‘Tis the season. The darkness is overwhelming and the northern winds bite to the bone. In the darkness every piece of flickering light seems that much brighter and feels that much warmer. And in this season, the warmest comfort of all is food.
Icelandic restaurants have long offered Christmas buffets or, more recently, Christmas menus. One of the most interesting this year can be found in a family-run restaurant and deli Borðið, located in the residential area of Vesturbær. Going on its third year, Borðið has gained a reputation for its slow-food philosophy. Everything is made from scratch, the kitchen uses local ingredients, and sustainability is of the utmost importance—all of which is reflected in their Christmas menu.
My companion and I visited Borðið on a cold Sunday evening. We were immediately greeted by much needed warmth, from both staff and the restaurant’s cosy lighting and homely atmosphere. Borðið offers Christmas menus for vegans and carnivores alike—exemplary, in this meat-centric country.
The four course meal (5,490 ISK) began with a delightful snack of homemade potato bread buns and mustard crackers with freshly whipped butter with salt crystals, or for vegans, olive oil infused with Icelandic herbs. This was flavourful and delicate, and the butter a true victory.
Two starters were presented next. My companion, a carnivore, had a cured and hay-smoked salmon, gently torched, served with an egg royale, fresh dill and horseradish. The slight torching gave an excellent texture and the flavours were deep, yet refreshing. The reindeer tartare on rye bread is an homage to Iceland’s Christmas flavours, but with a twist, as it was presented with smoked egg cream, red beet and jam. The vegan starters were honey-baked butternut squash with roasted almonds and cardamom-spiced spinach and a salt-baked red beet, served with fried rye-bread crumble and sprouts. All had lovely winter spice notes.
The main meat course consisted of duck breast on a bed of fried potatoes with wild thyme, cabbage and cream sauce with roasting juices and hints of orange. The spices were earthy and festive, and the duck cooked to pink, succulent perfection. The vegan main was a veggie “steak”—delicate and flavourful, thought it was a touch on the soft side. It came with fried and puréed new potatoes and mushroom sauce—lovely flavours, and very festive.
Luckily, the desserts weren’t too heavy, although we did require a substantial pause. My companion had an almond cake, and I had caramelised apples with white chocolate custard, roasted oats and coconut-flakes. The custard had a lovely consistency, but could have benefitted from something acidic to freshen everything up. Still—very nice, seasonal flavours.
Borðið offers an accomplished Christmas menu in an atmosphere to be desired—it was easy going and stress-free, like a dinner party without your worst relatives. It should also be noted, Borðið does not serve alcohol, but guests are free to bring their own and pay a mild cork fee of 1,000 ISK.