From Iceland — In The Upside Down: Systir Are Doing It For Themselves

In The Upside Down: Systir Are Doing It For Themselves

Published January 31, 2019

In The Upside Down: Systir Are Doing It For Themselves
Photo by
Timothée Lambrecq

Hverfisgata 12, originally dubbed ‘the no-name pizza place,’ became popular in recent years for slinging pizzas that ranged from the unpredictable to the staid. The news of its recent closure was met with utter dismay from regulars.

But true to their edgy nature and gritty flair, the same brains behind Dill, Kex Hostel, and Mikkeller & Friends now bring us Systir (“Sister,” in English). This sibling restaurant for the Michelin-starred Dill is housed in the unchanged Hverfisgata 12 premises, and there were just days between the closure of one and the opening of the other.

The upside down

We arrived at Systir full of anticipation and, admittedly, a little anxiety. What will this new place be like? Can H12’s delicious cheesy fries ever be replaced? Oh, the uncried tears for the Korean fried chicken!

But lo and behold—with the paint barely dry on the new sign, it turns out that Systir gives a not-so-subtle wink to its grown-up relative downstairs. The options are even presented on an upside down Dill menu card, overlaid with the sweep-picked font of the Systir logo—a nod to all things unruly and chaotic, as younger siblings are wont to be.

All is not lost

Beloved favourites like the torched cheese fries with kimchi (1,200 ISK) are still on the menu (hallelujah!), while new numbers like the barley beet risotto with cured goose (1,900 ISK)—reminiscent of beef tartare in its appearance—underscore the new establishment’s Dill-like sensibility, which includes a five-course tasting menu.

The head chef helming the project is Ólafur Ágústsson. “We felt that we needed a new challenge for our business at Hverfisgata 12, with this ever changing restaurant environment we have in Reykjavik now,” he says. “We also feel that the Dill concept should be presented to more people in different environment. We’re really focused on our journey here, and we want our guests to experience that with us.”

Systir suspense

Engulfed by the comfort of specially curated natural wines to accompany the many small plates, we couldn’t help but wonder if Systir will be a disruptive sibling. As if the kitchen were reading our minds, we were treated to a fatty hunk of rib-eye (3,200 ISK) under a mound of refreshing mint and coriander tossed in an intensely tart dressing and dusted with ground toasted rice. The clear Thai influences are such a bold departure from the often sanctimonious New Nordic bible that it seems Systir is determined to be the rebel in the family.

Ólafur appears to revel in the suspense. “Systir will try to play both sides a bit,” he says. “It will definitely have some experiments going on, but it will also be there to please and comfort. It will also serve Dill classics—something we know people will love.”

Culinary playground

Systir retains the easy going vibe of Hverfisgata 12, which is a big part of the draw for its many loyal fans. The new place promises to be a well-priced casual haunt—five courses for 5,900 ISK is a steal—that just so happens to also be an experimental culinary playground for Dill. My hope is for Systir to be an approachable adventure—a true rebel in the culinary upside down. The seriously curated wine list and focus on speciality cocktails doesn’t hurt either.

And for those still nursing H12 nostalgia, Ólafur hints that it isn’t unlikely that the no-name pizza place will make another appearance, somewhere, somehow.

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