From Iceland — A Stellar Cellar

A Stellar Cellar

Published July 19, 2013

A Stellar Cellar

The University of Iceland was the last place I expected to be busy on a rainy midsummer afternoon, but beneath dim coloured lights, the basement lounge Stúdentakjallarinn was buzzing with activity. People were conversing or sitting bleary-eyed in front of their laptops, waiters scooting about behind the bar while a small crowd waged a miniature war at the foosball table. The music was buoyant but laid-back, perfect for lounging on the numerous cushions and armchairs strewn all over the place. Above the concrete stage, the movie “Napoleon Dynamite” was playing on the huge screen; often they’ll host bands here or show football games. Perhaps most fascinating of all is the wall of vegetation—mostly ferns—near the entrance, which makes me wonder whether I’m in a bar or part of a biology experiment. But the real lesson is the business model: there was obviously a demand, and this is the long-awaited supply.
The menu was short but satisfying: there’s the typical greasy hangover fare as well as more wholesome options such as salads, fruit and even Greek yoghurt. The most expensive dish was the Atlantic catfish at 1650 ISK; most snacks are just a fraction of that. We ordered at the bar, where a confident waiter recommended that we skip the pizza and go for the spinach and chicken salad and the burrito. As an afterthought, I added mozzarella sticks and nachos to our order. Best of all, they serve Tuborg Classic on tap and offer a student discount on beer.
Here, the kitchen calls up your order and you pick it up by the counter near the back, cafeteria-style. Students are nothing but self-sufficient, it seems. (You’re also expected to clear your own plate when you’re finished, according to the everybody-do-your-share propaganda on the walls). Our mozzarella sticks came first, nicely crunchy, slightly spicy, though I doubt they were cooked up from scratch. Our nachos were just tortilla chips with salsa, but just as welcome with our beer.
My spinach and chicken salad turned out to be an ideal compromise between light and filling. Piled high with chicken and cashews, it was doused in sweet-and-sour sauce and mango chutney and sprinkled with dry ramen noodles: a cheap but creative alternative to croutons. The best part was the abundance of strawberries cut into bite-size chunks, and sweet fat blueberries (one was the size of ping-pong ball, I swear). Perhaps this was not a combination worthy of five stars (mango chutney does little to flatter strawberries, which were deliciously sweet on their own), but savoury enough for a student bar.
My partner’s burrito was less exotic but just as satisfying; containing a funny mix of chicken, sundried tomato and barley. I’ve yet to have a killer burrito in Iceland, so maybe I should have been more disappointed, but I’m past expecting fireworks when it comes to Mexican food. With a great beer in a mellow atmosphere, nothing really tastes bad. Why not swing by, have a pint and vote for Pedro?

What We Think: This is a student hangout heaven
Flavour: Pub grub with some healthier options
Ambiance: A laid-back, rainforest-meets-disco lounge
Service: Upbeat and professional
Price for 2 (with drinks): 3,000-5,000 ISK
Our rating: 4/5

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