Do we still call it gentrification even if the only people being displaced are oil tank security guards and struggling indie musicians? These are the kind of low-impact questions we’ve had to wrestle with as we enter into the final phases of the transformation of the Grandi area. It has been interesting to watch the changes this industrial nook of Reykjavík’s west side has undergone, but it remains to be seen how far it will spread into the residential part of Vesturbær (“west town”).
If you’re a local, you probably associate Vesturbær mostly with desirable rental apartments, a pool popular with the cultural edgebarons, Iceland’s oldest football team, and that really solid pot dealer in the yellow house. If you’re a tourist, odds are you will never venture into the hotel-deprived west side. But finally all of y’all have a foodie excuse to head out there. The fancy food trifecta is well-served in Vesturbær. You can grab a well-made coffee at Kaffihús Vesturbæjar, pick up artisanal produce at Melabúðin, or munch on wholesome Mediterranean meals at Borðið.
Borðið can mean “The Table” or the imperative plural of “eat!”—and you won’t need to be told twice. It combines a retail business with a small restaurant. This is a combination we’re seeing more of in Reykjavík, and being able to repurpose unsold products into your menu is such a no-brainer, it’s a surprise we’re only seeing it now.
The food is of the Yotam Ottolenghi variety–it’s easy to see why, given that Ottolenghi’s fame has rocketed since the early 2000s. The success of his interpretation of Israeli and Mediterranean cuisine, combined with the steady growth of vegetarianism, has ensured the domination of hummus, falafels and shakshouka over my social media feed. So you can expect plenty of slow-cooked meats and seasonal vegetables dressed up with fresh herbs, nuts, and seeds.
The menu at Borðið is flexible, and the liquor is BYOB—a rare occurrence in Iceland and not unrelated to the difficulty in obtaining a liquor license in a residential area where the boys in blue frown on any booze-flinging. The opening hours are similarly limited by zoning regulations—make sure to get there well before closing time (8pm). Me and my sister misunderstood the hours, and had to shove an unholy amount of food in our faces in 40 minutes. We treated ourselves to chicken with preserved lemons, apricots and Israeli couscous (2390 ISK); grilled flatbread with fennel, avocado, chicken and harissa (2490 ISK), and a roasted eggplant with confit tomatoes, sour cream and couscous (2190 ISK).
The roasted chicken was relatively straightforward, but with a tight crisp and bolstered by the complex floral aromas of dehydrated fruit. The creamy flatbread toppings came with splashes of thick, green avocado, and shaved fennel adorning the flame-licked bread. The roasted eggplants were grilled to smoky perfection without losing all their texture and given additional umami by the roasted tomatoes and garlic.
The portions were generous, and at this price I would count Borðið as one of the best dinner deals in the city. The service lies somewhere between table service and counter pickup, which works fine for this modest, casual space. I’m starting a petition to get Borðið a liquor license so I can escape the tourists and just hang out there eating prosciutto and pretending I’m ensconced in the warmer climates the tourists are escaping.
Ægisíða 123, 107 Reykjavik
Mon-Fri 7:45am – 8:00 pm
Sat-Sun 11:00 am – 8:00 pm