One might be forgiven for not having expectations beyond the ordinary when passing the non-descript spine connecting downtown Reykjavik and Grandi. But walking into Héðinn Kitchen & Bar, Reykjavík’s newest—and likely largest—restaurant instantly transports you to a montage of big city life echoing the industrial past of London or New York
The vestibule allows the right amount of repose to take in the dramatic high ceilings, and chain mesh islands of swank and gloss. Take a moment and scan the landscape for that ideal dining spot—the factory windows spanning three floors, the dusky teal and blue-grey mural or the slinky bar perhaps? There is plenty to choose from, 140 seats to be precise.
Design, meet history
It turns out Héðinn recalls Vélsmiðjan Héðinn, a homegrown icon among industrial companies that accelerated its fishing fortunes by investing in its ship building and steel machinery works. This used to be their flagship production facility designed by Ar. Sigurður Pjetursson in 1941. Few structures in Reykjavik remain that preserve memories of its industrial past, let alone embrace and celebrate it. Héðinsreitur has served as everything from office spaces to a gym to being the Loftkastalinn theatre and the final resting place of Páll Óskar’s sparkly unicorn float.
Planning efforts in recent times have made room for mixed use development that I expect will serve the restaurant well. Hotel guests are expected to enjoy full breakfast services while local residents (300 apartments are underway in and around the area) can enjoy a lunch menu distinct from its dinner offerings (they’re a proofread away from being guest-ready, however). Architects Gláma Kím and interiors by I am Studio, London, have brought factory-cool forward with the chain mesh curtains floating above the kitchen and bar creating islands of focus.
Kitchen & Bar
The menu steers away from the set menu format, a welcome respite in a city saturated with the concept. The highlight of the meal is a tomato number (2290 ISK) with tomatoes semi dried and fresh, presented as a wreath and dotted with carefully placed croutons and splotches of stracciatella, all local, finally crowned by a good glug of spicy, cold tomato broth. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish and it certainly captures the spirit of head chef Sigurjón Braga Geirsson’s hope for the seasonal and local.
Seafood is likely what the kitchen wants to showcase best as we were treated to a beautifully presented platter of smoked haddock (2990 ISK) with green apples and pickled onions in a moat of white wine velouté. A textbook halibut (4990 ISK) with a last minute finish on the grill was only overshadowed by the charred broccoli and ribbons of cabbage served alongside. A zesty Carricante from Scalunera made for easy drinking alongside.
Many dishes seem to favour the richness of brown butter, ubiquitous in the menu, a gesture I question, but am confident will find acceptance when showcased as single courses.
Leaning into the history of the space, cocktails are named after Icelandic movies, like Stella í Orlofi, and the intriguing Djöflaeyjan (Devil’s Island). Upon the waiter’s recommendation, I tried the Astrópía (2690 ISK), but, unlike the movie’s role-playing protagonist, I didn’t quite fall in love with the sticky slush sorbet-on-the-side drink making a sweet cocktail achingly sweeter. A refractometer wouldn’t be out of place for the bar.
Ambition and promise
The kitchen practically boasts of the roster of the national chef’s team, with Viggó Vigfússon and Elías Guðmundsson steering the ship. Between them they bring the combined experience of having founded and run everything from Gló, to Omnom, Skúbb, Blackbox and Brauð & Co. It will be interesting to see how the many chefs and founder experiences inform the menu. I look forward to trying the vegan fare—he grilled king oyster mushrooms beckon for a revisit.
I’ve been to many restaurants and recognise the skin prickling sensation of new, when everything is awash with promise and excitement. There is a different air about fledgling restaurants; they are practically hope served on a platter. If the bar and kitchen at Héðinn can continue to deliver the lightness of that tomato dish combined with their attentive service, Reykjavík can look forward to a welcome addition to the dining experience.
Visit the restaurant at Seljavegur 2. For more information visit here.
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