Nauthóll is a rare type of restaurant where the majority of year-round customers are Icelandic. And small wonder, since it’s ten minutes walking distance from the nearest hotel and thirty minutes walking distance from downtown. But it also happens to be located by one of Reykjavík’s favourite summer hangouts, the artificial beach Nauthólsvík, and near the start of a popular jogging route stretching into Elliðaárdalur to the east. With a table on the window-side, we spent the time looking over the sea and the 1940s army barracks, as well as rooting for a black rabbit trying its darndest to dig through a nearby hill for no good reason.
What can I say about the food? Parts of the menu are part of the regular scheduled New Nordic broadcast, but they do allow themselves a couple of creative flourishes and mix in a good deal of Japanese and Italian influences—enough to give guests at nearby Hotel Natura a reason to venture beyond their hotel restaurant, Satt. Not that I have anything against Satt, but as they say, variety is the spice of life…you know, like sazon goja is the spice of Puerto Rican food.
Aside from the usual á la carte, Nauthóll offers a brunch that I’ve heard great things about, prix fixe sushi with wine on Thursdays, and a flaming nipple tassel buffet on Mondays (one of these weekly deals is a lie—guess which one). Since my wife needs raw fish and seaweed the way Rush Limbaugh needs opiates and racism, we went gunning for the sushi Thursday (12 pieces for 1990 ISK).
Her sushi offered a few pleasant surprises: tiger shrimp, sweet potato, salmon, coconut, and chicken (not raw…pfff…pansies). So it’s safe to say the sushi was on the California end of the spectrum. I was ready to jump all over it when I heard what was in it, but it actually turned out all right.
My first course was the buckwheat in a spicy oregano tomato sauce, enoki, crunchy seaweed, dried mango and pineapple (1690 ISK). Somehow, this dartboard cluster fudge came together in a perfectly nice starter—although I’d urge them to not push their luck in the future with those dried mangoes.
My date’s main course was a lamb ropa vieja (3690 ISK). The usual glaze, roasted parsnip and dill didn’t fail to make an appearance, but the simple act of shredding the slow-cooked lamb added something to the dish. Not the best I’ve had in Reykjavík, but definitely worth recommending.
Last time I tried veal Milanese was after ducking through a doorway in Rome while trying to ditch a gang of belligerent R.A.S.H. skinheads in San Lorenzo peddling subpar hashish. So I decided I was probably due for a slice that wasn’t salted with tears of terror. Nauthóll chalked up points for great fresh pasta and homemade pasta sauce, but went rogue with the veal itself; the slice was too thick and the bread crust wasn’t quite crispy enough. I’d still call the veal Milanese at Nauthóll a success and recommend you give it a try. Definitely passes the Olive Garden test with flying colours, but at 4490 ISK I’d expect it to be a little more faithful.
The desserts were an updated version of the classic Icelandic oatmeal crumble “hjónabandssæla” called “berjasæla” (990 ISK) and a warm apple tart with five-spice ice cream (990 ISK). Both came on a base that resembled something between soft shortbread and a sponge cake. I don’t even know if that description makes sense, but since pastry is not really my strong suit I’m going to go with it. Although I’ve seen five-spice ice cream before, I was quite impressed to see Nauthóll risk it and to their credit, both desserts were delicious (if not mind-bendingly brilliant).
At this point the sun was finally setting (22:00) and the black rabbit had burrowed its way half way to bunny hell so we strapped on our running shoes and jogged home…only kidding, we drove home and flopped on the couch to watch some old Peter Jackson movies.
What We Think: I may be coming down a little hard on them, but that’s because I think they are very close to getting the balance just right. They’re doing a lot of things right; they know how to make a diner feel special, but the mix was a little too wild and bug-eyed at times, even for me.
Flavour: The styles are all over the shop. Mostly Italian, Japanese and Scandinavian but by way of California if that makes any sense. Still impressed by their willingness to take some risks on the menu.Ambiance: Beautiful view, but the crowd was the usual Night of the Living Bourgeois. But if we’re going to hold that against them then we might as well close down all of Reykjavík.
Service: Great service; the server switched to English with ease the moment she noticed one of us didn’t speak Icelandic and she went out of her way to provide information about the menu and ingredients.
Price: (2 people with drinks): Approx. 17–20.000 ISK (that’s if you go for an all-out 3 course menu; those who I know usually go there for the smaller courses).