Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital, has recently established itself as a haven for food lovers. Taking advantage of its local seafood, meat and game, the city is a prime destination for those wishing to sample New Nordic cuisine.
Restaurant, Northern European, $$$
DILL Restaurant opened in 2009 and serves New Nordic fare, a cuisine that promotes local food cultures and seasonal ingredients. The brainchild of chef Gunnar Karl Gislason and sommelier Ólafur Örn Ólafsson, DILL is conveniently located in the city centre. Guests can expect classic Nordic ingredients with a contemporary twist, such as meatballs and plokkfiskur, a hearty fish stew. The dinner menu changes weekly with seven courses available, as well as the option of a matching wine menu. In 2017, DILL was awarded Iceland’s first-ever Michelin star.
Grillmarkadurinn, or The Grill Market, resides in a faithful reconstruction of Reykjavik’s Art Nouveau Nyja Bio (New Cinema) that stood on the restaurant’s location from 1920 until 1998 when it was destroyed by a fire. Grillmarkadurinn’s artistic and luxurious design, based on Icelandic elements like rock and water, provides a modern but comfortable setting, while its elegant lounge area offers a range of cocktails and wines. Top Icelandic chefs Hrefna Rósa Sætran and Gudlaugur Frimannsson serve up a range of grilled meat, fish and game dishes. Those with an adventurous palate might like to sample the grilled puffin.
A trip to Reykjavik wouldn’t be complete without sampling some of Iceland’s world-class seafood. Fiskfelagid, a cosy restaurant in the basement of the Zimsen building, serves not only Icelandic seafood but also fish dishes from across the globe. The historic Zimsen building dates back to 1884 and was originally located a couple of streets away before it was moved to its current location underneath a quaint bridge. While the building was undergoing renovation, part of Reykjavik’s old harbour was unearthed and transformed into a work of art within the restaurant grounds by local artist Hjörleifur Stefánsson. Patrons can relax in Fiskfelagid’s comfortable booths while snacking on reindeer carpaccio, or slowly cooked arctic char and fried Icelandic giant scallop.
Snaps Bistro serves French-inflected cuisine | Courtesy of Snaps Bistro
Snaps is a French-Icelandic establishment with low-lighting, hanging plants and large windows, making it one of the most memorable atmospheres in Reykjavik. If you want a quiet evening with friends in a sleek, cool environment, go here and check out the extensive gin and tonic menu, their specialty. Downstairs you’ll find a hidden bar and lounge, equally worth a visit.
Restaurant, Fast Food, North American, Street Food
For an affordable, quick and tasty snack, look no further than Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, a harbourside hot dog stand in downtown Reykjavik. Ever since 1937, the stand has been serving the Icelandic incarnation of the hot dog, made with a combination of pork, beef and lamb. The stand has become a staple feature of runtur, Reykjavik’s weekend revelry. For an authentic Icelandic experience, go for a hot dog with eina med ollu, or ‘the works’: ketchup, sweet mustard, raw and fried onions and remoulade. Famous Baejarins Beztu patrons include former US president Bill Clinton and James Hetfield of Metallica fame.
Just a short walk from the main square in Reykjavik’s Old Town and the Icelandic parliament is Skolabru, a contemporary restaurant serving Icelandic cuisine with Mediterranean influences. Skolabru is located in a large, traditional house that was built in 1907. Try the seawolf with mango, chilli and ginger sauce or the roasted duck, followed by the popular chocolate soufflé.
Perlan, the striking glass dome structure situated on Öskjuhlíð hill, is one of the city’s most recognisable buildings. Over 176,000 trees have been planted on the hillside surrounding Perlan, creating a rare woodland setting in urban Reykjavik, complete with bicycle and walking paths. Its restaurant, Út í bláinn (which means “Into the blue”), sits on a revolving floor on top of the city’s hot-water storage tanks and provides breathtaking 360-degree views of Reykjavik. Head chef Atli Þór Erlendsson was a member of the National Icelandic Culinary team and was named chef of the year in 2015. On Út í bláinn’s traditional menu, the focus is on seasonal ingredients and modern Icelandic flavours.