Food And Culture - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Food And Culture

Food And Culture

Published August 13, 2010

The Skaftfell Cultural Centre, Bistro and Café (Austurvegur 42) is the type of place that Iceland could use more of. The 100+ year-old three-storey house is a bistro and (internet) café on the ground level furnished with inspiration and art from Dieter Roth, with a gallery space on the second floor and an artist apartment up top. Adding to the cool is the casually friendly international staff who are likely to chat up camera-saddled tourists and well-acquainted locals with the same familiarity and warmth.
On the day my date and I ventured to Skaftfell for a bite there was a DIY looking fountain lubricating the pavement out front and an exhibit of Birgir Andrésson, Tumi Magnússon & Roman Signer up above that, in addition to looping some entertaining video of conjoined umbrellas being taken away in a gust of wind, loudly mimicked the sound of a burdened shelving unit collapsing (or some similar calamitous occurrence) every five minutes. Perfect dinner music.
Having WWOOFed at a local organic farm last summer I browsed the menu and quickly gravitated toward the veggie burger and barley risotto (2.400 ISK) produced from the spoils of those same fields and my date, looking for something classically hearty, went with the lasagne with salad and chilli sauce (2.000 ISK).
When the food arrived shortly after ordering, I was somewhat surprised to see that the veggie burger I thought I was ordering was actually two veggie patties, sans bun and other burger accoutrements, stacked aside a large helping of barley risotto and accompanied by two stacks of zucchini and tomato, broiled with blue cheese. Once the initial surprise wore off (quickly) I was too enamoured with my meal to care about the misunderstanding on my part. It is good, people. The veggie patties are delicately moist and earthy and are complimented beautifully by a creamy mushroom sauce. The barley risotto was a little on the chewy side, but the hints of olive oil and herbs flavouring the barley and diced red peppers with which it was mixed was divine.
My date’s lasagne was exactly as he had hoped—large, meaty and chock-full of cheese and carbs. It was sided by a green salad with feta cubes and a creamy chilli sauce that I would happily put on everything I eat from this point forward. I’m not one to gravitate to items like lasagne on a menu, but this was a really tasty slice. Each layer of pasta was soft, but not chewy, and the spices in the sauce and meat were subtle. It tasted like something my dear old Italian grandmother would have made in the old country, if I were to have a dear old Italian grandmother, or any Italian ancestry, and if lasagne were a traditional dish of Canada’s old country… but it’s not. The point is that this lasagne is good stuff and that chili sauce bumps it up another notch.
Suffice to say we cleaned out plates and were too stuffed for dessert, so we feasted our eyes on the noisy offerings upstairs one more time before heading out into the foggy Seyðisfjörður night.
What we think: Food + Art = delicious
Flavour: Hearty home cooking with some added creativity
Ambiance: Bright, comfortable and casual
Service: Warm and friendly
Rating: 4/5

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