Hot springs and geysers are all well and good, but man cannot live on water alone. Iceland's biggest new attraction is quickly shaping up to be the food scene in its capital. From Mexican flavours to traditional Icelandic specialities, there's a lot to explore. Here Tamara Hinson shares the nine Reykjavik restaurants you ought to put at the top of your hit list.
When you’ve had your fill of local seafood, head to this cosy restaurant for delicious Mexican cuisine and some seriously experimental cocktails, including one inspired by cocoa puffs. Locals flock to Burro for the enormous tacos, fresh ceviche and tapas. If you’re struggling to decide, opt for the tasting menu, which includes the restaurant’s favourite dishes, like the langoustine taco and chimichurri beef fillet.
Fiskfelagid (meaning Fish Company) is regarded as Reykjavik's top seafood restaurant. Although the focus is on local produce, the menu feels truly international. The chefs give every dish a unique twist by adding herbs and spices from all over the world, whether it’s Canadian cinnamon or Estonian thornberry. This isanother restaurant with a fantastic tasting menu. The quirkily-named Around Iceland Extravaganza features dishes named after (and inspired by) various Icelandic towns.
You’ll find Snaps Bistro in the hip neighbourhood of Skolavorduholt, close to the city centre. Dine here for the stunning views over the city and delicious French food with an Icelandic twist. Our favourite dish? French onion soup made with Icelandic cheese, although we’ve also got a soft spot for the mussels, which are harvested at nearby Breidafjordur bay.
This fantastic restaurant can be found on the eighth floor of the Radisson BLU Saga hotel. The head chef, Sigurður Laufdal, learned his trade at the Michelin-starred Geranium restaurant in Copenhagen, so it's hardly surprising to hear you'll need to book well in advance to get a table. It's worth the effort – the circular dining room at Grillid offers breathtaking views over the ocean. The focus here is on traditional food with a modern twist, whether it's the flatbread served with hand-dived scallops and apples preserved in rose vinegar, or the charcoaled meringue seasoned with Sichuan pepper and ginger berries. Sounds weird, but it works.
Iceland isn’t the cheapest destination, but Café Loki is proof that you can enjoy gourmet cuisine without spending a small fortune, and there are plenty of options here for vegetarians and vegans, too. You’ll find this cosy restaurant in downtown Reykjavik, opposite the famous Hallgrímskirkja church, and it’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Expect lots of Icelandic specialities, including fish soup, freshly baked rye bread, plokkfiskur (fish stew) and delicious homemade cakes. Feeling brave? Wash your dinner down with a glass of local (and very potent) schnapps.
Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon – a steaming, sulphurous network of natural hot spring pools – recently opened its own on-site hotel, but it’s the in-house restaurant, Lava, which we’re most excited about. For starters, its built into the side of a cliff, hence the huge, natural lava wall. And then there’s the view – enormous windows overlooking the Blue Lagoon’s pools. The head chefs (including a former winner of Nordic Chef of the Year) are known for their use of local ingredients and unusual flavour combinations – the soup with garlic-marinated langoustine, white chocolate and seaweed being a case in point.
Locals gather over drinks at Skál in Hlemmur Food Hall
Reykjavik's buzzing, beautiful food hall Hlemmur has a wonderfully diverse range of tenants. Our favourites include Braud & Co for delicious baked goods,Jómfrúin for traditional open-faced sandwiches and Ísleifur, where liquid nitrogen is used to creative the smoothest, creamiest ice cream. Locals also head here to stock up on fresh vegetables and to prop up the bar at SKÁL, where you'll find some fantastic local beers and a good wine list.
Locally-sourced ingredients take centre stage at this welcoming of Reykjavik restaurants, which has a fantastically diverse array of dishes on the menu, ranging from steaks and burgers to soups and vegetarian delicacies. The chefs at Grillmarkaðurinn work closely with local farms to source produce. The most popular items on the men being the huge steaks, cooked caveman-style, over an open fire. We also love the decor, which includes vast expanses of wood and lava stone.
Themes can be tricky to pull off when it comes to restaurants, but The Coocoo's Nest does it with aplomb, with regular themed food nights and nightly Italian-themed Happy Hours, when you'll be able to snack on the restaurant's Italian delicacies with an aperitivo-inspired cocktail or two. Our favourite nights are Taco Tuesdays, closely followed by Wednesdays, when the restaurant serves their legendary sourdough pizzas. Fridays and Saturdays are all about Italian food. A word of warning – you can’t make reservations, so be prepared for a short wait.