5 posts tagged reykjavík
I’m not a religious person. If I was though, this is where I would come. Hallgrímskirkja is a remarkable building.
Postcard From Iceland
It’s been just over a month since my visit to Iceland. With the land of fire and ice back in the news again, I thought it appropriate (mostly since I haven’t done so yet) to post a few photos from my trip and to direct you to see the full set of photos on Flickr.
You’ve heard of the saying, “When in Rome,” right? Well, when I was in Rome recently, I decided to eat like the Romans. When I say Rome of course, I mean Reykjavík and when I say Romans, I mean Icelandic people. It sounds odd I know, but it’s a metaphor, so you have to… ahhh, I can’t be bothered to explain it.
On my first night in Reykjavík, I decided to splash out on some fine-dining Icelandic cuisine. I couldn’t decide whether to go for the lamb, or the puffin, or the seafood, so I went for the whole lot, Tapas-style. My “Icelandic Feast” consisted of the following;
Smoked Puffin with Blueberry “Brennivín” Sauce
When I tell people I’ve eaten Puffin, I’ve mostly been met with frowns. But they don’t know how good it tastes. The shredded Puffin I had was dense and meaty. The main flavour was quite fishy but it was also quite gamey. I actually mistook the sauce for a plum sauce, such was the similarity. It complemented the puffin perfectly. I could have eaten more of it, but alas, I only had a sampler.
Baked Lobster Tails in Garlic Butter
Man, these were good! They came to the table fizzing in the garlic oil. The meat was surprisingly delicate and tasted sumptuous. I could have eaten about 20 of them.
Grilled Icelandic Lamb Samfaina
No, I don’t know what Samfaina is either. All I know is it’s good. I’ve never had lamb before (crazy, huh?), so I approached this with caution. I needn’t have. It was great! The meat was tough, but juicy and chewy. I really enjoyed it. I can’t say I’ll be eating it more often though. I’m just not a red meat kind-of guy.
Icelandic Sea Trout with Red Pepper Salsa
The fish was deliciously light and moist. It was a lot like salmon. The skin was cooked to perfection and added a nice crunch. I even liked the pepper salsa, even though I’m not a great fan of pepper.
Pan-Fried Monkfish with Lobster Sauce
A lovely, dense fillet of fish with a delicate, meaty flavour. The sauce was rich and creamy.
Minke Whale with Cranberry Sauce
Hmmmm. Nah. I really couldn’t bring myself to eat this. I didn’t even arrive at the table. I made an early substitution for;
Pan fried Salt Fish with Mashed Sweet Potato
What a choice! This was easily my favourite dish. I could have quite happily eaten a full serving of the mash on it’s own. It was so creamy and sweet! The salt fish was barely cooked (in a good way). It was so moist, so dense, so incredibly delicious. I loved it.
Chocolate Cake with a Berry Compote and Fresh Whipped Cream
I had just enough rook for pudding, And thank goodness I did, for it was worth making room for. Like most of the main courses, the cake was very dense. There’s no other word to describe it. It was like a thick slice of tort. It also came with a strawberry, another weird berry and a swirl of delicious, rich custard. Awesome!
The meal was served with an entire loaf of sliced bread with masses of Spanish-style Tapanades and a jug of water. It was also served with a shot of Brennivín, also known as svarti dauði (“black death”). The name literally translates in English as ‘burning wine’. And boy, did it burn! I wanted to cough after downing it, but couldn’t muster the energy to do so, such was the burning, so instead I noisily exhaled. Seriously, it nearly killed me. Never again!
Was the whole meal worth £30. Just. I obviously would have liked it to have been cheaper, but I went knowing it was that much and happily paid up at the end of the meal. The food was cooked to perfection and beautifully presented. Service was friendly, professional and very quick. The atmosphere in the restaurant was moody and unique. It was an experience I’m glad I had. And that’s what life is all about, right? So £30 is a drop in the ocean.
Next time you’re in Reykjavík, eat out at Tapas Barinn. It’s a great way to celebrate your arrival in one of the world’s coolest places.
Reykjavík is a great place to eat. Gone are the days when absolutely everything was ludicrously expensive. Now, you can sample Icelandic cuisine and world cuisine with an Icelandic twist without a second mortgage. Here’s where I chose to eat.
Saegreifinn - The Sea Baron
A great little place that’s full of character. To be found on the dock of the Old Harbour, Saegreifinn sells reasonably priced, fresh seafood. They’re best known for their Lobster Soup served with bread (around Kr1000 / £5.00) and their fish skewers (around Kr 1800 / £9.00) which you can select from the open fridges. Once you’ve ordered, take a seat on a barrel at one of the long communal tables, eavesdrop on the conversation and gaze around at the clutter of nautical decorations. Within a few minutes, your food will be brought to you. Saegreifinn is not only popular with tourists, but popular with locals who come in and buy large packs of dried fish fillets. This isn’t the best cuisine in town, but it’s fresh, tasty, reasonably priced and served in a very unique atmosphere. Its well worth a visit.
This is a great little place for travellers on a budget or those that know a good pizza when they eat it. Eldsmidjan is just outside the city centre in a residential area. It’s a five minute walk away from Hotel Leifur Ericsson. The first thing you notice as you walk in is the heat and wonderful smell from the wood burning oven. The kitchen in front of you is a hive of activity. On the floor is a pile of logs waiting to be tossed into the fire. If you’re taking away, order at the counter at street level. Or, if you want to eat in, go straight upstairs and ask for a table. They make pizzas in three different sizes. A large 16” pizza will set you back around Kr1500-Kr2000 / £7.50-£10.00 , an amazing deal in this expensive city. As a part-Italian, I know an authentic, fresh pizza when I taste it. These were spot on! Don’t forget, as with a lot of Icelandic restaurants, once you’re done, go to the counter (downstairs) to settle the bill. It’s hard to have a bad culinary experience in Reykjavik and Eldsmidjan holds this statement true, but what it also proves is that not everything in Reykjavik is expensive.
If you’re going to splurge on a meal while in Reykjavik (and why not, you only live once) make sure its at Tapas Barinn. Tucked away in the city centre, behind a small wooden door, you’ll find this dark, atmospherically lit, lively restaurant. Indecisive types might have trouble choosing from the menu here; there are over 60 different tapas dishes to try. Prices vary depending on the dish, but are typically around Kr1000 / £5.00. This isn’t particularly great value for what you get. It’s much better value to order one of the set menus although even here, you should expect to pay around Kr5800 / £30.00. Although expensive, I found this to be only slightly over what I’d typically want to pay for such a meal. Prices aside, the food is lovingly crafted, fresh, exciting and delicious. I ordered the Icelandic Feast; six tapas and a desert. This set menu included Whale meat, but I asked whether I could substitute it for something else and my attentive and friendly waitress said, “Of course,” so there’s no need to worry if you’re tempted by a set menu but one or two of the tapas don’t appeal. My favourite tapas was the Puffin with Blueberry sauce and the Saltfish with Sweet Potato Mash, which was the dish I choose in place of the Whale. The chocolate cake desert was a dense and delicious chunk of loveliness. In all, I had a great evening. The food was amazing, the service fast and friendly and the atmosphere fun. Go on, give it a go.
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
You can’t go to Reykjavík and not grab a hot dog from “Europe’s best hot dog stand”. I mean it! Even Bill Clinton sampled one of this delicious snacks when he was last in town. Their sausages are made from a combination of lamb, beef and pork and only the good bits of meat are used. A hot dog costs 280 ISK (about £1.50) and condiments include ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion and remolaði, a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish. I ate four “with everything” in two days. They were that good! For the price, they can’t be beat. And that’s not even mentioning the taste. Perfect for a lunchtime snack, or order five at once for a delicious evening meal.
I’m back from Iceland. Boooooo! It’s never fun coming back to normality after you’ve had an amazing time in a foreign land. Iceland is a truly unique place that I’m glad to have visited and that I hope to go back to sometime.
Its uniqueness is shown in the photo above which you dear reader get to see before it gets released for public view on my Flickr stream. What you’re seeing is a natural occurrence. Hard to believe, right?
I’ve uploaded all 250 photos to Flickr already, but as usual, I’ll be releasing them in batches of 10 or so over the courses of the next couple of weeks. Tagging and describing them all takes time. Coming up here on the blog, there’ll be my hotel review and reviews of all the restaurants and attractions I visited, so follow and subscribe to find out what I got up to.
In the meantime, I’d like to revisit the uneducated assumptions of Iceland that I made before I went to see how right or wrong I was. The first assumption I made was that Iceland is expensive. Well, it is and it isn’t. One of my meals cost £30.00 all in, about £15.00 more than I like to spend. The food was amazing though, so I decided it was just about worth it. So, in that respect, Iceland was expensive. But then, I had no trouble finding things that were about the same price as they are in the UK or even cheaper. Supermarket prices were almost identical to prices in Britain. Clothes seemed to be about the same too. At the other end of the scale, hot dogs are an absolute bargain. In the four days I spent in Iceland, I had four of the best hot dogs I’ve ever had. They were £1.00 each! One night, I had an amazingly authentic and delicious 16” pizza for £7.50. There are bargains to be had in Iceland, but you have to do the research before you go. So, is Iceland expensive? Sort of.
My next assumption was that all Icelandic people are nuts. Wrong. Some of them are. Bjork for example is nuts. The street sweeper who declared his love of Liverpool FC and then sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at me in the street was nuts. But on the whole, Icelandic people are quiet, polite and reserved. I actually found them to be quite ‘British’ in their general mannerisms. I felt comfortable in their presence.
They eat Whale in Iceland. This is an assumption I made that proved to be spot on. I had the option to try some, but I substituted it for Saltfish (a wise choice for it was delicious). The closest I got to Whale meat was seeing it on a skewer in a fish restaurant. It was a very dark red-brown colour. It looked worryingly appetising.
Upon arrival at the airport, I immediately realised my assumption about the Icelandic language as also spot on. There is barely any correlation between the English language and Icelandic. Their word for ‘Police’ is ‘Lögreglan’. See? No correlation. At least in Denmark, their ‘Police’ were called ‘Politi’. I had no problems though, as everyone spoke English. Everything was written in English too. In fact, such was the prominence of the English language that 90% of the magazines and books on sale were in English. The magazines in particular were almost entirely British magazines. I could only find gossip mags and Vogue in Icelandic.
Iceland is an island of amazing natural wonder, so said I. I was correct. The photo above is one example. I have a couple of hundred more for you to see. As I said, keep an eye on Flickr to see them. In short though, Iceland is an arrestingly beautiful place.