Food Review: Iceland’s Most Popular Restaurant

Published March 4, 2016

IKEA Restaurant

Kauptún 4, 210 Garðabær
Mon-Sun 9:30-20:30
What we think
Solid everyday food for busy people or people with nothing to do.
Flavour
I honestly cannot think of a better word than “ok.”
Ambiance
Corporate lunchroom-like (but with noisy kids).
Service
Self-service (except the hot food is put on a plate for you).
Price for 2 (no drinks)
What makes it worth it (i.e. cheap!).

Aiming for a homey menu and atmosphere, the IKEA restaurant prides itself on a cheap and varied selection of courses. I got three courses, consisting of an open sandwich with shrimp, egg and vegetables (695 ISK); the flagship course, meatballs in brown sauce with potatoes and lingonberry jam (895 ISK); and for dessert, cream puffs with (more!) cream and vanilla sauce (395 ISK).

To start with, all the courses were well-presented and looked good (except perhaps the meatballs, which were carelessly spooned onto the plate despite the manager’s order to make the plate look particularly pretty).

I’m a big fan of open shrimp sandwiches, which are the relatives of the bread cakes I grew up with, which also originate from Scandinavia (smörgåstarta). This is a slice of bread with salad, topped with eggs, mayonnaise, shrimps and vegetables for decoration. Very pretty. However, the bread by itself tasted rather stale, having stood in a cooling shelf probably since the morning. Also, it was rather difficult to get a bite with everything mixed, so it was either a bite of dry bread with a bit of salad or a mouthful of eggs, shrimps and mayonnaise. It should have been more equally distributed over the bread. The imported shrimps by themselves were also rather flavourless but once you managed to get a good bite with everything, it was decent. Worst of all was suddenly crunching your teeth on a bit of eggshell. Unacceptable! However, the manager quickly reassured me that this was no fault of the company’s but the supplier’s who peels the eggs for them.

For a main course, I had the traditional Swedish (although Icelandic-made) meatballs. This is okay if you’re a hungry overworked, underpaid parent with three hyperactive kids. But the brown sauce didn’t quite match up to the delicious brown sauce that comes with 1944 meatballs (1944 is an Icelandic microwave food brand), and the lingonberry jam was definitely not a favourite of mine with its weird sour taste—I would have much preferred some authentic sweet Icelandic rhubarb jam. But I’ll write it up as a cultural difference this time.

Swedes are nuts about balls and IKEA has every type of them: meatballs, fishballs, vegetable balls and even dessert cream balls, although those are more correctly referred to as cream puffs in English. Those were adorably presented and it almost seemed a shame to dig in. However, these had also been stored on the cooling shelves where customers can easily grab them, and they were starting to harden at the top. The cream puffs were accompanied by a strange kind of whipped cream—which I seriously doubt is real cream but rather some artificial cream substitute—and vanilla sauce with hardly any vanilla taste.

All in all, it was an ok meal which I would describe as industrialised mommy food, great for those with little money/time/refined sense of taste. However, it is to be noted that I only had standardised courses from the main menu. The meal of the month often seems more interesting. Also, there are free sauces! All the cocktail sauce you want! Big plus there.

See also:

Iceland’s Most Pöpulår Reståurånt!


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