Reykjavik has a lot of places for bodies, but it has fewer places for souls. Tapas Barinn is a place for souls. The restaurant has been around for 13 years of Reykjavik’s ever-changing restaurant topography and has achieved the difficult balance of good service, good ambiance, good goddamn food, and something else akin to a special romance and charm.
The atmosphere—salsa tunes, orange and blue tile floor, exposed walls, and tiny red lights—is like the sultry backdrop of a scene from classic Spanish cinema. And the eats—a huge menu of tapas (appetizer-style dishes), larger plates, and specialty drinks (by glass or pitcher) and dessert—match the quality of the festive space.
“With tapas you can share, and the food comes plate by plate so there is always something happening. You’re never bored,” explains Bento, one of the owners. At its heart, the concept of a tapas bar is to inspire connection and conversation. “And,” Bento wagged his eyebrows and motioned toward an area at the back of the restaurant with multiple two top tables, “it’s a good place for a first date. You’re never sitting around with nothing to talk about, waiting for your food to come out.”
Tapas Barinn is unique because it offers a fusion of Spanish and Icelandic cuisine. One of their most popular dishes is the smoked puffin with blueberry “brennivín” sauce, which is part of a seven-plate meal called Icelandic Gourmet. The highlights of the Icelandic Gourmet are the puffin and minke whale tapas, white chocolate Skyr mousse, and Iceland’s infamous schnapps, brennivín, to start. If you aren’t hungry enough for a full line-up of tapas, or if you want something a little more traditionally Spanish, you can also get individual plates for around 1,000 ISK.
The secret to Tapas Barinn’s goodness? “Quality ingredients,” said Mundi, an employee. “Most ingredients are local, but if we can’t get something here, we import the best quality from somewhere else. Nothing cheap.”
Tapas Barinn remains a Reykjavík favourite because the prices stay reasonable even with unbeatable quality and atmosphere. Food for the soul.
Best Of Reykjavík 2013: Dining And Grubbing