The cover girl of the Icelandic culinary year was certainly McDonalds, the fast food chain that left the country in November. And in many ways, it stands for a lot of things that happened: The economically dim times casting a shadow over our dinner plates and speeding up the constant cycle of openings and closings of restaurants, the fast food obsession of the nation, and the rise of the local raw materials—if in this case in the shape of tasteless slop.
Luckily enough, the rise of the local ingredients has also meant more and more fine dining, with restaurants celebrating the local produce, more shopping possibilities and new food products launched. The overall quality of produce found on grocery store shelves remains as low as ever, while the prices have been rising steadily. My wish for 2010: Consumers start voting with their wallets. Then again, it may be hard with an empty belly.
For the eaters-out, the economic crisis also offers an opportunity. Several new ethnic kitchens have opened for business: the Nepalese Kitchen, Syrian Ali Baba, Brazilian Brasilia, Balkanese Balkanica and a handful of noodle places add a metropolitan feel to the frozen capital. In addition, the various high end places in town that used to cater for businessmen and their prey now turn to travellers as their previous clientele are gone with the wind, many of them offering better value than before. It may just pay off to pay a bit extra on the main street tourist eatery prices and take out your fancy pants.
And where do I spend my own money? For grocery shopping, Melabúðin in Vesturbær, farmers market Frú Lauga and the deli Búrið form my holy trinity.
For the liquid gold, I like the Holtagarður branch of Vínbúð for their selection and the Austurstræti branch at quarter to closing time for its delirious atmosphere. If it is out for drinks, Bakkus offers a refreshing selection of vodkas.
For best burgers in town, I head to Hamborgarabúllan. For cheap and good lunch, I like Ostabúðin, even if it is often very busy. My foreign guests I tend to take to Sægreifinn for its eccentric atmosphere and famous lobster soup.
For breakfast, I like the hidden gem Grái Kötturinn for its food and atmosphere—but not for its coffee. For that I go to café and roastery Kaffismiðja Íslands. For chocolate cake, I dream of Argentína Steakhouse.
Finally, for the best food in town, I go to Dill in the Nordic house that serves bistro style lunch and heavenly 5-course-dinners (with champagne, please!) by the chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason.
Verði ykkur að góðu!