Published June 29, 2015
- What we think
- Satisfying food that stops short of perfection. A little more work would take it to the next level of casual fine dining.
- Global classics with a focus on local produce.
- Modern bistro.
- Friendly and genuine.
- Price for 2
- 18-22,000 ISK
Nauthóll Bistro is considered one of Reykjavík’s best-kept secrets. I have been living in Iceland for a while now and never knew about this place. The Bistro is behind the University of Reykjavík, overlooking Nauthólsvík, an area best known for its artificial beach. The idea of a casual evening out with my friend sounded like the perfect excuse to explore the place.
Now, I’ve been to many restaurants in town, but I have yet to come across one that was as packed to the gills as this one. And this was on a weekday night. We took this as a good sign, augmented by how politely they had rescheduled our dinner reservations on a busy night. As a diner, I really appreciated that.
The restaurant is bright and airy with expansive views. Given that the place was practically bursting at its seams, we ended up waiting almost 40 minutes from being seated until our first course arrived. However, things were off to a good start with the house bread and the accompanying hummus-skyr butter. The waitress was friendly, she knew the menu, and had helpful wine recommendations for my friend. The whipped skyr butter topped with toasted rye crumbs was both tangy and intriguing. But given the quality of milk here, I would really like to see restaurants make their own cultured butter. It’s about time and what could be more local than smjör, really? But, I digress.
We went for the Fresh Spring Rolls (2,490 ISK)—rice paper rolls with mango, avocado, chili mayo and a sesame-soy dipping sauce. The rolls were refreshing and certainly did not need the mayo. The chili is a nice hit of heat though, so don’t toss it aside! Next up was the Carpaccio (2,790 ISK), paper-thin slices of a cured fillet that was savoury on its own. If you go there to try just one thing, make sure it’s the Carpaccio, as it is a faultless dish. The beef, with the whole-grain mustard, toasted pine nuts and generous parmesan, was delicious. My friend and I were particularly satisfied and couldn’t wait for the rest of the meal.
For the main course, my friend ordered the Fried Trout (4,290 ISK) with a glass of the house Chardonnay. I kept things local as well, and ordered what many consider a classic here, the Lamb Loin with Shredded Shank. The trout came in a mussel sauce with dill oil and roasted cauliflower. I snuck in more than one bite of that perfectly cooked fish. The bits of fresh cucumber and trout roe were a pleasant and unexpected surprise. The dill oil, though, I have reservations about, no matter how well done.
My lamb was a slight letdown. It was a beautiful platter but the loin was a touch dry, and the shredded shank meat a touch greasy. The black garlic was completely lost in what seemed like lamb jus mayo. The roasted vegetables were on-point however. Don’t get me wrong, it was a perfectly decent dish, but at 5,390 ISK, I expect a faultless dish.
Even though we were too full, the pace of the meal was such that we did end up ordering dessert, and boy were we glad we did! The tame-sounding Icelandic Strawberries (1,950 ISK) was the clear winner: perfectly churned strawberry sorbet, on a mound of fresh berries and crème anglaise (that anglaise needs some whisking, guys!) scattered with fresh mint. It was an Icelandic summer on a plate.
The French Chocolate Cake with pistachios (1,950 ISK), on the other hand, was nothing to rave about, although the homemade vanilla ice cream that was served with it was excellent.
The Nauthóll Bistro is clearly a local favourite. It’s easy to see why, with the fresh produce, friendly service, and beautiful scenery. Signs of brilliance are there, like with that skyr butter and sorbet. They need just that bit of work for all-around perfection. The place is ideal for a romantic evening, or a family lunch. Though pricey, it has that easy air about it that allows one to stroll in in a bike helmet. It is a place to graze and linger. So do make some time.