Iceland’s capital is full of restaurants, bistros and fast food. The other day a tourist from the U.K. told me that Reykjavík is advertised as having an extremely high number of restaurants and bars compared to other Western cities.
And thinking about it, it is actually true. In the past almost eight years that I’ve been living in Reykjavík, a lot of new restaurants have opened their doors. Of course that is no surprise in relation to the increasing number of tourists visiting the country.
In the past couple of weeks, there have been at least two restaurants and two cafes which have opened for business in the downtown area, if not more. For us locals, this is of course exciting as we get to try out new things. After all, Reykjavík is not that big so a new additions in the world of gastronomy are welcome.
The competition is accordingly tough. Usually one can tell pretty fast if an establishment will survive for long or perish.
If you are a food lover, you will definitely not be disappointed as some restaurants here will make your mouth water and your taste buds quiver with delight. On the down side, these pleasures are expensive.
In contrast to those fancy gourmet meccas there are also plenty of snack bars offering fast food, sandwiches, a sweaty slice of pizza, burgers, kebabs, you name it. It would be a sacrilege to forget about the pylsa, the Icelandic hot dog and Icelanders’ favorite fast food. Bæjarins Beztu is a tiny hot dog stand close to the harbor and there is always a queue.
To be honest, the only thing I would eat in this category is maybe a hot dog, but only if I was close to starvation.
A lot of regular pubs and beaneries offer slightly better food; they have the usual suspects on their menus, the dishes are very much influenced by North American cuisine. Think greasy burgers with mushy, stale fries lovingly tossed on a plate or a pile of pasta dripping with greasy, tasteless sauce…
Personally, I stay far away from those places. Although they look promising price-wise and because they might look cozy, the food leaves a lot to be desired.
In my opinion, there is a lack of affordable, not too fancy restaurants offering decent and healthy food here in Reykjavík. Either the place has great food but is way too expensive, or they have moderate prices but their dishes look and taste mediocre.
In fact, there are only two or three decent eateries in the downtown area I frequent.
I don’t think of myself as a difficult eater, there is almost nothing I don’t like except for pears. All I want is something fresh, tasty, healthy and not artificial for a decent price. And it doesn’t have to be fancy, the food can be simple. As long as it is tasty, I am happy.
If you are traveling in Iceland, don’t just trust your guide books but ask the locals for advice, they know best. Or what the hell, you might as well ask me!
I have made it my mission to try out every restaurant and café in central Reykjavík and I still have a lot of “work” ahead of me.
Katharina Hauptmann - [email protected]