From Iceland — Grilled Meat In The Summer Rain

Grilled Meat In The Summer Rain

Words by
Photo by
Alisa Kalyanova

Published August 8, 2014

Kol veitingahús

Skólavörðustígur 40, 101 Reykjavík
Mon-Sun 11:30-11
What we think
Charcoal, dark colours, meaty, macho.
French classics, Asian fusion.
Crowded, loud, upscale clientele
Very professional and laid back. Our two young servers explained everything and were enthusiastic about making our experience as fine as pos
Price for 2
20,000 ISK, which was fair.

Kol was somewhat of a puzzle to me: a restaurant that opened its doors early this year to some acclaim, but hasn’t yet reached its full commercial potential—or so I thought. My companion and I graced Kol with our presence on a busy Friday evening. Every seat was filled with people who seemed ready to put the endless summer rain out of their minds by consuming grilled food… and cocktails. Lots of cocktails.

Kol is brilliantly situated near the top of Skólavörðustígur, a short distance from Hallgrímskirkja church. The place is designed pretty much like every other new eating establishment that has opened in Reykjavík the last three years: wooden floors and ceilings with bronze and dark colours in abundance. This has grown a bit tiresome, but who am I to complain? This is perhaps supposed to convey a dark, cabin-like machismo or to create a rustic kind of atmosphere. The menu certainly suggests that.

After a nice time in the very crowded lounge where we enjoyed an excellent cocktail each, we were seated in the cellar. This sounds like a bad thing, but the seats on the bottom floor are actually quite nice, close to the open kitchen where diners can have a look at everything going on. Lots of smoke, lots of fire. Very exciting.

My companion and I decided upon a mix of small courses for our entrees (4,690 ISK, for two). This turned out to include a beef taco, tequila ceviche, a duck mini-burger and—get ready—minke whale tartar. I was actually disappointed by the fact Kol serves whale. There is a misconception about Icelanders’ fondness for those mammals of the sea, and by our waiter’s own admission, very few Icelanders actually order it. That said, as it had already been cooked and presented to me, I did try it. And it was pretty good. A nice soy-based dressing worked very well. Of the other entrees, the ceviche stood out. With a nice hint of tequila, the acidity of the mixed citrus marinade perfectly cooked the seafood. Very fresh, very nice.

For the main courses, Kol has a menu that is quite “macho.” Everything is grilled on a huge charcoal fireplace in the middle of the kitchen, which brings about a nice caramelising Maillard-effect, the meat having grill marks and a smoky note of flavour. I chose a Confit de Canard (3990 ISK), while my companion had a 250 gram grilled rib eye steak (4690 ISK). Both dishes were well above average, although if I were to go again, I would choose the rib eye. The duck was lying on a bed of bygotto (barley-based risotto), with delicious sweet potato purée and very nice poached carrots that had been sweetened with honey. A small glaze of concentrated orange was on top of the duck leg, a very nice touch. The rib eye was cooked perfectly—a nice sear on the outside, yet red and juicy on the inside. Perfectly seasoned as well. It was served up with root vegetables and béarnaise sauce, which weren’t needed to be honest. The beef was the star of the plate, and there was plenty of it.

After a feast like this, where we really managed to pack an artery, there was really no room for dessert. So instead, we decided upon another cocktail—TGIF and all that. And, it must be noted that Kol serves up award-winning cocktails, claiming three of the top five spots in the last Icelandic Mixologist Championships. My companion and I recommend the Old Mexican Sour (2,400 ISK) and Red Monroe (2,000 ISK), the former offering a nice splash of mescal, and the latter being the perfect tangy bitter taste you crave after a meal. The drink prices are perhaps a bit steep, ranging from 2,000 ISK to 2,500 ISK, but the upscale clientele didn’t seem to mind, and neither did we. Something has to be done to cheer us up in this rain, ne c’est pas?

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