The year 2019 wasn’t kind to many restaurateurs. Let’s be honest, it’s a tough business. Nevertheless, Iceland’s culinary scene is seeing the emergence of new players and the old guard stepping up their A-game. Restaurants continue to diversify; we’ve got ourselves an izakaya inspired spot, while tasting menus are being questioned and reinterpreted. The scope of “Icelandic cuisine” is broadening to include not just produce and products but also their sourcing and seasonal integrity on this harsh island by players big and small. Whether it is globally recognised Nordic fine-dining or fragrant Thai curries, traditional Icelandic cuisine or family-friendly sushi, to everything in-between, this guide to the best of everything Reykjavík has to offer has been hand-picked by our exacting panel of passionate gourmands. From budget bites to fanciful fare, we’ve got you covered. Skál!
Best Goddamn Restaurant – joint winners
Sumac’s vibrancy seeps into everything—the food, ambience, service and its mix of diners across age groups. Chef Þráinn’s love for Lebanese-Levant flavours is reflected in the menu. By focusing on flavour profiles unique to the cuisines, it is a successful transplant from Beirut to Reykjavík. For an indulgent spread, we recommend getting all the dips and a few flatbreads. Mop it up with the excellent grilled lamb chops (commendable for the absence of sous vide) and the now cult whole roasted cauliflower. Our only pet peeve is the kitchen’s mysterious affinity for smooth purees. Sumac, we love you but give us a gritty muhammara and the silky strands of eggplants.
Best Goddamn Restaurant – joint winners:
Hlemmur Mathöll, Laugavegur 107
What do we say about this Bib Gourmand awarded restaurant that defies labels? Is it a gastropub or an experimental kitchen? Chef Gísli’s passion for cooking from the island permeates both the food and drink. The cod wings will have you weep with joy, the charr is a buttery cocoon of comfort, and the lamb ribs unctuous. Pair with guest brews, or natural wines… or maybe a pineapple weed cocktail-on-tap is your thing. Whatever your preference, you’re in for a world class experience. Peppy service and fine dining flourishes will make you forget you are in a bustling food hall. All we can say is Skál!
The warm elegance of Mat Bar’s gleaming brass bar is further enhanced by its striking green and black interior. The attentive details translate to the food as well. The rotational menu has gone from strength to strength with seasonal flourishes. It’s affordability and sharing plates create that enviable air of conviviality.
2018: Mat Bar
2017: Snaps & Matur og Drykkur
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