Located where the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans meet, Iceland is a Nordic European island nation best known for its stunning volcanoes, glaciers and waterfall-spotted landscapes.
For years, tourists have been flying to Iceland to experience an up-close-and-personal encounter with Mother Nature. But these days, a growing number of adventurers are putting down their ice picks and hiking boots to explore the capital’s cutting-edge restaurants with fork and knife.
This past April, I found myself running around Reykjavik in an attempt to uncover the destination’s most celebrated offerings. I was thrilled to discover a city offering uniquely playful Scandinavian haute cuisine worth tapping in to.
Top Reykjavik Restaurants
The Laundromat Café is a local favourite for weekend brunching. Located in the heart of the city, this Danish café import is filled with more than 6,000 books, loads of magazines, newspapers and board games to keep you busy from your first sip of espresso to last crunch of bacon.
The restaurant hilariously offers a Clean (vegetarian) and Dirty (meat lovers) brunch plate, both of which include Icelandic Stori Dimon cheese and Skyr (a local strained yogurt) with muesli.
Fish Company is located just under a wee bridge in the heart of downtown Reykjavik. The kitchen offers an adventurous journey around the world while the restaurant’s playful décor is filled with colourful antiques and, of all things, a glowing moose head.
At Fish Company, each dish on the menu is noted by its country of inspiration and an ingredient predominantly featured on the plate. I will never forget my experience devouring “New Guinea: Pumpkin,” featuring winter salad, spinach and ruccola, confit tomato, parmesan and pine nut, passion fruit gelato and mango salsa. Never had I encountered a chef who was daring enough to plop a scoop of gelato on top of a salad!
Grill Market is a trendy fine dining restaurant that offers a crisp and cool Scandinavian aesthetic. The bar downstairs fills to the brim in the evening while the open-concept grill kitchen gives flame throwers a run for their money.
Savoury highlights include grilled cob of corn slathered with Icelandic butter and sprinkled with volcanic ash, as well as Angelica Lamb from Halla At Ytri Fagridadlur with red onion and lime. A memorable sweet finish included a heaping portion of Hnallpora cake featuring pear, pistachio and vanilla cream.
Icelandic Bar: the name doesn’t get any more self-explanatory than that! Pop in for a visit if you are looking to sample traditional Icelandic fare and sip on a few of Iceland’s craft beers.
Highlights include two appetizers served in mason jars featuring lobster and a sweet muddling of cheese and berries. Iceland is famous for its lamb and smoked delicacies, so I was sure to order the smoked lamb carpaccio, which was adorned with dollops of apple sauce, beet and hazelnut crunch.
Kolabrautin is perhaps one of the most stunning restaurants I have ever visited. Located within the city’s famed Harpa centre, this architectural marvel has become a landmark within the city for its magical shape-shifting colour schemes and honeycomb exterior. Kolabrautin’s dining room sits on the fourth floor, overlooking Reykjavik Harbour—a perfect spot to enjoy a romantic meal as the sun sets over the Arctic Ocean.
Kolabrautin is synonymous with culinary creativity. The bar offers an always-evolving cocktail list while the kitchen connects local producers, flavours of the season and a Scandinavian sensibility to each plate. I was blown away by the presentation of the simply stated “Beef and Veal,” which features rib eye, sausage, mushrooms, pasta, potato and parsnip. The chef visited tableside to create his iconic Kaffi Og Rjomaostur dessert, which is assembled on a wooden board and takes on the appearance of a volcano and glacier-filled Icelandic landscape (with the help of mascarpone, crispy cocoa, cinnamon and coffee cake and coffee ice cream).