From Iceland — The Grapevine's Country Cuisine Handbook

The Grapevine’s Country Cuisine Handbook

The Grapevine’s Country Cuisine Handbook

Published June 22, 2020

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Photo by
Art Bicnick

So you’ve been to Dill, Bæjarins Bestu, Grillmarket and Hlölli. You think you’re the King of Icelandic cuisine. Well slow down champ, there’s a lot of goodies to be found outside the capital around the island. So expand your palate—and your mileage.

Sænautasel

Jökuldalsheiði, Highlands

Photo by Jac Janssen/Flickr

This Highlands terf house is the definition of a hidden gem. Lying in the middle-of-nowhere, the farm/museum/campsite/hotel/restaurant is run seasonally by a father/son duo and is actually rumoured to be the inspiration behind Halldór Laxness’s ‘Independent People.’ Stay the night in their secluded no-electricity turf house and wake up to traditional Icelandic pancakes with blueberry jam served family style by a father and son duo. Then, spend the rest of your life dreaming of that idyllic breakfast.

Bryggjan

Grindavík

Photo by Bryggjan

Another place that definitely deserves more attention. This Grindavík café (that has signs allover the city so you can’t possibly miss it) serves up potentially the best lobster soup in the country—no hyperbole—that’s so flavourful one bite will leave you spinning. Btw, you Icelanders are in for a treat because this place is the brainchild of none other than the legendary TV chef Siggi Hall. Bryggjan is a place with heart and some serious local-core.

Simbahöllin

Fjarðargata 5, Þingeyri

Art Bicnick

Who says you can’t get mouth-watering Belgian-style waffles in the middle of nowhere?Certainly not Simbahöllin. This café, nested in the tiny fishing village of Þingeyri, makes a damn good latte, magical jam, and a Reykjavík 10-years-ago vibe that instantly makes you feel like a very in-the-know cool artist. Hello, fellow kids.

Farmers Bistro

Garðastígur 8, Flúðir

Photo by John Rogers

Welcome to Iceland’s only mushroom farm, where you can learn about mycelium, hyphae, fertilization, waste-free practices and other fungi-facts. The adjoining farm-to-table restaurant boasts a menu of locally-grown and fresh food that includes not only delicious mushroom soup, but a mushroom ice cream dessert. The prices are pretty outstanding for Iceland as well. Now that’s a shroom trip that can’t go bad. 

Norð Austur 

Seyðisfjörður

Photo by Timothee Lambrecq

The crown of the East, Norð Austur’s sushi will lead you to rethink your existence and even the fact that atoms combined to make us at all. And when you taste that Pylsu Sushi, your brain will explode into distant galaxies. This place has literally left our food experts—yes, plural—speechless. One of our best, Shruthi Basappa wrote in 2017: “Is Norð Austur worth the trip to Seyðisfjörður? Is it the best sushi in Iceland? A resounding ‘yes’ to both.” 

Frida Chocolate Coffeehouse

Túngata 40a, Siglufjörður

Photo by Frida Chocolate Coffeehouse

Until 2016, the tiny northern town of Siglufjörður would probably not be your #1 destination for artisanal chocolates. But then Frida Chocolate Coffeehouse opened and suddenly, unexpectedly, the winds of the Atlantic carried the scents of creamy, thick, piping hot chocolate out to the country and the Word was with God and the Word was Chocolate. What we’re trying to say is that the homemade fancy chocolates at Frida are so good that we’re currently on a sugar high and are having religious delusions. Help.

Tjöruhúsið

Ísafjörður

Photo by Tjöruhúsið

This little outpost was dishing out local, seasonal, affordable, nose-to-tail seafood dining long before they became a buzzword in Iceland’s dining scene. The kitchen pushes out pan after pan of various fish and it’s an all you can eat buffet, which means you will regret that you haven’t starved yourself for days before when you taste these dishes. On any trip to the Westfjords, visiting Tjöruhúsið isn’t a recommendation, it’s a necessity. Send all thank you notes to grapevine@grapevine.is.

Freysnes

Skaftafell

Photo by Art Bicnick

Directly across from Hótel Skaftafell is an unassuming gas station, grocery store and restaurant. Don’t be put off by its humble exterior; head to the buffet for a heaping plate of lamb, potatoes and salad that’ll rival the best restaurants in Reykjavík. Seriously, this is one of those places you’ll be recommending to your friends forever with the preface, “I know it looks like a gas station, but here me out…” 

Vellir Farmers’ Market

Skíðadalsvegur, 621 Dalvík

Photo by Vellir Farmers’ Market

At the Vellir farm, they, as an unnamed devotée of the market told the Grapevine, “smoke the shit out of some cheeses and meats and it’s everything.” So if you’re looking for delicious Icelandic chutneys, local ice cream, freshly plucked berries, veggies, herbs, particularly fantastic mushrooms, and “smoked the shit out of” cheeses and meats, you know where to go.   

Slippurinn

Westman Islands

Photo by Art Bicnick

This one’s a given. If you haven’t been to the exquisite Westman Islands eatery Slippurinn, you should probably start pinpointing where, exactly, your life went wrong. With locally sourced ingredients, incredible presentation and a very cosy setting amongst the beauty of the region, Slippurinn is possibly the best iteration of New Nordic fine dining. Head chef Gísli Matthías Auðunsson’s menu incorporates wild seasonal herbs and berries from the islands’ beaches, with local fish, seabird eggs and meat, prepared in creative and surprising ways. 

Vallanes Organic Farm

Vallanes, Egilsstaðir

Photo by Vallanes Organic Farm

Home of Móðir Jörð, the Icelandic brand that produces organic vegetable-based products. The food is always fresh, tasty, local, vegetarian or vegan, and seasonal. Enjoy it in a newly built house made entirely of Icelandic wood, or in the greenhouse whilst chatting with the owners. Egilsstaðir has got some tricks up her sleeve, it seems. 

Háafell Goat Farm

Borgarnes

Photo by Art Bicnick

Stop by for the cute cuddly goats. Stay for the fresh goat cheese and goat cheese ice cream (!!!!). Trust us, you haven’t lived ‘til you’ve covered your pasta in goat parmesan, with a baguette topped with goat brie on the side. We love goat. G.O.A.T. 

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