Iceland’s capital Reykjavik has established itself as a premier dining destinations, offering everything from contemporary Icelandic cuisine and French brasserie fare to quirky coffeehouses and tasty hot dog stand grub. Here’s a list of 10 of the best eating spots to try.
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, which translates to English as ‘the best hot dog in town’, has been serving hungry Reykjavik natives since 1937. It is the perfect spot for diners looking for an affordable, quick and tasty bite to eat as they explore the city. While perhaps a dish more associated with Germany or the USA, Icelanders actually love their hot dogs and Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur – dubbed by the Guardian as the best in Europe – is the place to sample the Icelandic incarnation of the hot dog. Here, they are made with combination of pork, beef and lamb.
Opened in summer 2011 by two of Iceland’s most talented chefs, Hrefna Rósa Sætren and Guđlaugur P. Frímannsson, Grillmarkađurinn resides in the beautifully reconstructed art nouveau Nýja Bíó, which was destroyed by fire in 1998. The restaurant’s smart, contemporary dining room is inspired by Iceland’s natural elements of rock, water and wood. Meanwhile, its lower-floor lounge area offers a relaxed ambience to enjoy a drink. Using locally sourced, seasonal Icelandic ingredients, Grillmarkađurinn serves appetizers like the adventurous whale, puffin and lobster mini burgers.
One of Fiskfelagid's signature dishes | Courtesy Fiskfelagid
Located in the cosy basement level of the historic Zimsen Building, which dates back to 1884 and is situated in the shadow of a quaint bridge is Fiskfélagiđ. This restaurant’s varied menu showcases Iceland’s world-class seafood. Offering traditional Icelandic dishes and fish recipes from across the globe, guests can opt for the Fiji-inspired starter of coconut fish soup with langoustine. Or they can choose grilled monkfish, coconut jelly and Icelandic seaweed, or the Brazilian main of salted cod and scallops with sweet potatoes, olive marmalade, baked garlic paste and olive crisps. Finish with an Icelandic dessert of skyr mousse with lemon marshmallows, licorice sauce, sorbet and licorice sponge cake.
A firm fixture on Reykjavik’s dining scene since it first opened its doors in 1965, the Gallery Restaurant is situated within the arty boutique Hotel Holt. Home to the hotel’s most impressive pieces from its art collection, it includes works by Icelandic artists such as Jón Stefánsson and Ásmundur Sveinsson. Offering an impeccable fine-dining experience, the restaurant kitchen is overseen by owner and executive chef Friðgeir Ingi Eiríksson. Impressively, he represented Iceland in the 2007 international culinary competition Bocuse d’Or. For the restaurant creates innovative Icelandic dishes such as the horse carpaccio with salt-crusted celery and duck liver mousse.
MAR Restaurant enjoys a prime location in Reykjavik’s scenic Old Harbour and is housed in a particularly interesting building, Hafnarbúðir. This was constructed in the 1960s with the specific purpose of providing a restaurant and accommodation for fisherman. Updated since then, MAR’s interior was visualized by the Reykjavik-based designers Hafsteinn Júlíusson and Karitas Sveinsdóttir in a style faithful to the area’s old harbor houses. The restaurant also features artwork from Icelandic graphic designer Siggi Odds and crockery designed by Guðný Hafsteinsdóttir. Specializing in seafood that incorporates a range of international flavors, MAR offers dishes like the salted cod with zucchini, rucola and plum jam. A Typical Meal at MAR | Courtesy MAR Restaurant
Situated on the revolving top floor of Perlan, the city’s striking glass dome structure located atop of Oskjuhlio hill, Perlan Restaurant offers guests stunning panoramic views of Reykjavik in all its glory. Cited by Modern Times as one of 12 Places to See Before You Die and by Travel And Leisure as one of the World’s Top Revolving Restaurants, Perlan provides an exquisite setting. Here, you can enjoy head chef Stefán Eli Stefánsson’s choice of a la carte or four-course seasonal menus. Try the cream of lobster soup starter followed by an entrée of crispy chicken breast served with spinach, bacon and cream cheese. An Exterior view of Perlan | Courtesy Perlan
Sjávargrilliđ, which translates as ‘seafood grill’, is a concept from acclaimed chef Gústav Axel Gunnlaugsson – the talented winner of the Icelandic Chef of the Year award in 2010 and a native of the beautiful fishing village Húsavik. Gunnlaugsson travelled the length and breadth of Iceland seeking local inspiration for his creative menu. The results showcase the bounty of the island’s seafood as well as providing a number of meat and vegetarian options too. The cosy, ambient restaurant is the perfect place to try dishes such as salted cod and slow-cooked beef cheeks with tomato, yellow beets, potato and onion.
Offering tasty tapas-style dishes based on local ingredients and Icelandic recipes, Foréttabarinn, or ‘the starters bar’, is the perfect destination for a night of innovative cuisine in a vibrant, laid-back atmosphere. Located in a smart building close to the harbor, the restaurant has an exterior which features a beautiful wave-like mural – a nod to its location. Inside, the interior marries rustic wood with contemporary elements like minimalist white walls and stylish, understated lighting. Dine on dishes like terrine of venison with cinnamon apple chutney and pickled red cabbage. For drinks, sample Foréttabarinn’s extensive range of local Icelandic beers or wines from across the globe. Image courtesy of Kol kitchen and Bar
Classic international dishes are given a comfort food twist at Kol Kitchen and Bar – a stylish, welcoming and popular restaurant established in early 2014. Situated over two floors, the spacious venue has an open kitchen and cosy dining space with leather couches and warm lighting. This is complemented by furniture designed by British design firm Tom Dixon and art from Icelandic artist María Inga Brynjarsdóttir. Head chefs Einar Hjaltason and Kári Porsteinsson bring more than 20 years’ experience working at Reykjavik’s top restaurants, cooking up innovative yet comforting dishes like the wolf fish, served with escabeche vegetables, mashed potatoes and a smooth parmesan velouté.