There was a collective sigh of despair when Kjöt og Fiskur downed shutters on Bergstaðastræti. In a short span of time, the neighbourhood had seen Frú Lauga, Kjöt og Fiskur and Matarbúr Kaja open and close; each opening met with cheers and each subsequent closure with disappointment that yet another downtown business favoured by the locals was done for.
Hoping to break the curse, is Gnægtahornið. “We are not only a fish store,” store owner Gunnar Guttormur Kjeld emphasises. Even though it’s only a few weeks old, the opening has been met with wide enthusiasm, especially by the local residents. In a quickly changing urban landscape, where commercial needs of tourism are often at loggerheads with residents, it is understandable why the opening of a neighbourhood store garners this attention.
The basement store is simply furnished — there are rows of locally brewed Kombucha, preserves, and spreads from Vellir Svarfaðardal, various fish products and a smattering of organic vegetables. Further ahead, there is cod in an olive tapenade marinade, Arctic char with capers, fresh cod and a full basket of oysters at just 350 ISK per piece sits invitingly. Vegans and vegetarians are considered and a handful of salads and patties are on offer. Behind the store, is a work room where fresh catch of the day is processed to be sent off to restaurants and to sell instore.
Gutti, as Gunnar is known, has long felt the need for more variety of produce. With his background in wholesale seafood supply, he has been behind the scenes in the supply chain industry. But why retail? “Honestly, I wanted to diversify,” Gutti laughs, going on to add, “Supermarket choices are all the same, you know,” he explains. “What one sells, the others do, too. The fish in the same marinades, the same vegetables, seasonal or not.”
“Take the oysters for instance,” he continues,“I’m in the position of offering them to people, in small quantities at a reasonable price. It is a unique thing given their short shelf life and removes the hassle of buying oysters if you weren’t a restaurant.” Having tried them myself, I have to concur that the fanciful feeling of eating oysters in your pajamas at home is vastly underrated.
Gutti has ambitious plans. “I want to create this community ecosystem, a food exchange,” he says passionately. “Where the lemons we supply to a restaurant, comes back to Gnægtahornið as say, fermented lemons, a full circle. We’ve been working with Lækjarbrekka, and I am keen on bringing on board more industry professionals to lend their expertise. Chef Eva has been the anchor in this operation and has brought in variety for vegans and vegetarians.”
Fresh, local, abundant
Gnægtahornið refers to the horn of plenty in Icelandic. In an effort to offer more than what the supermarkets currently do, Gutti is working closely with Seyðisfjörður initiative, Austurlands Food Coop, to bring hitherto unavailable fresh produce to Reykjavík residents.
To minimise food waste, in-house soup for lunch is also on the cards. The no-food waste principle extends to the seafood as well. The traditional ýsa í raspi is made with leftover sourdough bread crumbs. The fiskibollur too, gets an update with the addition of vegetables.
“Being creative can be challenging and not falling back on the established norms is very challenging because it is so tempting to fall back on what’s been done before.” It is early days yet, but Gnægtahornið might just be the corner of plenty 101 has been waiting for.
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