Reykjavík is a speedy city—the latest measurements show it can accelerate from 0-3 food halls in as many years. The newest kid on the block is Mathöll Höfða, located in a tucked away commercial-industrial area in the Reykjavík 110 postcode—a seeming victory for suburban couples and families tired of schlepping to 101 for fancy food. The nine stalls serve a wide range of offerings in an airy interior, from the “upper class street food” of the GastroTruck to the attractive New Nordic cuisine of Hipstur, Indian food from Indican, and East Iceland craft brews from the Beljandi Bar, amongst others. We skipped breakfast, and dropped by one sunny lunchtime to try them out.
With a large oven featuring a wood-fired, gas-assisted flame and a spinning plate, Flatbakan’s pizzas take only two minutes to bake. Alongside traditional pepperoni and so forth, they pride themselves on their array of vegan options—the “Perfect One” combines convincing vegan cheese, spicy tomato sauce, basil, dates, and salted peanuts. The tomato sauce dominates the taste—a running theme—with the dates providing a suitable chewiness for the otherwise soft nosh. For carnivores, the olive-laden spicy meat option with pepper cheese would kill any hangover dead.
The freshest stand on the block is Hipstur, run by an Icelandic-German couple who previously owned a restaurant in Norway before their recent relocation to Iceland. Their food is breezy, grown-up and fresh. The Swedish-style shrimp sandwiches on lightly toasted brioche are herbaceous and moreish. The vegetarian mushroom bread is touted as their bestseller, with good reason; the toasted sourdough is easy to cut but toothy enough to support the lightly sautéed portobello and chestnut mushrooms, commingling with verdant greens and fresh dill. Hipstur’s dishes are tasty, colourful street-food craftsmanship, and worth the trip to Höfði alone.
Our Pick: Mushroom bread & shrimp roll
Icelanders love pastries and doughnuts, so Sætir Snúður proved an instant hit. Fresh from the oven, we’re presented with four warm, gooey flavours, one of which is introduced in charming Icelandic-accented English as having “sexed almonds.” While the snúður scent is delectable and each bun gooped to the gods with drools of enticing icing, the first bite sadly unearthed a dry bun. The deep, sticky nutella frosting subsumed the almonds—so, in the end, we couldn’t quite tell if they’d been sexed or not. It’s early days, but this isn’t yet up there with the mouth-watering masterworks of Brauð & Co. or Sandholt.
Reykjavík has a relative dearth of Mexican food, but Culiacan—who also run an outpost on Suðurlandsbraut—has been around since long before the others. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say most Icelanders got their first taste of Tex-Mex food here. Our plates arrive heaped with satisfyingly vast portions, including a stuffed-to-bursting burrito, crisp and cheesy quesadillas and spicy nachos. In true Icelandic-palette style, everything is sauced to high heaven, making it a knife and fork affair. However, the joyous zip, zest and festive spice of top-notch Mexican cuisine is only hinted at here. Note: our interns happily devoured the tray of leftovers back at the office, pronouncing it their favourite by far.
Tucked away in the far corner of the food hall is Indican, serving colourful curries and Indian-fusion street food sides. The butter chicken was warming and authentically spiced, and the vegetarian bean and chickpea curry was a highlight — although they seem to be fond of putting kasuri methi garnish on every dish, perhaps to excess. The boneless chicken wings were tasty, and carried some garam masala flavour; the cauliflower version gave the vegetarian among us the opportunity of a lifetime to taste wing-sauce and see what the fuss is about. The verdict? Sticky, messy, and moreish.
Our pick: Butter chicken & vegetable curry
No food hall would be complete without a burger joint. At Mathöll Höfða that’s Gastro Truck, the original branch of which is stationed at Grandi Mathöll. One of the more popular stands, their sticky chicken-burger and fries combo is substantial, crispy and delicious, marred only by a slathering of sauce that resulted in the burger disintegrating, and some sloppy bun shrapnel left in the tray. The meat-free version was also a sauce explosion, but the vegan patty made up for it—a tasty and moist-but-firm revelation that scored top marks.
Our pick: Chicken or vegan burger & fries
Part of a chain that you’ll see around Reykjavík, the kitchen of Wok On looks promising through the windows as the busy chefs toss fresh greens, bean sprouts and noodles in giant smoking woks over naked flames. However, their food doesn’t pass the taste test: the flavours on offer are, sadly, pretty much the kind of familiar chop suey you could make in a few minutes at home, and lacking interesting or authentic touches. Walk on, indeed. [Editor’s note: we were contacted by Wok On, who said that due to a miscommunication, the dishes we were served were not complete. We will return to review their menu at a future date.]
This buffet-style traditional joint promises “no bullshit” Icelandic food. Our plate arrives heaped with bearnaise-laden meat, some pickled cabbage and basic veggies. A small plokkfiskur tart is quite delicious, but the meat proved chewy, and the cabbage sharply pungent and acidic. Looking around the packed hall, however, this meal is clearly popular with locals. Perhaps to locals, we ruminated, this is comfort food “like grandma used to make”—but it seems grandma has her off days.
Our Pick: Plokkfiskur tartlet
Another harbinger of Iceland’s craft beer revolution is the arrival of this lauded East Iceland craft brewery in Reykjavík. Beljandi’s beers are already sought after on the taps of discerning craft pubs around the capital, but now you can try their whole range at their very own bar. It opens at 2pm daily—if your visit should happily coincide, skip the basic beers available elsewhere and make a beeline for Beljandi.
Our Pick: Spaði IPA & Beljandi pale ale
Visit Mathöll Höfða at Bíldshöfði 9, Reykjavík 110. Visit the website at mathollhofda.is.
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