14 April 2016

Eat Like an Icelander in Reykjavik on Any Budget!

If you've seen my previous post on Reykjavik (see here) you'll know we stayed in a self-catered apartment through airbnb (apartment's listed here if you're a nosey parker) and we got hold of a lot of local produce that we cooked ourselves and ate in with a couple of Icelandic beers. However, we also went and ate out at least once a day, be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. So I thought I'd compile a list of the places I'd recommend you visit if you want to eat out in Iceland. I've broken this down into food to go, casual dining and eating out like the fancy pants that you are, for ease of use. A quick note on food in Iceland; it's not as expensive as everyone says it is. Alcohol is a different matter (think London prices if not a little more for everything bar wine which is more like three times the price) but food itself is really reasonable. We ate at two really fancy restaurants for dinner, opting for their taster menus, and I think each meal cost us £65 per person which for me is beyond reasonable for 7+ courses considering you're looking at a minimum of £100 in the UK.

We didn't have a bad meal in Iceland, maybe part of this is because I research everything food related in the nearest 100 miles of where we're staying before we go away but I think a huge part is related to the quality of the food in Reykjavik.

If you're going self-catered and would prefer to cook in your apartment there's lots of great bakeries and a couple of butchers that you can go and grab some local produce from, which are all reasonably priced. Fruits and vegetables wise, if it has to be imported, it's going to be more expensive. However, Iceland grow a huge array of their own vegetables and fruits now, which is pretty cool when you think it snows for a lot of the year. We got all our fruit and veg from Bónus, which is Iceland's budget supermarket and the only one within walking distance of the apartment we were staying at. Things to try in Iceland are definitely their skyr (the thickest creamiest yogurt ever), their jams (this sounds like a weird one, but Iceland have a lot of unique berries so have a browse) and their lamb (if you're a meatasaurus like me, it's very reasonably priced and absolutely delicious)!

It's worth noting, you can't buy alcohol from general stores so either bring it with you, stock up in duty free, prepare to spend big bucks on it going out, or have a detox cleanse and go booze free. We bought about 4 bottles of wine with us and picked up a couple in duty free in Iceland, for the 8 days we were there. We didn't drink them all but it was nice to have the option of having a drink at our apartment first before going out.

Food To Go

Just want to pick something up and take it back to your nest or looking for a snack on the go? Don't worry I've got you covered.


Sandholt bakery located in the centre of town is your go to for all gluteny delights. If you fancy a smorsbord, open sandwich to you and I, or a bit of a sit down they have a reasonably priced cafe next door to their bakery front. But if you just want to grab and go, you're in luck because all the best treats are at the counter. We're talking cinnamon buns, cheesecake slabs and every berry you can think of pastries. You'd be surprised to know Iceland have a lot of wild berries which makes their pastries absolutely delicious, their raspberry one was divine and I pretty much ate an entire cheesecake slice to 2 minutes. They also sell chocolates made on the premises, granola, jams and chutneys, and sandwiches all to go, but the real stars are Sandholt's breads. Rye, Pumpkernickel, Sourdough, we picked up a small loaf daily and tried them all. Historically I've always said Germany has the best bakeries in the world but I think Sandholt could give them a run for their money.

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur

I probably should have separated this out even further into a section on Hot Dogs. Icelanders love their American food, evidenced by the huge number of burger joints and, as a country that hasn't really embraced American chains, they have not one but two Krispy Kreme Donut shops (I just don't get the appeal).  However, of all the American dishes available no food do they covet more than the humble hot dog. There are restaurants, stands in the street, shacks in the wall all selling this American favourite. It sounds mad. It is a little, but in truth I had the best hot dog of my life in Iceland for the grand total of £2, and I'm not alone (see what Forbes had to say here). The best place to get a hot dog, isn't even a debate. It's the smallest storage container you've ever seen, opposite the harbour. There is always a queue, whatever the weather. But it is always delicious. It's not going to change the world, at the crux of it it's just a really great hot dog. Have it with everything, wet onions, crispy onions, ketchup and mustard, and you won't be disappointed. I'm not upset to say it became almost a daily ritual to go down and grab a hot dog for lunch when we were exploring Reykjavik. It was so cold most days, and this humble dog really hit the spot.

Reykjavik Roasters

I fell in love with coffee in Iceland. Something I never thought I'd say coming back from our trip. I used to be a caffeine fiend. Early grey, green tea, good ol' English breakfast, I couldn't get enough of tea. It wasn't till I started working full time and drinking 5 or 6 cups of tea a day plus a sneaky morning coffee, that I realised I was suffering with tension headaches and what felt like migraines all the time if I didn't get my regular cuppa at work. Reality is I was a caffeine addict, after  unintentionally going cold turkey on holiday for two weeks and experiencing the worst flu like withdrawal symptoms I kicked tea out of my life, substituting it with hot lemons and caffeine free red bush. But in Iceland I couldn't resist a sneaky Swiss Mocha. OMG the Swiss Mocha! It's dark chocolate bitter with earthy coffee tones and a touch of sweetness, but a little sour from their whipped cream. The coffee I had in Iceland was by far the best coffee I've ever had. It's the God's truth I swear. And our favourite coffee stop, Reykjavik Roasters. Two reasons really, firstly it was on the same road as our apartment so became our go to Pitt stop and secondly it serves the best coffee in the world (not like in Elf, it really does). The guy that owns it trained as a roaster in Denmark who are famed for their  coffee roasting secrets, and you can tell he picked up the trade well. I've yet to go to Denmark though so who knows maybe I'll have to revise my best coffee in the world award. Since coming back from Iceland, a cup of coffee has become my little weekend pleasure. Only one cup though, I'm not crazy, plus if I have more than one caffeinated drink per day I get the shakes now but hey no more migraines! Definitely check out Reykjavik Roasters if you're a coffee lover heading to Iceland, it's super cute inside, all white washed with dark wood and bright blue accents. Plus they serve cakes, did I say? I didn't? Sorry, they serve cakes, really, really good cakes.

Casual Dining

Fancy rubbing shoulders with the locals head to one of these casual eateries for quality food, great beer and a welcoming atmosphere.

The Lebowski Bar

You've seen the movie, now eat in it. It's uncanny how much it feels like you're on the movie set. I'd read about this place before hand and thought it might be cool for a couple of drinks. A couple of drinks turned into a whole day sitting at the bar, chatting to the other stool holders,  watching the football as it poured it down outside. It was actually a really great day helped by the accompaniment of Icelandic beer, burgers and a buzzing atmosphere. Oh the burgers, they certainly won't win any beauty pageants but I'd eat them anyday. Our Honey Boo, honey glazed bacon cheeseburger with jalapeño mayonnaise and bbq sauce was meaty, cheesy, smoky goodness with just the right amount of grease to combat the several...pints of beer we drank. It was a solid burger, eaten alongside some cheesy jalapeño bites with salsa, which although weren't filled with spice were incredibly moreish. I washed all this down with a banana milkshake, followed by a chocolate peanut butter milkshake, realising a third milkshake was greedy I switched to some local Icelandic ales on recommendation from the staff behind the bar, who, coincidentally, were incredibly friendly. I genuinely loved this place and honestly I can't recommend you go enough. 

Icelandic Fish and Chips

Breaking up the burgers is the Icelanders take on fish and chips. Although I saw so many fish and chip restaurants in Iceland I genuinely don't know who invented them anymore, was it really the UK? Google can't tell me. This one in particular, I'd heard good things about. Upon our visit it was quite late in the afternoon but still a bit early for dinner. We sat down next to another traveler and got chatting about places we'd loved in Reykjavik, her artist son and the best graffiti in town. We ordered the Ling with paprika onion rings and a mango superfood salad (they have superfood in Iceland? You bet they do Bloggerico) with two dipping sauces made with Skyr, basil and coriander. The dipping sauces with the deep fried ling and crispy tempura paprika onion rings were heavenly together. I probably ate half the bowl of onion rings before I remembered we were sharing. We savoured the mango salad having not had much fresh fruit. Overall not your average British fish and chippy, but something a lot more tasty.

Prikið (Prikid)

Prikid is the oldest cafe in Reykjavik. It's been open for over 60 years but inside it's the ultimate hipster hangout. Dark leather booths, wooden clad walls, hip hop pumping from the speakers, there's a girl and a guy at the bar producing her single, this place is seriously cool. Not being the hippest gal in the world I'd be in danger of feeling really intimidated except the atmosphere is totally relaxed and the staff friendly. We grabbed two burgers one with blue cheese and jam (put jam on my burger everyday) another with béchamel sauce and bacon. Both are delicious, but I think my jam burger just beats Dan's (GIVE ME ALL THE JAM) the fries are crispy and there's a touch of sugary salt on the sweet potato fries an American fave that I am totally behind. We chilled out while it threatened to snow outside, opting to drink Swiss Mochas and soak up some of the Prikid's cool vibes.

Eating Out Like The Fancy Pants That You Are

Want a banquet of tasting dishes for less than £70 per head, look no further.

Fiskmarkaðurinn (Fish Market)

The first of our two taster menus in Iceland, I'd read so much about the Fish Market before we went. The sister restaurant to the Grill Market famous for it's meaty dishes, the Fish Market focuses on seafood (the name kinda gives it away) with some Japanese influence. As I said previously, we didn't want to eat any endangered animals so we asked if we could swap the puffin and whale  courses on the taster menu for something else. Without any issue these dishes were changed to tempura rock shrimp with a jalapeño dressing and melon, and a dish of grilled mountain lamb with Jerusalem artichokes, confit of lamb shank, pickled beetroot and fried mushrooms. Before I tell you how much we loved our replacement dishes let's talk cocktails...and, more importantly, whipped butter. What can I say about whipped butter (it's life changing), it's softer, creamier and sweeter than normal butter and four times more delicious, it's almost like clotted cream. They bought it out at the beginning with some delicious raisin rolls and my Lord it set the meal off right. We opted for cocktails as wine is super expensive in Iceland and cocktails are yummy. Can I just say, this restaurant is beautiful, we started with a drink upstairs in the red velvet seated area with it's tree trunk tables and golden accents, and ate downstairs in a dark almost rainforest esque urban dining room. Honestly it's possibly one of the nicest looking restaurants I've ever eaten in. The spacing between the tables was perfect, definitely a very intimate venue (why are you talking about table spacing? I don't know. You're gushing. God I am).

The courses are all served on sharing plates and they came out often two at a time. Bread was followed by Arctic char, cooked perfectly served with an edamame purée and cauliflower, delicious bar the dried cod fluff which covered the dish like snow whose texture I found a little unpleasant. Crispy fried baby squid rings with an oaty crumb were succulent served with a refreshing chilli and lime dipping sauce, I could of eaten a whole bowl to myself. Then our replacement vivid red rock shrimp tempura with jalapeño dressing and melon arrived. This was my favourite dish of the night, the flavours were right up my street, aka fusion Japanese food, it was fresh, spicy, zingy and oh so good. Dan and I fought over the tempura shrimp to the very end. The Icelandic national dish (sorta, I mean it is served EVERYWHERE) of Langoustine soup with mussels was rich and sweet, with the most dramatic dry ice presentation. Definitely the prettiest presented soup I've ever eaten. Beginning to feel rather full a plate of sushi arrived, scallop sashimi was delicate and sweet while Salmon volcano rolls were decent. This was followed by Robata grilled salmon, probably my least favourite dish of the night as I'm not a fan of cooked salmon, but it was very refreshing served with a fennel and apple salad with crispy fried lotus root. Then came a dish (yeah there's more) that changed my perception on what's good to eat. Lightly salted cod, served with lime zest, cranberries, potato purée and celery salad had me so confused it just sounded so wrong together, but when I ate all worked! It was creamy but sweet, with perfectly cooked flakey cod, absolutely delicious! Our final savoury dish was the grilled mountain lamb with lamb shank, this is probably one of the best lamb dishes I've ever eaten. It was so rich from the lamb and the wild woody mushrooms but this was all lifted by the pickled beetroot and accompanied by a deliciously dark almost chocolatey sauce, which was so delicious Dan and I, fully stuffed at this point, found our second stomachs to polish off this dish.
The final final final dish of the night was a dessert platter. Covered with fresh fruit, we devoured all of the fruit before even touching any of the dishes, things I'd normally shun like melon went down the hatch in my excitement to eat more fruit. Of the actual desserts, there was a delicious bowl of sweet white chocolate cheesecake with a popped rice crumb and passion fruit, pineapple and vanilla ice cream, raspberry sorbet, a chocolate fondant cake filled with gooey caramel, and a licorice and raspberry lava cake which erupted with dry ice. By far my favourite, fruit aside, was the cheesecake, it was so yummy this also went into my second stomach alongside the pineapple and rapsberry sorbets. For me the chocolate cake, although delicious in flavour, was a little heavy for the end of such a big meal. Similar feelings were held about the lava cake whose moussey texture and strong licorice flavour didn't sit well with me at the end of what quite honestly was a banquet.

At a total of 11,400ISK (£64.50 to my British friends) per person this is one of the most reasonable priced tasting menus I've ever had. Especially when you think it's for 9 very substantial courses! It may be fine dining but the food is not fine dining sized. If you like fusion food and fresh, clean Japanese flavours

Sjávargrillið (Seafood Grill)

We weren't planning on going out for two fancy dinners in Reykjavik. But on our final night and because we'd walked past it all week we last minute decided to go for dinner at the Seafood Grill. When we got there  we decided to go for the Grill Party menu. A taster menu that promises to leave no one hungry while showcasing Iceland's best produce. Again we asked to forgo any whale or puffin, which was no problem. My favourite thing about this night was that they mistook us for being Icelanders which pretty much made my whole trip. I felt like by mistakenly being called an Icelander they thought we were a cool hip couple, which obviously we are but hell yes to being Icelandic! Plus the staff were super friendly and they really made you feel at home.

Anyway again we ditched the wine for cocktails, I opted for a salt and pepper based gin cocktail which was definitely a new one for my tastebuds but not unenjoyable, while Dan obviously went for the most girly looking drink on the menu, served in a Devil style glass this was sweet from the berries but tasted like you'd made it in the woods with pine essence, absolutely delicious. Whipped butter, liquorice flavoured bread, and a small appetiser of raw scallop and dill (not pictured) kicked off the meal nicely. Followed by the traditional langoustine soup with mussels, although it didn't have as dramatic presentation as at the Fish Market I did enjoy this version more it was rich, tomatoey and really smooth. Served alongside this was a dish of fatty pork belly and sweet langoustine, served with a rich and sweet langoustine sauce and topped with a delicious bechamel sauce (yeah we're double saucing) and a flavoursome ash, it was my favourite dish of the evening. Cured actic char with horseradish skyr and microherbs was a refreshing change to the first two rich dishes. Next up was our least favourite dish, shag or cormorant as it's commonly known was smoked and served with blueberries and a blueberry sorbet, truffle, Ísbúi cheese and crispy rye bread. On paper it sounds delicious, but cormorant is a fish eating bird and we just couldn't get over the fishy meaty taste. We're just not used to eating seabirds in the UK, for me this dish would have been perfect with some venison or duck. A dish of code with leek ash and leeks. with dil oil and herbs, and a saffron sauce was meaty, fragrant and some of the best cod I've ever had, the portion itself was huge. Next up, rump steak with potato puree, roast shallots, dill oil and a red wine reduction was tender and overall good, but maybe could lose the dill. Next to this was a grilled portion of mountain lamb served on a hot coal bbq, which had really nice flavour and made a change to all the saucy dishes.

Maybe one of the reasons why I really liked Seafood Grill was the double desserts. First up dill sorbet, white chocolate mousse with white chocolate shards, oaty crumble, raspberries and raspberry coulis was refreshing and sweet all at the same time, which was an absolute win. Followed by vanilla creme brulee, strawberry sorbet and sorrel granita, wild strawberries and cream was beautiful. I love creme brulee, I think it's a family thing or at least it runs in the maternal side of my family tree.
 Overall at 9900ISK (£56.20) per person if you are looking for a fancy way to end your trip in Reykjavik this is definitely one for you, definitely look it up for a more relaxed fancy dinner.

So that's it that's the full review of what we ate out in Iceland, I hope you enjoyed it, let's end on a high with a picture of a Swiss Mocha. Ohhhhhh Swiss Mochas, take me now!

Woah that was a long post. How was it for you? And now all I want is a Swiss Mocha, if you didn't get that from my last sentence. I literally can't wait to go back to Reykjavik, it's made but we're already planning our next Iceland exploration. Wooo yeah! Iceland! But before that we're heading to Edinburgh in a couple of weeks and I am so excited to stay with some of my friends from uni. It'll be the first time we've seen each other in a couple of years so it'll be great to catch up and just chill out exploring the city. So if anyone has any suggestions on where to go in Edinburgh drop me a comment below. I really want to visit The Kitchin, and Scran and Scallie, also Love Crumbs have been teasing me for over a year with their Instagram account full of all my dream cakes. I literally have a list on my phone of at least ten places in Edinburgh, and you don't want to see my London Brunch List (it's delicious looking). Speaking of coffee. Wait, when were we speaking of coffee? Well you mentioned brunch. Oh right. So speaking of coffee, if anyone knows where to get a Swiss Mocha in London let me know ASAP. Till then, I'll be here, chilling, dreaming of Swiss Mochas, burgers and langoustine soup!


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