The newly opened eatery Veganæs—in the Gaukurinn music venue—bills itself as a vegan comfort food restaurant. While that’s definitely true, a more accurate description would be that it’s a comfort food restaurant that just happens to be vegan.
Taste anything from the menu and you’ll probably wonder whether the whole shebang is just an elaborate piece of performance art. The vegan fish dish—called fish-ish—tastes just like properly fantastic fish. The cheese balls are gooey, rich and definitively cheese-like. But trust me: this is definitely not vegan-trolling.
A grungy diamond
The restaurant, headed by chef Linnea Hellström—who you might know for her work with Kaffi Vínyl and Oumph!—fills a niche that has long stood empty in the Reykjavík culinary scene: a good ol’ fast food vegan place.
The eatery was packed when I arrived. Though it had only been open for a week at the time, there was already a dedicated pack of regulars, who gushed to me about their favourite items on the menu.
Gaukurinn is admittedly a strange locale for a diner, but the whole vibe actually compliments the food quite well. It emits a grungy dive bar aura, and in that sense, Veganæs is the first of its genre in the city—it’s a dive bar serving fast food, bordering on junk food, that’s entirely cruelty-free.
Ticking the burger box
I ordered the the burger, which arrived promptly with a hearty portion of fries and sauce. It’s a surprisingly substantial meal—a far cry from the more lightweight vegan burgers you’ll find around the city.
The patty is composed of seitan, black beans, and some secret ingredients, Linnea explains. It’s served under a combination of handmade vegan cheese, caramelised onions, fresh pickles, and sauces. The onions give the burger an unexpected sweetness, which is balanced by the sour pickles.
Nice to meat you
While the burger doesn’t necessarily taste like meat, it fulfils the same craving. By that, I mean that when you eat it, the parts of your brain that light up when you get a juicy hamburger positively ignite. It’s a satisfying greasy fix. It’s not just a good vegan burger, it’s a good burger.
The fries are fine, but the cocktail sauce shines. Linnea—a vegan when she moved to Iceland—has never tasted cocktail sauce, so the recipe was derived from friends describing the flavours to her. The result is an impeccable condiment that would fool even the most discerning sauce-lover.
I come back the next day for the burnt sandwich—a play on the traditional grilled cheese. With nuggets of jalapeños sprinkled in Linnea’s handmaid cheese between slices of greasy grilled bread—it’s comfort food on adrenaline. With messy fingers, I can’t even finish the sandwich; it’s that filling.
Overall, Veganæs is a must-try for vegan-curious culinary explorers. While the interior might put off more refined foodies, the food itself is absolutely worth a try. So if you’re the type who likes to inexplicably bang on about bacon or argue with vegans online, do yourself a favour and stop by. You may even be converted.