It is easy to forget that Reykjavík extends beyond Austurvöllur on one end and Hlemmur on the other. Hörður Jóhannesson and Björn Hauksson are here to expand your sense of “the centre” with the newly opened Kaffi Laugalækur. Their lunch menu features healthy, local salads and their dinner menu offers a variety of Nordic soups and flatbreads. The bar serves craft beers, wines, and cocktails: perfect accessories for browsing the connected gallery space, which will house a new exhibit every month. We spoke to Björn to find out more.
What sparked the idea?
We’re both passionate about good and fresh local food, quality beverages and livening up the community. Since we were kids we always wanted to open a business together. Things got moving when we started looking for a location a year ago, initially focusing on the centre, 101 Reykjavík. But we soon realised that we should look also in the green river valley in the east part of the city, Laugardalur in 105 Reykjavík, which hasn’t been considered as fashionable as the West Side, judging by the property prices.
Why did you chose the area that you did?
The Laugardalur neighbourhood is, by many measures, the most interesting and livable part of the city. It’s only 2km from the centre, has a very distinctive sixties and seventies Nordic functional feel, authentic local residential vibe, the biggest swimming pool in Iceland, the original place of geothermal use in Iceland, largest city park, the petting zoo, the botanical garden, ferry to Viðey island, remains of Laugarnes viking settlement, Academy of Arts, Ásmundarsafn museum, the national sports stadiums plus various other sports facilities and excellent transportation in all directions. It’s also the birthplace of the latest local gourmet trend in Iceland.
What’s your vision with joining the café to a gallery space?
We’ve always been interested in modern art, music, and creating community happenings. Bjarki Sól, the head chef, introduced the idea of including a gallery for young and progressive artists, and we immediately liked it. Our other main chef, Óli Stef, is also living on the same street, and is our childhood friend who likes catching or collecting his ingredients from Iceland’s nature.
Anything else you want to add to give readers a feel for the place?
A new exhibition will open in the gallery each month. We call the series “Strength,” which in Icelandic also means “support.” We chose the name because we want to help young artists with their careers and connect them with art lovers. Guests can buy art, or contribute to the artist, if they are inspired by the show.
We will also use the best local seasonal ingredients. The chefs collect and preserve these themselves. We also buy from the farmer’s shop next door, and the sausage maker. Some of the cakes we sell are made by our mothers. We have microbrewery beer on tap, organic wines and smoky whiskeys. We have a passion to match the best coffee made in Iceland. We buy fresh beans from Lúkas who lives in the same street and is one of the leading coffee experts in Iceland, and we get super beans also from Reykjavík Roasters. The coffeemaker, equipment and barista are all excellent. And yet our prices are very competitive and affordable.
Café Laugalækur is located at Laugarnesvegur 74a and is open every day from 11.00-23.00.