Tucked away behind Iceland’s House of Parliament, Bergsson Mathús or Foodhouse is surprisingly bright and cheery for a basement café. It attracts a colourful clientele: parents, students, children, people with striped scarves. Simplicity is the essence of the Bergsson philosophy, so the set-up is mostly straightforward: You order at the counter from a chalkboard menu that includes two specials of the day, as well as a soup, a salad and dessert.
Less self-explanatory are the stacks of glasses, pitchers of water and cutlery somewhat haphazardly laid out on a table on the far side of the room, which you are expected to gather yourself. Even more confusing is another table with bowls of butter and peanut butter that you can spoon into a little cup and bring to your table. Not a problem if you come here all the time and know what’s what, but a first-time guest is left to figure this out on his own. An explanation while placing your order could easily remedy this.
We ordered one of the specials, chicken with noodle salad and green pesto, and the carrot and ginger soup. Our food was served immediately after we had chosen our seats, and I mean immediately, so we instantly made up the time spent sourcing our knives and napkins.
My chicken covered in thyme was served with wild rice and a small slice of homemade sourdough. The chicken was tasty, without a hint of dryness, but the pesto turned out to be non-existent and the noodles were bland. I would have preferred an extra slice of bread, and the staff was more than pleased to grant me one when I asked for it. Although the bread was slightly too moist and dense for a sourdough, the flavour was unimpeachable.
The staff was also happy to pour us another ladle of soup because it was so damn delicious and I just had to ask for another taste. The soup was exactly the right consistency, neither too thin nor artificially thickened. It was rich and tingling and warmed me to the very core.
A cheerful waiter cleared our plates and cordially took our orders for dessert. We split a slice of French chocolate cake, a fully saturated, sensuous affair, with an ever-so-subtle crust on top which you could pick at with your fork. Definitely the best I’ve had in a very long time.
The most memorable highlight, however, was my double-shot macchiato. Finally, finally, the perfect ratio of coffee and milk has been found! These two ingredients came together seamlessly in a wonderfully smooth brew with an almost sweet aftertaste. I came back the next day for more because I couldn’t get it out of my head.
While there are a couple of rough edges to this place, the staff are one of the friendliest I’ve ever encountered and many of the dishes are to die for. As winter nears, I hope Bergsson Mathús will continue to keep us warm.
What We Think: You won’t find a cosier place for lunch/brunch. Terrific coffee.
Flavour: Simple, but hearty
Ambiance: A cubbyhole for students, families and arty/political types
Service: Accommodating and very quick
Price for 1: Special of the day 2,200 – 2,300 ISK, soup 1,290 ISK, brunch (weekends only) 1,600 – 1,900 ISK.