Originally based on the restrictions of a rocky island, isolated in the North Atlantic trying to survive winter, Iceland’s cuisine has made several strides from basic preparations of lamb, whale, puffin, and cod over the past few centuries. With no looming shoes to fill in terms of gastronomy – as other European countries have – chefs are free to be their own creative masters by combining artisanal local ingredients and a bit of tradition with all kinds of global twists. Here are the restaurants dotted across the island, not only in Reykjavik, to get the most mouthwatering dishes.
Við Fjöruborðið translates to ‘at the seashore’ in Icelandic – a very fitting name, as you can find a great selection of seafood here, most notably the langostino lobster bisque, which is probably the most famous in all of Iceland. The village of Stokkseyri (population 445), once an important trading and fishing center, is now mostly a tourist destination and is known for its beautiful seashore and bustling bird life. If you are on your way from Reykjavik to Vik, this small restaurant by the shore is definitely worth a visit – just remember to make a reservation ahead of time.
Hotel Restaurant, Restaurant, Seafood, European, $$$
Char dish | Courtesy of Eldey Restaurant
Eldey Restaurant opened in 2014, along with the hotel in which it is housed, Hotel Laxá. The chef puts an emphasis on the Mývatn region’s unique offerings and local products. The Arctic char comes from the nearby fishing village of Húsavik, while the lamb and beef come from farms in the North. The vegetables are grown in the geothermal heated greenhouses of Hveravellir.
Bistro, Restaurant, Bar, Brasserie, European, Northern European, $$$
Snaps Bistro serves French-inflected cuisine | Courtesy of Snaps Bistro
This bar is located in a quiet, picturesque neighborhood that is home to many. The cozy atmosphere, complete with low lighting, hanging plants, and large windows, is one of the most memorable in Reykjavik. If you want a quiet evening with friends in a sleek, cool environment, go here and check out the gin and tonic menu. They also offer a range of French brasserie-style dishes such as moules marinières, prepared with mussels harvested at Breidafjordur, and French onion soup, made with Icelandic Isbui cheese.
While not what you would exactly seek out on your trip to Iceland, this is a legendary place when it comes to Indian cuisine. For over 20 years this somewhat hidden gem has been serving the perfect blend of Indian spice and Icelandic ingredients in downtown Reykjavík. The atmosphere is warm and genuine, lacking pretension, and the interior decoration could transport you to another continent altogether. If your palette calls for more spice during your trip, this is where to find it.
Inside an old wooden house next to the Heritage Museum amid the backdrop of the steep fjords of Ísafjörður, Tjöruhúsið is a great option when visiting the Westfjörds. However, they are only open during Easter and summer, offering outdoor seating and occasionally live music. The various catches of the day come fresh off the boats from the harbor close by, and their large portions come served in a hot skillet.
Located in the capital of the North, Akureyri, this seafood restaurant at the harbor offers a great ocean view. Specializing in locally caught seafood, the most popular course is the pan-fried catch of the day. At Örkin Hans Nóa, all fish dishes are served straight from a pan dish, and you can enjoy local art on the walls and a great selection of local beers on tap.
This is the first Icelandic restaurant to receive a Michelin star. The small restaurant, seating 20-30 people, holds great personality. Every week a new seven-course menu with wine pairings is arranged, using a mixture of traditional Nordic and Icelandic culinary roots with a modern twist. The head chefs, Gunnar Karl Gíslason and Ólafur Örn Ólafsson, are the pioneering creatives behind the restaurant. Enjoy a large selection of wines available by the glass, which changes often.