Eating and drinking in Iceland

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)

Amuse bouche -beef tartare

Amuse bouche -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.

Rolled Arctic charr, scallop, prawn, sorrell mayonaise, baked apple puree, beer bread, hot mussel lobster sauce

Rolled Arctic charr, scallop, prawn, sorrell mayonaise, baked apple puree, beer bread, hot mussel lobster sauce

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.

Skate, cumin dooughnut, vodkaspera, crab salad (not shown), smoked turnip paste & noisette, vodka sorrell foam

Skate, cumin dooughnut, vodkaspera, crab salad (not shown), smoked turnip paste & noisette, vodka sorrell foam

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.

Soft shell crab sushi

Soft shell crab sushi

Tempura fried prawn & beef Anticuchos

Tempura fried prawn & beef Anticuchos

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Iceland – Our top five check-ins

FEB 14 2013

The main reason we visited Iceland.

The main reason we visited Iceland! To see them be prepared for an expedition. Wrap up warm and drive as far away from the street lights as possible. We left reykjavik at 11pm, heading to deepest Krisuvik with some Maltesers (!) along a dirt track that could only be describled as like being on the surface of the moon. Although you can’t see what you are driving on, try and look out for the frozen lakes..One of my most scariest experiences, except for skidoo-ing. But lets not go there. Then sit and wait and wait. The best time to see them is between 9pm and 3am on a very clear night which we had. February 2013 was apparently the best year in 12 years. So we were set. But I still don’t think the night we went was a particularly good night to see them unless all the photo’s you’ve ever seen are doctored and on a very long exposure. They weren’t exactly dancing like the images we’ve seen. I’m now thinking that is all time lapse. I heard they were good in Norway that week. Nice one..But Good luck anyway!

Part of the Golden circle. One of my top 5 must see spots.
Geysir. Part of the Golden circle. One of my top 5 must see spots. Geysir shop is lovely too.Obviously a huge tourist trap but I was pleased to see the same shop in Reykjavik was no cheaper after I had an accidental spend. Don’t forget to get the envelope for your duty free at the airport. Very exciting getting money back at the end of the holiday.

Vik Southern IcelandThe Black beach of Dyrholaey Vik Hope you get better weather than we did but being the most southernly tip of Iceland it’s possible you won’t. But exhilarating none the less  and some extreme sand for my collection :0)The blue LagoonThe Blue Lagoon.http://www.bluelagoon.com/ Everyone seems to do this on the way to or from the airport. Great plan. About 3 hours is a good length of time to mooch about in the sulphurous blue water and cover yourself in mud.P1110399Fontana .http://www.fontana.is/ Quite a new beautifully designed geothermal baths next to a freezing picturesque lake. Off peak when we went so no one else there possibly also due to the fact that it was  -2. Three different temperature pools, sauna and a steam room tapping into the bubbling natural springs below just don’t think about what could happen if the floor collapsed.

 

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Dill Restaurant – Iceland

dill restaurant, canapes, celery root crisps, skyr butter, fennel seed salt

dill restaurant, canapes, celery root crisps, skyr butter, fennel seed salt

Cauliflower, beef fat, horseradish

Cauliflower, beef fat, horseradish

Last year's duck, dried buttermilk, parsnip

Last year’s duck, dried buttermilk, parsnip

Malt bread, milk bread, spruce oil butter, blood butter, buttermilk and apple vinegar butter

Malt bread, milk bread, spruce oil butter, blood butter, buttermilk and apple vinegar butter

Plating the onion/potato dish

Plating the onion/potato dish

Potato, onion, grill oilPotato, onion, grill oil

Rutabaga puree, raw rutabaga, salted cod from Elvar Reykjalin, dill, dill snow

Rutabaga puree, raw rutabaga, salted cod from Elvar Reykjalin, dill, dill snow

Arctic char, lightly cured and cooked, fennel jam, herb cream

Arctic char, lightly cured and cooked, fennel jam, herb cream

Lamb shank, root vegetables, pickled mushrooms

Lamb shank, root vegetables, pickled mushrooms

Lamb fillet, lamb fat, Jerusalem artichoke puree, Arctic thyme

Lamb fillet, lamb fat, Jerusalem artichoke puree, Arctic thyme

Apples, Myrkvi from Borg, caramel, granola

Apples, Myrkvi from Borg, caramel, granola

www.dillrestaurant.is

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