To Iceland: surrounded by the fertile waters of the North Atlantic, criss-crossed by crystal clear rivers and lakes. Unsurprisingly, the economy (or what’s left of it after an unfortunate foray into the world of international finance) was built on fishing. Reykjavik is built around it’s port and the city’s market and restaurant menus teem with wonderfully fresh, sweet-fleshed coldwater fish. Sounds like fish heaven and our eating plans for our four day visit revolve around fish restaurants.
First night, and after a quick stroll (freezing dash) around Reykjavik’s Lilliputian city centre, we find a table at harbourside chippy with a difference Icelandic Fish and Chips. Draught Gull beer and simple bentwood furniture is the order of the day here. Arctic wolf fish is fried in spelt and barley batter and served with rosemary roast potatoes. Langoustines simply fried with a skyr (cream cheese) tartare sauce on the side. The wolf fish is superb, with moist and meaty white flesh and an earthy crunch to the batter. Langoustines are plentiful and tasty, although some were a little mushy. The accompanying potatoes were probably better earlier on when freshly roasted: a good argument for serving quick fried chipped rather that batch-cooked roast potatoes next to battered fish. A satisfying meal though and some exciting ingredients at only £40 for two people.
The fantastic meal served to us at Dill Restaurant deserves its own section, so please see the separate post.
For our next fish supper we are looking for comfier surroundings. Reykjavik’s highest profile offering is Fish Market. The exhuberant website suggesting a world tour of flavours and ingredients on every plate rings a few alarm bells and we’re after a taste of iceland anyway, so we opt instead for the more sober-sounding Fish Company. These low lit cellars have plenty of atmosphere, particularly in the buzzy main room. Having booked for the wrong month, we enjoy a short wait in the bar while the charming and efficient Tinna arranges another table. Briskly sorted and on with dinner. Short wine list, keenly priced. Lots of Icelandic ingredients on the menu. In fact, an awful lot of ingredients full stop. Uh oh. Our starters of Arctic charr and sushi follow a nondescript amuse bouche (unseasoned and poorly chopped beef tartare)
Fresh, well-made sushi manages to rise above the bits and bobs strewn around it. But the charr sinks into a sea of mousses, sauces, purees, various other seafoods and, inexplicably, green apple.
The main courses take a similar tack. A confusing array of ingredients tumble across vast, acid-bright plates with the flavours of nicely-cooked pieces of cod and skate losing out to rhubarb and (more) green apple respectively. There’s nothing wrong with the technique here, and the place has loads of heart, but raw ingredients this good deserve more respect.
The dessert menu looks equally chaotic so we go for a drink somewhere else. About £100 for two people (which is pretty reasonable considering the amount of effort that went into all those elements).
Kex Bar at 10pm on a Saturday evening is buzzing with a youngish local/international crowd warming up for a night out clubbing. Being inside Reykjavik’s youth hostel hasn’t got in the way of a very cool bar fit out. A well-stocked central bar is surrounded by long wooden tables. White brick-tiled walls, dark squishy-chaired corners and a big outdoor terrace complete the space. Everyone has finished eating once we get there but they look happy.
Sunday hangovers are best served with a visit to Prikid. Hide upstairs all afternoon (best not to be in a hurry -service is ponderous) and take advantage of the nourishing alcohol-laced shakes and juices on the good value British caff/American diner menu before braving the downstairs bar. £15 for two.
A mooch around the Kolaporti flea market by the docks yields a mini farmers market with a few stalls selling Icelandic meat and fish. Some of this is vac packed and so suitcase’able, including chunks of the repugnant hakari (fermented shark). Totally resistable. Instead, we rely on jars of pickled herring and rye bread for our packed lunches.
Sushi Samba Reykjavik is lively and fun, but the cooking and service are both a bit patchy. We waited forty five minutes for any sort of sustenance. However when it arrived, and we’d requested some extra salt, it was pretty tasty.