One quiet Sunday evening I had the pleasure of finding out one of Reykjavík’s best-kept secrets, down by the old harbour. But don’t worry; it won’t stay secret for long. Good news tends to travel fast.
Grandi, the old Reykjavík harbour area, is experiencing a rapid revitalisation these days. New housing developments are underway and with new high-end shops finding a foothold in the region, new restaurants seem to be a forgone conclusion. One such place is Sjávarbarinn, a brand new addition to Reykjavík’s many fish restaurants.
What sets this place apart from others of its kind is the price. Fish is a relatively expensive material in Iceland, but owner and head chef Magnús Magnússon has managed to put together a menu in a very competitive price range, without making sacrifices to the standard of the food. Admittedly, there is a homely cafeteria feel to the dining area, but obviously cutbacks had to be made somewhere in order to meet this price.
Sjávarbarinn’s main feature is an all-you-can-eat buffet, filled with assorted fish dishes and other creatures from the sea. During the lunch hour, the buffet is filled with food that Magnús describes as “more traditional Icelandic family recipes,” consisting of, well, traditional Icelandic family dishes—plain and fresh fish, the way Icelanders have been consuming it for centuries. The price for the lunch buffet is 1,200 ISK.
In the evenings, the chef spruces things up with a more international flavour. The night time buffet offers a collection of Asian inspired shrimp dishes, South European bacalao, mixed with more traditional Icelandic dishes and experimental fusions, using a wide variety of different fish species, some I had never even tasted before. I feel especially obligated to recommend the bacalao dish. The price for the evening buffet is 2,400 ISK.
Aside from the buffet, guests also have the option to order special courses from the menu. Apart from the ever-popular fish n’ chips, or the Icelandic fish stew, Sjávarbarinn also offers a delicious fish soup, made from white wine, cream, and most importantly, fish. It is a huge dish, more than the equivalent of a full meal and worth every króna of the 1,900 ISK price tag. Overall, Sjávarbarinn is a pleasant addition to the Reykjavík restaurant collection. It is an ideal stop for anyone curious to try Icelandic fish at an affordable price.