions are so very, very different, “he says with a smile.
But how did you find Iceland? “It’s simple really. I ran a restaurant in Switzerland with my girlfriend for eighteen years. Once we separated I freelanced as a chef. I felt that I had worked too much and it was driving me out. I decided to try to find a summer job as a chef and / or Director in a new environment, ” he says. His ways and Daniel Johnson, owner of Hreðavatnsskáli, lay together through a small internet platform in Switzerland. Daniel is half Icelandic (from this region) and half Swiss. Anyway the result was that Mathieu visited Borgarfjörður in May 2015. “After visiting and inspecting this place, I thought: “Why not? “and agreed to stay. Time flew fast and it became August, September, then October, and I was still here, “he adds that he realised that he did not want to leave. He became to like Iceland.
“I love being here. Here it is peaceful and no stress. That’s what I think matters the most in life. A good environment and to work with good people, “he says.
Mathieu manufactures and sells homemade pasta
Shortly after taking over the leadership Mathieu started to produce his own pasta. He drew attention to that by creating the longest noodle the country which he cooked and invited all visitors to taste. Pasta is served both fresh entrance for dinner at the restaurant and in the shop (dried). Different type s and flavours are available and the names origin from landscapes and former owners of this marvellous place. Names like:
- Grábrókarskrúfur = Grábrók Screws (Grábrók is the famous vulcano / Crater 100 meters from here)
- Glannapenne = Glanni Penne (Glanni is the waterfall 1000m from here)
- Heimalagað pasta “hennar mömmu” = Home Made Mothers Pasta
- Leópoldslasagna = Lasagna from Leopold (Second owner along with his wife Olga)
- Norðurárdalsblanda = Norðurárdals Mixture (Valley we life in)
- Norðurárdalsskeljar = Norðurárdal Valley Shells
- Paradísarnúðlur = Paradise Noodles (Paradísarlaut is a pont nearby)
- Penne = Penne, no fancy name here
- Vígfúsarspaghetti = Vigfús Spaghetti (Vígfús built the place in 1933 down at Bifræst and moved it here the 50ies)
“We wanted to give the pasta any unusual names, just to be different, “he says, but pasta normally have common names and not special names like here. “I have difficulty living as a “normal”, character I really like to be different. Things do not need to be complex but they must be a little different, “he says and smiles. Pasta says he was chosen as a challenge and to increase activity. In the meantime he sells fresh pasta to restaurants and hotels. The pasta is also available in stores especially in the organic store of Kaja in Akranes. “I first thought it would not pay off but after calculating the matter it came to light that there is a market for home made pasta that is completely untapped. I am pretty sure I am the only one in the country that produces organic pasta ” he says. “I started to produce organic pasta, seasoned with spices from Kaja. It it is surprisingly good, very tasting and fresh, “he adds.
“Want to see return to life”
In the financial crisis 2008 Icelanders almost quit visiting Restaurants. The place even closed down for one summer in 2012 before the new owner took over. Hreðavatnsskáli was then renovated one whole winter and the accommodation rose from a long sleep. The previous owners focused on being an excellent restaurant. Ever since the crisis people choose Hot Dogs over Filet Mignon. Mathieu said that last summer was successful at Grábrók – Hreðavatnsskáli. Nevertheless, we aim to double our income in the next years. The Pasta business is one part of the program. He hoped that soon the production will be between 300 and 400 kg of pasta week. “So I could fully utilise our Swiss Pasta Machine without having to change kitchen into a factory. I have met many who know the place from 20 years ago, when people were mainly coming here to dance and entertainment. The most famous Musicians of Iceland held big parties up here. Those typical “Sveitaball” (Icelandic for country festivity) are probably out dated but smaller events with life music is thinkable.”he says but adding a first step was to create a nice and cozy environment where people can visit whenever they want and know what do expect. “First and foremost I would like to see the place come to live again, “says Mathieu eventually.
We would like to thank Mathieu for his time and for running one of the oldest Road Houses in Iceland.
His extensive knowledge on the marked has been known for over 83 years. A part of the service is the last gas station before crossing the pass “Holtavörðuheiði”. The fantastic service and the many opportunities to visit natures pearls make it an extraordinary place. The restaurant has a governmental permit to host 300 customers at the same time. In the old days the farmers came to dance and sing here and that remaining friendly spirit is the first thing you will notice when entering the building. The Hotel was built in 1945 but rennovated in 2013. All rooms have private facilities. Summerhouses and a small camping site are just around the corner.
Do you like Northern Lights?
Just outside our Accommodation