Published June 12, 2018
Reykjavík food halls are, as it turns out, just like London buses: you wait around for one, and then two come along at once. Just as we’re getting used to the presence of the resoundingly successful Hlemmur Mathöll, up pops the city’s second street food palace—this time in the spacious ground floor of Grandagarður 16 in the Grandi harbour area.
Grandi Mathöll has an immediately comfortable feel, with various stools, benches and couches scattered through the spaces. The nine concessions are housed in a combination of contemporary bars, metal food trucks and wooden stands, and there’s a bustling, social feel as people meander between the vendors, who shout out names as their orders are ready. We went for an epic tasting session to find out what delights lie inside this exciting new restaurant development.
John: I made a beeline for this place right away, with high hopes for Korean staples that are missing in Reykjavík, like bibimbap and soondubu. It turned out that Kore is a Korean fast food place serving spicy fried chicken, tacos, and decadent “filthy” fries. It all tasted good, but the menu feels like a missed opportunity.
Björn: Agreed. It also feels like they are still mastering their menu. When I had some kimchi-tacos there wasn’t anything else there—they were a bit minimalist, even for a taco. That said, the huge line in front of Kore is really a testament to the demand for a good Korean place. Iceland is craving one.
Fusion Fish ‘n’ Chips
J: As an Englishman, I’m a sucker for a classic fish ‘n’ chips, but I have to say the addition of wakame here is inspired. It gives it a really fresh flavour… it’s a massive improvement on a dollop of sugary ketchup. The batter was light, and the chunks of fish were hefty and fresh.
B: The kataifi (stringy Middle-Eastern pastry) on the shrimps was a nice touch—these could really soak up some sauce. The chili-mayo could have done with a more kick, or perhaps they could keep some “crazy” sauce by the counter as an optional condiment. I really liked the fish, and the portion was generous.
Goi Cuon / Víetnam
J: The chicken soup was my stand-out of the night. The serving is generous, and the broth is slow-cooked for that deep, rich comfort-food flavour. I’ll be coming back for this one.
Shruthi: I like that their small menu reflects the Icelandic weather—comforting chicken soup for most cold, windy days, and fresh summer rolls for the sunny ones. Although the lack of fresh herbs in the rolls was a glaring omission for me. The dipping sauce is great though.
B: I was expecting more veggie options on the menu, but c’est la vie, I guess.
J: One of my pet hates is “finger food” formats like sandwiches and burgers that are too wet to handle. So I was a little put off to pick up the sandwiches and immediately have sticky mayo oozing out everywhere. I was into the soup though: it wasn’t too creamy, and would be perfect on a cold day.
S: I didn’t mind the saucy sandwiches, in fact, I prefer it over the lobster soup. The portobello sandwich is so satisfying—well grilled bread, fresh veggies and the earthy shrooms. I can see it being a not-a-sad-desk-lunch staple.
B: I will definitely go for the portobello sandwich again. Really hearty, good ingredients and good for value. The soup will be a warm embrace in the cold summer days ahead.
J: Gastro truck’s house special is a hearty chicken burger with coleslaw and chili aioli right there in the bun. It’s a tasty, substantial burger with a glistening, bright-red batter on the hunk of chicken, and a tingle of spice. This place seems to be an early front-runner in the Grandi Mathöll popularity contest—there’s always a little queue, and they’ve been the first to sell out and shut up shop in the evening.
Micro Roast Vínbar
B: This was such a treat. The natural wines served at Micro Roast are something people will be coming to look for. The service was excellent—the sommelier was confident in his knowledge about what he was serving. The prices are also fair in my mind, considering the quality. Really loved this one.
J: I’m late to the natural wines trend, so it was interesting to find out what it’s all about. It was eye-opening: these wines had unusual colours, earthy, unfamiliar flavours, and a fermented tang. The Flambadou sparkling red, served chilled, was a stand-out.
J: Everyone knows that Icelandic lamb is a top quality ingredient, and Fjárhúsið do the right thing, presenting sharing plates heaped with perfectly cooked cuts that have a home-cooked vibe, and no unnecessary accoutrements. The flavour was smokey, the portions generous, and the meat first class. If you fancy a barbecue without the hassle of firing it up yourself, go here.
B: Lax was my standout place for this fantastic evening. I just love the concept: everything salmon and champagne. Or sparkling wine on tap. The grilled wolffish was a perfectly cooked delight, and had a surprising kick from the horseradish and garlic. All the salty cured and smoked salmon was a perfect match for a glass of sparkling wine. It’s all about the balance, and Lax nailed it.
J: This was a definite stand out: citrusy, zesty flavours with a variety of cured, grilled and smoked fish, and a fresh-tasting bubbly to wash it down. It was like a plate full of summer.
J: All Ísey are saying is give Skyr a chance. And we tried, we really did, but the no-frills juices and dairy pots seemed very basic after such a varied and colourful meal. This was the weakest link in the chain—if I have room for dessert next time, I’ll head over to Valdís.
B: It was also the only place that didn’t offer anything made from scratch. Premade skyr in a glass jar was not what I was looking for. And I don’t find it especially appealing that nothing there has sugar.