From Iceland — Icelandic Christmas Buffet at Skrúður

Icelandic Christmas Buffet at Skrúður

Ragnar Egilsson
Words by
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Published December 16, 2014

Skrúður at Hótel Saga

Hagatorg, 107 Reykjavík
"mon-fri 11:30 - 14:00 and 18:00 - 22:00 Weekends 11:00 - 14:00 and 18:00 - 22:00"
What we think
Happy holidays
Salted, smoked, creamy
Cavernous, quiet, surprisingly casual
Sparse but good (we were there very early)
Price for 2
7,800 ISK (lunch), 12,600 ISK (dinner), 50% off for children 12-16 years old, free for under 12s.

Skrúður at Hótel Saga

Skrúður is an institution in family-friendly Christmas buffets. There are fancier buffets, there are more innovative buffets, but I was interested in this one because of how resolutely decent and representative it is. And it doesn’t hurt that it holds some personal nostalgic memories for me. What is Christmas if not blatantly maudlin nostalgia? Skrúður is a place where grandparents take their grandchildren: when I went, there were no less than five separate groups consisting of three generations of Icelanders. But the median age was generally a little higher than at your average buffet.

Hótel Saga contains three restaurants in total: Skrúður, Súlnasalur, and Grillið. There are two Christmas buffets on offer, one in Skrúður and one in Súlnasalur, the latter being the more elaborate one, and paired with some dinner entertainment.

The space is enormous, with enough ceiling height to stack up a couple of tour buses, and the ambience is a little like a Vegas dining hall without the crushing claustrophobia. It’s self-serve and all you can eat, with the cold dishes and appetizers set aside, a dessert area and ice-cream bar and a section where the chefs carve up your meat of choice.

Cold dishes included a delicious Akvavit-cured salmon, lightly smoked Greenland halibut and a selection of pickled herring. It also included cold, white-wine boiled mussels layered on a steel serving tray sans ice, which seemed like a risky choice and tasted like you would expect. In addition to that, they had cold cuts of Hangikjöt (smoked lamb) and Hamborgarhryggur (smoked glazed ham).

Standouts from the hot dishes were the lemon-chilli turkey breast and the pork roast with crackling. The marinated lamb was well cooked but completely under-seasoned, and did not seem to have seen much marinating. The rib-eye came in an enormous lump that brought tears to the chef’s eyes and saliva to our mouths.

The only thing missing form the hot dishes was a greater selection of sauces—all we had to go with was a single brown stock sauce for four kinds of meats.

Sides included the classic Waldorf salad, “gular baunir” (literally “yellow beans,” actually sweet corn), “grænar baunir” (literally “green beans,” actually green peas), shredded red cabbage, red onion jam, red beets, potato salad and greens.

The dessert bar included three types of buttery, creamy desserts in shot glasses: a Risalamande, a white chocolate cream and a chocolate mousse. It also offered a selection of cookies and a Pavlova, which could have used some of the whipped cream that went into the other three (and we ended up fixing that ourselves, turns out white chocolate cream Pavlova is pretty damn good).

Overall, Skrúður offers a nice, traditional, Icelandic holiday buffet. The food was a bit hit and miss, as is always the case with those sorts of things, but this was more than made up by the great value for money, and the solid introduction to Icelandic Christmas traditions it offers.

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