From Iceland — The Almost Fishmonger Who Launched a Restaurant

The Almost Fishmonger Who Launched a Restaurant

Published October 3, 2022

The Almost Fishmonger Who Launched a Restaurant
Valur Grettisson
Photo by
Emma Leadbetter

There is no simple way to explain Jón Mýrdal, one of Reykjavík’s most prolific restaurant moguls. His varied CV includes experienced hunter, stand-up comedian, TV star, musician, journalist (we used to work together in the mid-2000 in that environment) and finally a restaurant entrepreneur—and almost a fishmonger.

A lot of experience

Jón has been responsible for highly successful bars and restaurants, like Röntgen, Skuggabaldur, Messinn and the legendary bar and concert space, Húrra. While he has moved on from most of these ventures, apart from Skuggabaldur, he has now embarked on an interesting collaboration with another successful chef and restaurateur, Stefán Melsted, who was previously involved in the fantastic bar Snaps, among others. Now they are running the newest talk of the town, Kastrup.

Pop Up Restaurant

“We met when I was at Röntgen and I had this space, where Dill used to be, and I didn’t really know what to do with it,” Jón explains. But, Jón being the human equivalent of the energiser bunny, he offered Stefán the space to launch a pop-up restaurant. Stefán studied in Copenhagen in Denmark, at Hotel D’Angleterre, and specialises in the famous Danish smørrebrød. The pop-up was a smash hit.

Do you really want to be a fishmonger?

“I was always mopping the floor at Röntgen the morning after, so Stefán and I got to know each other quite well,” Jón says. And no, it’s not surprising that Jón was mopping the floor the morning after the wild parties at Röntgen. He is also the embodiment of the Icelandic work ethic.

“But the moment I realised that Stefán made sense is when I asked him about a space that he owned, because I wanted to open up a store there. I wanted to be a fishmonger,” Jón explains so seriously that I literally burst out laughing while interviewing him.
Jón acknowledges the absurdity of the statement with a grin: “I’m quite an impulsive person, as you know.”

While Stefán did offer him the space and said that the idea might work, he ultimately asked,“But do you really want to be a fishmonger?”

To be fair, Icelanders have a pretty deep appreciation for fishmongers, being an honest fish nation. Still, Jón realised fishmongering wasn’t a path he wanted to go down. However, this interaction with Stefán cemented the relationship between the two men.

“I realised that Stefán was a no-bullshit man, and I liked that,” Jón says.

Straightforward and quality materials are key

After repeating the pop-up concept at Bar Ananas at Klapparstígur, Stefán and Jón realised that there was some serious interest in their idea. Their next step was simple: finding a nice space. They eventually found it on Hverfisgata, under 101 Hotel.

Kastrup opened up in March, just at the end of COVID-19 restrictions and has already established itself with a host of regular customers.

“Although we follow the Danish philosophy when it comes to cuisine, we’re just focusing on keeping things simple and big. No nonsense, just good wine and beer, real portions and a solid experience,” Jón says.

While it’s clear that the idea is a straightforward one, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that this is not your typical restaurant. Take, for instance, the fresh scallops from Breiðafjörður. The mollusks are paired with humble french fries—a down to earth move, making high-quality and seemingly exclusive produce seem diner-friendly and approachable.

Kastrup also offers succulent salmon— never sourced from fish farms, according to Jón. The vegetables, if not available in Iceland, are imported from Paris, where they are handpicked.

“At the end of the day, it’s always about the quality of the raw ingredients,” says Jón.

Asked what’s next, Jón has a simple answer: “We’re just preparing to evolve the menu for the winter, and then we’ll see.”

Kastrup is at Hverfisgata 6, 101 Reykjavík.

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