Published August 19, 2005
Let’s first get one thing straight – Indian food in Iceland is not like in the UK; it is less spicy, more difficult to find, and inevitably more expensive. Of course there is good Indian cuisine here, but price and quality are in very close correlation, and a curry is not what you choose if you’re looking for a bargain.
Austurlandahraðlestin (“Oriental Express” for those intimidated by strange looking Icelandic words) is no exception to this. Situated below-ground level in an unassuming building on Hverfisgata, it’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. Austurlandahraðlestin’s “sister” restaurant, Austurindíafélagið, farther along Hverfisgata, is probably the most expensive curry house in the world, and has an excellent reputation. Austurlandahraðlestin is for those on more of a budget, and is geared primarily towards take-away customers, although there is a very pleasant seating area for patrons who wish to dine in.
The menu features standard Indian fare amended for Western palates: chicken tandoori, korma, madras, and of course tikka masala (1195 – 1595 ISK). There is also a selection of starters (onion pakodas with coriander chutney, 395 ISK, highly recommended!) and side dishes. A disappointment of the menu is the lack of alcoholic options, as sadly a vindaloo just isn’t the same without a good lager to wash it down. But this shouldn’t concern take-away customers, the main targets of this establishment, since one would hope they are already prepared at home.
Commendably, the small seating area for “dine-in” patrons is comfortable and not designed to encourage you to eat and leave as quickly as possible. Service was very cheerful, and an entrée “Chef’s Special” was conjured up for us upon request. The food was no more and no less than I was expecting; there was enough spice to make me enjoy the cooling benefits of the accompanying raita, but not to make me start sweating.
And so we come back to the price. It’s a bit high for eating-in, but if you’re in a group and feel like ordering something that’s not a pizza, this is certainly worthy of consideration (they have catering and group rates too). Just make sure you visit the liquor store first.