The average person living in Reykjavík is really a very special breed. Not the pure, patriotic Icelander whose values are nearly always measured by ancient customs and tales that could easily be a part of the Old Testament or even the Talmud. Oh no, the Reykjavik people are not like that. They believe they are metropolitan in their habits, even a bit cosmopolitan.
Therefore, it is surprising that vegetarians in Reykjavík were until recently called “grasætur” (grass-eaters) and treated as a dangerous minority group along with consumers of horsemeat and political liberals. The so-called vegetarian restaurants were not exactly what you could call inviting. These were not hard to find. (They were two I believe). Instead of asking for directions you could almost have your nose lead the way.
A combination of red curry, peppers, garlic and various oriental spices filled the air with an aroma that made your eyes water (instead of your mouth) when you happened to be in the neighbourhood. If you were brave enough to enter the premises of a vegetarian restaurant for a few minutes or more, your sweater made you become a walking advertisement for Indian curry. The only way for quick relief was taking your clothes immediately to the nearest cleaners. A regular washing machine did not do the job.
Well, “things ain´t what they used to be!” Now there are at least three decent vegetarian restaurants in town, and also a few places that have vegetarian dishes on the menu; – places that do not confuse Indian culinary arts and spices with vegetarian delights, although sometimes there is a thin line that divides the two, but only occasionally.
On the corner of Laugavegur and Klapparstígur you will find a restaurant called “Á Næstu Grösum.” This is an established vegetarian restaurant that has been around for quite a few years. Thus it has had its periods – from Indian to Soya to Chinese noodles. Nevertheless, today it is a fine restaurant offering good vegetarian food. The menu of the day is never printed. You can find it chalked on a blackboard above the serving table where you select your dishes and then bring them yourself to the nearest table.
The atmosphere is easy and friendly. The second floor venue may remind you of a big Eastern European dining room where the family has had to leave in a hurry. I am sure you remember such scenes from old classical European (art) films shown at the Thalia, if you are a New Yorker, that is. Know what I mean? (If you are not, forget about it).
“Á Næstu Grösum” is a popular restaurant. It is frequented by tourists and locals alike. The staff is multilingual and extremely helpful. It is a good place to visit for lunch. The service does not take forever (self service saves time), and the simple menu does not leave you much choice ! If you are not hooked on vegetarian dishes, don’t start your vegetarian experience there. However, if you are a vegetarian or you enjoy vegetarian food and eat it frequently, this is the place for you. Enjoy !
Á næstu grösum