Julefrukost, or Christmas buffet, is an old Scandinavian Christmas tradition that has grown very popular in Iceland in recent decades. In the old days, before Christmas became a celebration of consumerism, the extended family would gather to feast on every conceivable (or perhaps available) good course they could think of, knowing full well that eating good food is the focal point of any good celebration. In modern times, families tend to opt for a simpler and less time consuming approach, but to celebrate this old customs, friends, families and co-workers join together at restaurants for a Christmas buffet during the days leading up to Christmas.
Recently, I visited Skrúður Restaurant, located in Hótel Saga, to experience their approach to the traditional festival food. Although there is no single set menu for Julefrukost, there are a few obligatory courses. Herring is one of them, and in my experience, restaurants tend to underestimate the importance of the herring tradition, both historically and thematically. Skrúður does well here, scoring high for an excellent applesauce herring. Another obligatory course, gravlax (cured salmon) was also a particular highlight. The blackened salmon and Christmas halibut were well received, but I must admit that I was a little put off by the sight of beef carpaccio among the courses offered, considering the origin and the tradition of the occasion. Smoked lamb is an essential part of the Icelandic festival cuisine, and Skrúður offers a mild tasting, lightly salted meat, which is just the way I prefer it, although I was a little disappointed to find that the equally essential white sauce that goes with it was missing. This needs to be fixed no later than yesterday.
Skrúður offers three main meat courses, turkey, roast pork and lamb. All three were excellent, but I admit that I missed having either Christmas ham, or smoked pork fillet, both of which are customary. I have no complaints though, I was so full by then that I hardly had room for ice cream and the much anticipated almond rice pudding. All in all, Skrúður offers a good, traditional Christmas buffet, although it didn’t contain all my favourites.
- Where Hotel Saga / Hagatorg
- Homepage: 5900 ISK
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