From Iceland — Food Review: Servers Squared, Peaks Squared

Food Review: Servers Squared, Peaks Squared

Ragnar Egilsson
Words by
Photo by

Published March 4, 2016


Mon-Sun 12:00 - 22:00
What we think
A free-flowing restaurant with bravura forcemeat and mescal.
Community theatre production of 'Twin Peaks' set in a bus terminal.
Top marks.
Price for 2 (no drinks)
8-10,000 ISK

There were three of us there that night and all we realised that during our lives, we had approached the Icelandic restaurant scene from many different angles. We had worked as servers, food truck vendors, cooks, managers, part-owners, restaurant reviewers, restaurant promoters, event managers, caterers, hoteliers, restaurant app developers, restaurant marketeers—basically everything from dishwasher ups. Needless to say, we have eaten at a metric fuckton of restaurants. So I think it’s with some authority that we can state that Pylsa-Pulsa is the weirdest damn restaurant in Reykjavík.

The first thing you’ll notice is the design and flow of the room. The ambience is like a community theatre production of ‘Twin Peaks’ set in a bus terminal. (Perhaps helped by Reykjavík’s former main bus terminal located opposite, from which the restaurant’s hotel derives its name)

The room is airy, with little but velvet drapes separating the restaurant from the lounge, and softcore pornoesque gossamer curtains separating the restaurant from the front desk. On this occasion, we shared the greater space with a large boy scout troop, the current mayor and his entourage, and a live performance from an indie-electro band.

Thematically, Pylsa-Pulsa is confusing. It is a sort-of-biergarten, but with few communal tables, upholstered furniture, chandeliers, gilded mirrors, elegant cocktails, cheap tan wooden floors, and a wooden sign swinging from a chain bearing the restaurant’s name—both variant spellings for “hot dogs” in Icelandic. It’s hard to say what they are going for, exactly, but this lack of barriers, thematically or otherwise, didn’t intrude on the experience in any major way.

pylsa pulsa hlemmur square by Art Bicnick

This is because the restaurant nails it in so many other ways. The menu is extraordinarily heavy on animal protein (and heavy overall) but everything we tried was executed with a thoughtful touch.
We started with the sausage tasting plate (2,700 ISK). On this occasion the platter included a delicious merguez with a pronounced lanolin flavour accompanied by sourdough and frisee salad, a divisive piece of duck sausage with red cabbage and a fruity sauce (which I happened to like, and I’m writing this so who cares what my tablemates thought), and a sehr gut bratwurst with brown mustard and sauerkraut.

We followed that with two mains. Firstly, the fish of the day (2,500 ISK),an excellent arctic char with crispy-AF skin, mashed potatoes and salad (people who leave a well-cooked piece of arctic char skin uneaten should get fish-slapped off a pier on general principle). Secondly, we tried the thoroughly wonderful mushroom and beef burger (2,100 ISK), which was only let down by a dull side of fries and aioli.

The service was stupendous. We got some attention from the German wizard running the show from behind the velvet drapes, but mostly we were managed by a waitress who moved so fast we had honestly begun to speculate that we were dealing with twins running a relay race with the plates. And it certainly didn’t hurt that the bartender whipped up some of the best cocktails I’ve tried in Reykjavík: The Smokey Don (Grand Mariner, Don Julio Añejo, smoked syrup, lemon, mole bitters, 2,100 ISK) and Earth, Wind & Mescal (mescal, fennel, grapefruit, lime, sugar, tiki bitters, 2,000 ISK). This and some strong coffee counted as dessert because we’re old bros and sweet things go straight to our hips.

So that’s it. Not the most wildly innovative menu in the world and none of what I described makes a lick of sense but with good food, good service, and good cocktails I think I’ll survive.

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