Kryddlegin hjörtu is perfectly located with a sweet view of Esja in all her mountainly glory (914 metres, but who’s counting!). It is wedged between the Indian Embassy on the left and the social security office on the right, which strangely enough sort of sums the restaurant up perfectly—sort of ethnic and very affordable.
The menu at Kryddlegin hjörtu couldn’t be simpler: salad buffet and a rotating selection of soup at 1790 ISK during lunch and 1990 ISK at later hours or a stable selection of two main courses, an oven-baked fish with couscous or a lasagne (both at 1990 ISK). The focus is squarely on the lunch hour, but it was still surprising to see them closed for business during weekends and closing at 21:00 on weekdays.
So what does the place look like? Remember that Martin Bashir documentary about Michael Jackson? Remember that bit in the Vegas shopping mall where he goes shopping for furniture? By the looks of the interiors at Kryddlegin hjörtu the king of pop found time to float by on a cloud of Lorazepam to give some pointers. It’s minimal but all over the place and serving affordable health conscious food—this is where Steve Jobs would have gone during his Hare Krishna days. The fact that the place takes its name from the Icelandic translation of ‘Like Water for Chocolate’ by Laura Esquivel, that perennial favourite of the Scandinavian housewife, is just the icing on the cake.
What else do you need to know? Well, the place looks like they’d employ servers but the deal is that you grab a seat, pay-at-the-counter and help yourself. If you opt for the soup, bread and salad (as most do) then you’ll be given one bowl that you will have to reuse, even if you wish to sample all the available soups. While they do it to avoid a pile up of bowls with half-eaten soups, it is undeniably annoying for those who want to try more of what’s on offer. However, I found that asking nicely can remedy that quite quickly.
I had the soup and salad and my date had the fish with couscous. With it we had Fuller’s Organic Honey Dew, which seems to have become a mandatory part of the selection at all organic restaurants in Europe. We went on a Tuesday so the soup selection was Mexican “salsa soup,” coconut-curry, fish and mushroom.
The quality of the salad bar is the main reason I would call their prices reasonable. The salad bar offers two spreads, a delicious spiced garlic butter and a hummus made on location with home-made tahini and organic chickpeas, freshly-baked bread (mostly the dense gluten-free kind, which my date liked but I am a lot less fond of), different types of vegetables (all organic too, not that I can tell the difference anyway), rice, nuts, beans and so on. The salad bar alone is enough to fill up on and that’s not including the four soups.
I had heard good things about the soups, but I must say I was a little underwhelmed. The coconut-curry turned out to be a pretty basic Thai green curry, heavy on the kaffir lime and scrumptious. The Mexican-style “salsa soup” was decent and generous with the chicken. The fish soup was some kind of brown, wimpy goop and didn’t appeal to me at all. I refused to try the cream of mushroom soup as cream of mushroom should be limited to Warhol prints and is never fit for human consumption.
I tried my date’s fish on couscous (turns out dining with a food critic gets old really fast) which was excellent, though far too heavy on the fresh cilantro but fresh with a nice spicy crisp on top.
I recommend the fish on couscous, the spreads, and the Thai green curry soup if they’re serving it on the day you go. I like my breads light and fluffy so those didn’t really do it for me, but a lot of people seem to love them so you should try for yourselves.
The only real downside was that the owners found out I was there to review the place and hovered over the table like cartoon vultures explaining every last ingredient on the menu (remember what I said about dining with food critics?).
What We Think: Good value organic salad bar. A refreshingly simple fish and couscous dish. Great view. Variable soup quality. Good choice for a quick lunch, but don’t expect to have your minds blown.
Flavour: Fresh-tasting amalgam of Middle Eastern and Central American cuisine, but nothing that would freak out your health-conscious auntie.
Ambiance: They seem to be doing good business, but the atmosphere was pretty bland and laid-back. I did notice a group of bongo players settling in when we were leaving so maybe I should have stuck around for that.
Price: (2 people with drinks): Approx. 6000 ISK