From Iceland — Make Lamb Great Again: Reinventing Icelandic Lamb The Middle Eastern Way

Make Lamb Great Again: Reinventing Icelandic Lamb The Middle Eastern Way
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Icelanders have been eating lamb for a while now. If you’re going to a typical Sunday family dinner, the chances are lamb will be served. Leg of lamb, covered in oregano, rosemary, thyme and garlic; some sort of creamy sauce and boiled potatoes on the side. And some rhubarb jam. It’s an old recipe stolen from Denmark in the 19th century (where it was actually pork that was roasted). It’s been considered the Rolls Royce of Icelandic cuisine for the past century. But let’s face it—it’s getting a bit old.

Middle-eastern spices

Lamb Street Food offers, predictably, lamb. Manager Rita Diðriksen, however, is not in the Sunday dinner business. “I wanted to update and reinvent our concept of lamb, how we use it and how we present it,” she says. Rita has long dreamed of opening a restaurant that serves up her favorite Icelandic produce, using the flavours and spices she got to know when studying in Germany in the 1990s.

“We make everything ourselves, from the flatbread—which is baked to order—to every single sauce and dip.”

“After a hard week of studying, my husband and I used to indulge during the weekends,” she says. “And what was so beautiful about living in Germany at the time were all of these middle eastern influences. Not only the obvious Turkish influences, but also from Syria and Lebanon. North African spices were in abundance. When we wanted to enjoy the best food, we went to the markets to get freshly made flatbread, dates and dips, fresh hummus and a bottle of wine. Those are the tastes of indulgence for me, and I wanted to bring those flavours to Iceland.”

Years in development

Lamb is situated in Grandagarður, by the harbour, in a street that is developing into a real gourmet area, with restaurants, an ice cream parlour, a cheese shop and the brand new Grandi Mathöll food hall. Things are happening, and Lamb offers a fresh take on the ever popular meat.

“Developing the recipe for the rotating spit took almost two years,” Rita says. “We are using the best parts of the lamb, very unlike most restaurants who offer rotisserie meats. We make everything ourselves, from the flatbread—which is baked to order—to every single sauce and dip on offer. We’re here every morning, making preparations for each lunch rush, and for every customer who comes in during the day and into the evening.”

Nu-street food

Although the name would suggest otherwise, Lamb also serves excellent options for vegans and vegetarians. “We make our falafel in house and I must say we are very pleased with the outcome,” says Rita. “All of our sauces and dips but two are vegan, and every one is made fresh each day.”

Lamb is therefore not only for meat wraps. With a range of options of salads and dips, it’s the perfect place for a middle eastern mezze; to have a drink and enjoy some flavours that haven’t been common enough in Iceland.

Rita emphasizes that this is street food, sure, but this is the updated version of street food, following trends from gourmet cities such as Paris or Copenhagen. “Street food does not have to mean the same as fast food. And as far as it goes, I do very much adhere to a slow food ideology. You could call this slow food in a fast way, as it were. We want people to come here to enjoy delicious food in their own time, to stay and have a glass of wine and relax well into the evening.”

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