The Great Icelandic Culinary Adventure

In this article the focus is on the countryside and the diamonds out there, places worth putting a red cross next to for a great culinary experience
May 23, 2018
Kári Gunnlaugsson

“You know something is happening but you don´t know what it is”, sang the great bard and the phrase pretty well describes the phenomenon that is modern Icelandic cuisine. With little or no tradition to speak of, access to a wide selection of quality local ingredients and a few very serious chefs hell bent on making their own culinary history. Just last year the first Michelin star to arrive in Iceland found its home in downtown Reykjavik restaurant Dill. And there are in fact a handful of restaurants contributing to the city´s growing reputation as a foodie destination. However, in this article the focus is on the countryside and some of the diamonds out there, places worth putting a red cross next to for a great culinary experience. There are of course many other places out there but these are simply a few picked out for being extraordinary.

Going clockwise heading north from Reykjavik. About an hour out is Borgarnes and in the settlement museum (which is great destination in itself for a bit of viking history) there is a lovely restaurant with emphasis on the freshest locally sourced ingredients. An excellent choice for lunch. If you are doing the amazing Snæfelssnes peninsula check out Restaurant Narfeyrarstofa in Stykkismhólmur right next to the harbour. And if your journey takes you to the west fjords then a stop at Restaurant Tjöruhúsið in Ísafjörður would be well worth it for some great seafood. The north has also been checking in with Rub23 and Strikið in Akureyri, also a little further north in Siglufjörður the Restaurant Hannes Boy is a another good stop. Heading further east along the northern coastline a great stop is in Mývatn at the Kaffi Dimmuborgir with a fantastic view of the area. Once you reach the east of Iceland there are a few choices but to name just two truly magnificent foodie destinations then there is the lunch buffet at Skriðuklaustur, one of best locally sourced menus in Iceland plus interesting history, and the incomparable Norðaustur Sushi Bar & Grill in Seyðisfjörður which has been getting some serious international attention and for a good reason too. On the border between east and south lies Höfn which sports the great Restaurant Pakkhús. Driving along the south coast westwards to Reykjavík there some good stops by the roadside but going for the good stuff the two names that come up are the Restaurant at Fosshotel Hnappavellir, and one of our all time favourites Tryggvaskáli in Selfoss which truly a must for any serious foodie exploring the country.

Find out in any given place what their specialties are and of course the Icelandic lamb is a local favorite and pretty much qualifies as being organic after spending most of its time feasting on highland herbs in the midnight sun. Also check out any local seafood, the recepies for langoustine soup/chowder are about as many as there are kitchens in the country and fish should be about as fresh as it gets whether you go for the cod, the wolffish, the monkfish or the flounder. Most lakes, rivers and streams in Iceland have either trout or salmon, so there´s another local ingredient to be aware of.

Maybe the big thing about eating in Iceland in 2018 is the absolute freedom of the chefs from any serious tradition and therefore there is a melting pot of glorious feasting just simmering away with great ideas and amazing dishes.

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