A glass oasis in Reykjavík’s botanical garden. Perennial favourite of sewing circles and book clubs. Your aunt is sprinting over there, wild-eyed with her open-faced sandwich trident as we speak.
There’s a good reason The Grapevine picked Café Flóra as the best kept secret in the Reykjavík restaurant fauna, as you will have a hard time finding Café Flóra. Basically just walk into the botanical garden and wander for a bit until you see a greenhouse. I am thunderously ecstatic to see that the miserable summer we’ve had has killed off all the wasps, as last time I was there Café Flóra was swarming with them.
Shrouded in vegetation but otherwise pretty unassuming (dare I say a little tacky?), the view is obstructed by water pipes that run like prison bars across the paned windows. There’s a little koi pond in the middle and it has a slight cafeteria feel to it. Like at Gló (another favourite with the auntie-brigade), you order at the counter. It seems like they will do table service if they’re not too busy but otherwise you pick it up at the counter too, like a good little worker wasp (are there “worker wasps?” Wasps always seemed like the bad boys of the insect world. Bumming smokes in yellow jackets and whistling at lady bugs—that sort of thing).
There are three types of food on the menu: Open-faced sandwiches, salads and miscellaneous. Most of the vegetables and greens seem to be taken from their own garden and are absolutely delicious. I can’t vouch for the source of the other raw ingredients but I have no real complaints there either. There were some missteps in the handling of the ingredients though.
My sisters and I ordered the green salad with feta cheese, beetroot and apples (1790 ISK), the lobster salad with sweet potatoes, pumpkin seeds, pickled fennel and oranges (2350 ISK) and the ruccola and cucumber salad with ginger-marinated strips of roast beef (2250 ISK). We also tried the soup of the day, which was a seafood soup with salmon and shrimp (950 ISK), and decided to share the smoked duck breast with apple-horseradish and orange (2190 ISK) and the bruschetta with beetroot and oranges (1390 ISK).
The leafy greens were universally excellent, although the kitchen seems to be more than a little obsessed with oranges and roasted pumpkin seeds and should maybe expand a little beyond that. They were generous with the lobster in the lobster salad, well cooked and, thankfully, not heavy on the garlic. They should skip on the sweet potatoes, though. The ginger beef could have used more ginger but was otherwise lovely.
The salmon was good but the shrimp were the frozen mini ones you see everywhere in Iceland. I would kill for a local fishmonger selling fresh shrimp and shellfish out of a vat of ice. How come this doesn’t exist in Iceland?
We should have stuck to the salads. The smoked duck breast was bone dry and the caramelised onions struggled to lend it any kind of moisture. The beetroot and orange bruschetta was fine for what it was but I’m still struggling to see why we ordered that, as none of us are particularly fond of that combo. But the homemade pesto that came with the bruschetta was damn good and I was able to wash the bruschetta down with a Peroni. Peroni and I have this sentimental thing going on and I’m glad they had it.
After we left, everyone was telling me that we should have ordered the chicken in beer dough. I can’t vouch for it as it sounded far too heavy for lunch but maybe you should give it a try.
For Danish open-faced sandwiches go to Jómfrúin, but if you want to enjoy a lovely salad in the middle of a botanical garden then this is your best, and only, bet.
Opening Hours: May 1 – October 1 from 10:00 – 22:00
What We Think: The food just above average but the surroundings push it up half a point.
Flavour: Fresh, light, beef, greens, seafood
Ambiance: A nice, quiet menopause
Service: Friendly and a little nervous
Four course menu for two (no drinks): 3500–5000 ISK
Our Rating: 3.5/5