While Reykjavik is renowned for its gorgeous landscapes and relaxing thermal baths, its diverse cuisine also makes for an excellent reason to visit. After checking out some of the best culinary experiences the city has to offer, we picked out four of our favorites to share with you:
Occupying one of the best locations in the capital city, the spacious Kolabrautin restaurant can be found on the top floor of the all-glass Harpa (Iceland’s first purpose-built concert hall), meaning that it offers wonderful views of the harbor. The minimalist décor is dominated by neutral tones, with grey supporting pillars throughout the room and attractive crisp white table settings. One of the standout features is the rippling glass beehive ceiling that adds an intriguing visual effect and reflects the guests below.
We recommend starting with the limoncello cocktail with a Scandinavian twist—a nip of local vodka—and then sampling starters of beef tartar with roasted sunflower seeds smeared with a creamy foam of Jerusalem artichoke. Guided by Executive Chef Georg Halldorsson, Kolabrautin embraces strong Italian tradition and has plenty of pasta choices on the menu. Al dente rabbit-filled ravioli with baby carrot and sea buckthorn (hippophae) is presented as a kaleidoscope of colors, with all four seasons represented on one plate—including a “white snow” sprinkling of ricotta. The second tantalizing dish you should try combines gnocchi with popcorn and smoked pine nuts. Leave the task of wine pairings to restaurant manager and sommelier, Alba Hough, who prides herself on her knowledge of lesser-known, boutique Italian varieties. A hearty choice for the main is the aromatic Arctic lamb, which includes both slow-roasted belly and seared steak with cardamom and cinnamon in a surprising duet of blueberries and pepper.
Formerly the barn of a doctor, this intimate restaurant was opened on the busy, central Laugavegur Street a year ago. The minimalist décor has a rustic chic touch with a high ceiling, slanted rafters, candlelit wooden tables, and bare concrete walls. Restaurant manager, John Rock, offers diners the chance to rediscover everyday tastes, such as mussels, beetroot and catfish, in novel ways. The catfish, for instance, consists of dried and blended catfish in cream served on a cracker with bell pepper and chives, along with cotton threads of dried, salted fish on a bed of brown butter and vinegar served in a wooden bowl. Creative meat dishes include beef cheek on a bed of potatoes with skyr (an Icelandic dairy product similar to strained yogurt).
3 Frakkar (Three Raincoats)
Compact, cozy and unpretentious, 3 Frakkar lies within a 15-minute walk of downtown Reykjavik in a neighborhood of streets named after mythological Norse Gods. It offers a quaint, cottage-like setting of several interlinked rooms, with tiled floor and nautical-themed furnishings.
The diverse menu designed by owner-chef Úlfar Eysteinsson is mostly dominated by fish and seafood dishes, but also includes meats such as game pâté with Cumberland sauce, grilled horsemeat and fillet of lamb. Instead of smoked mackerel and mixed herring, try more exotic fare such as smoked puffin breast with saffron mustard or sashimi-style fin whale and Arctic char. Instead of plaice, cod, catfish or salmon, one should try wild seabird 'Guillemot' breasts with game sauce or the whale pepper steak with new baby potatoes.
This wood-framed, two-story restaurant encompasses a ground floor and basement in the same downtown street as the central tourism office. Its rustic Scandinavian ambience of decorative timber furnishings is combined with a trendy Asian décor of bamboo posts that add privacy and greenery. A good start to an evening at the Fish Market is a spritely cocktail of Reyka vodka, wasabi, kiwi, soda water and lime. Follow the drink by nibbling on dried fruit bread that comes in a hemp bag with hot rocks to keep it warm, and sea-salt and whipped butter on a slate. The à la carte menu is full of tasty seafood options, like sushi, sashimi, maki-style langoustine, tuna, scallop, char and perch.
For an even better experience, arrive early to linger over the special seasonal tasting menu created by Chef Hrefna Rosa Saetran. Options include squid tempura with lime grind and granola flakes; pan-seared Minke whale with horseradish shaves and cranberries; Icelandic mussels in a lobster, mascarpone and seaweed broth; sushi of scallops on smoked salt rice with chili and salmon roe; salted cod with cherry glaze, sweet celery salad and potato purée; and Icelandic lamb with Jerusalem artichoke and snow of butter. Still hungry? Don’t worry, there’s also a generous selection of desserts to choose from.