FrontRunners: The North of France

Although Iceland is not readily associated with fine French cuisine, in this remote North Atlantic island nation, amid exquisite lava fields and gorgeous snowcapped mountains, gastronomes can find their version of joie de vivre. At the Gallery Restaurant inside Hotel Holt (+354.552.5700, www.holt.is), a Relais & Châteaux property, chef Birgir Ólafsson uses the freshest Icelandic ingredients of salmon and free-range, grass-fed lamb to create haute French dishes. The food is served in elegant surroundings—about 1,000 original Icelandic paintings hang in the restaurant and hotel—and the wine cellar stocks such gems as Château Cheval Blanc 1997 and Château Mouton Rothschild 1983. Owner Skuli Thorvaldsson’s appreciation for the finer potables is also apparent at the bar, where, in front of a blazing fire, you can enjoy a single-malt scotch from the hotel’s extensive collection.

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