When The Coocoo’s Nest first opened its doors in 2013, they confirmed suspicions of Grandi becoming the hip new Reykjavík neighbourhood. A family-run business from day one, it didn’t take long for their Italian/Californian fare to impress diners, with their brunch winning a loyal following—they’ve been consistently voted Best Brunch in our annual Best of Reykjavík awards.
Íris Anna and Lucas Keller are not only the owner-chefs of The Coocoo’s Nest, but the couple have also revamped this former industrial shed to great advantage. Their small but cosy restaurant has a gentle lived-in vibe, and with the new Luna Flórens gypsy bar next door—also run by Íris—the number of seats has grown.
Not just bread
One of the first to serve sourdough bread in Reykjavík, Coocoo’s embraces sourdough culture entirely. The all-American brunch pancakes (1,690 ISK) are fermented to fluffy perfection, and the classic sourdough loaves have an enviable crumb and satisfyingly crunchy crust; perfect for their freshly made sandwiches. A carb vehicle for all those good gut bacteria, this is the sort of healthy eating we should be seeing more of.
Soup lunches are a dime a dozen in Reykjavík, and I don’t say it lightly that Coocoo’s makes the best soups. Almost always vegan, they manage to coax deep flavours out of seemingly commonplace vegetables without resorting to the heavy-handed use of cream that many establishments are guilty of. The sandwiches (1,790 ISK) are either gratifying deli-style with mustard, cold cuts and house pickles or open-faced with anything from plump tiger shrimp to grilled in-season veggies. A glass of house wine (900 ISK) rounds things off nicely, and at 1,590 ISK for a soup-sandwich-salad combo, you’d be hard pressed to find a better lunch deal.
Chef Lucas is from California and this influence is reflected in their sourdough pizzas. On a combination of NY-style and traditional Italian crusts, it’s the toppings that set Cali-style pizzas apart, with local, often organic and ethically-sourced produce used sparingly. I’m partial to their ricotta, mozzarella pie (2,790 ISK) with kale, carolina reaper honey and toasted hazelnuts—it’s creamy, with hints of spicy sweetness. I could scarf one down any day.
Menu in motion
Coocoo’s menu has a daily theme, from Taco Tuesdays to pizza nights, Little Italy weekends, and a Sunday brunch. The brunch is ever-popular and on-point—reservations are recommended—but unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the others.
The varied menus seem promising on paper, but I’m unsure if the theme nights ever really caught on with diners. I—like many customers—often forget the day, and wander in expecting pasta on pizza days. On more than one occasion now, the weekend Italian menu has been entirely replaced in favour of the pizzas and appetizers. It’s a common sight to see customers walk in and out again, slightly bewildered, and the confusion isn’t helped by service that blows hot and cold depending on the server.
To be clear, though, it’s the organisation—and not the food—that’s frustrating. Themed nights may have their place, but it’s perplexing that the menu has a personality transplant every other day, demanding dedicated planning on the diner’s part. That said, the hearty, fresh, seasonal fare and the convivial atmosphere are ever-present, and a revamped approach to their menu could be all it needs to take that spark up a notch.
Visit The Coocoo’s Nest at Grandagarður 23, and online at coocoosnest.is
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