From Iceland — Pining for Pipes and Piping Hot Haggis? Look Nae Further: Scotland Comes To Kex

Pining for Pipes and Piping Hot Haggis? Look Nae Further: Scotland Comes To Kex

Published April 5, 2017

Pining for Pipes and Piping Hot Haggis? Look Nae Further: Scotland Comes To Kex
Ragnar Egilsson
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Kex holds an annual festival celebrating Scottish culture in all its tartan regalia (sans the Begbie pint glass throwing). This two-day event of organ meat, whistling skin bags, whisky, pale ale and other Northern European customs has grown into a delightful annual fixture on Reykjavík’s culinary calendar.

This sixth celebration of Scottish cultural heritage was mercifully devoid of tacky Scots pageantry like orange plastic braids or wildly inauthentic kilts. As a result, the mini festival is well-attended by Scottish and English expats. The only moments it edged into parody seemed to happen by accident—such as the table of eight redheaded Scottish people, all wearing some item of purple. I’m still not sure if it was by design.

The Scots band Dosca performed traditional and alternative Scottish music, displaying some wonderful musicianship. Those Scottish folk bands really can shred, with a technical display that rivals most speed metal groups.

The night wouldn’t be complete without the usual Burns Night menu of haggis, mashed root veggies and whisky sauce. The haggis was brilliant as always: the sauce was a simple medley of whisky, beef broth and butter. The haggis itself had a note of allspice, and was cut into breakfast slices and stacked over a creamy mash of rutabaga and potatoes. I suspect they used tallow in place of suet, but it’s still far and away the most authentic and delicious haggis you’ll find in Iceland—outside of an expat Scot’s home, of course.

However, the real surprise of the evening was the vegan haggis. The very thought of such a thing used to bring on insanity in God-fearing Scottish people. But I must say that not only was this a pleasant substitute for the usual offal-and-suet assault of haggis, but something I would order with a smile any day of the week. The sauce used a mushroom base instead of beef stock, and the overall flavor gained in nuttiness (barleyness?) what it lost in texture. To this day, I have no idea how they substituted the mutton fat so nicely.

I overheard several expats remark on the strange feeling of displacement they got from being inside a temporary bubble of genuine, British pub atmosphere within this strange land they now call home. While I’m far from an expert on authentic pub atmosphere, I am inclined to agree. The ambience was relaxed but lively, with hearty conversations and plenty of laughs, all while remaining respectful to the band on stage (with the possible exception of my table… sorry). And I didn’t see anyone get sloppy drunk which, in Iceland, is a small miracle.

Make sure not to miss the next Burns Supper at Kex Hostel. Especially if you are sitting in an Icelandic fjord pining for the homeland.

Perhaps redundant after “seemed to happen by accident,” but for timing you need a little button after “all wearing some item of purple.” Could say something like. “Hilarious. I think.” but that’s just a placeholder

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