What does Reykjavik love more than building hotels? Food courts, of course! It was with tempered stomachs that we approached the latest gastro-court in Reykjavik, Borg29 Mathöll. How soon it all melted away as we sampled dish after dish that was, without exception, excellent. Every offering has an idea behind it and an energy of playful competition runs throughout the place. Chefs check out what everyone else is doing, keeping the standards high, while the open layout keeps everything beautifully on display. The view isn’t bad either. So here is the long story of the time that the Grapevine ate everything at Borg29. Enjoy.
You ever try something and immediately think, “Yeah, this is going to be a problem for me.” Well just take one bite of a Yuzu burger and you’ll be worried for your wallet, as this place is something you’ll crave on the daily. The gastro-burger joint already made its mark on the dining scene with its Hverfisgata location, but now they’ve got a smaller locale at the food hall, with a selection of crowd favourites. So what’s our obsession? No doubt the Stóri Yuzu. It’s a Big Mac tribute burger in honour of the travel restrictions, which has prevented many from getting the real thing. Eating one is somewhat of a spiritual experience, as it manages to quench that primal urge for good ole’ fast food, while also being distinctly high-end. Of course, the Chili burger is another favourite. Basically, everything here is amazing.
Bál Vín og Grill
Award-winning chef Hafsteinn Ólafsson is not resting on his laurels with his latest project, Bál Vín og Grill. Bál, meaning fire, features a variety of grill classics like skewers, steaks, and fish. But where Hafsteinn’s eye for presentation and attention to detail truly shine are the small dishes and appetizers; these are dishes clearly made by someone with passion, taste, and a sense of play. The dishes are perfectly curated, with modern classics like parma-wrapped dates and more adventurous offerings for the discerning foodie, like chicken pâté and beef tartare. I admit, before my time at Bál, I had never sampled a tartare. But with a creamy horseradish and delightful flatbread, this may now be a new addiction.
Umami Sushi Bar
Oh yeah, there’s sushi too. Named after that elusive fifth basic taste, this restaurant is the place to order the 10 piece Chef’s Special. Take away your own choice and let the professionals decide what is the freshest and most delicious of the day—they know what they’re doing. That said, you must complement that with their miso and garlic laced edamame beans and tuna tartare.
You’re torn: on the one hand, you could grab a viscerally delicious burger; on the other hand, you could make the “healthy” choice. Luckily for you, Svala has solved this dilemma. The smoothie bowls are filled to the brim with things like succulent nuts, granola, fruits, and chia seeds—we particularly loved the Prince Charming—meaning you get to feel full and better than your fellow lunch patrons without sacrificing taste. And, of course, there’s the drinks. Everything from the green smoothie to the Boom beet juice (a must-order) felt like a want, not a should. Highly recommended for an on-the-go breakfast or post-workout refuel.
La Masa Taqueria
The taco has a storied history in Iceland. In fact, you could probably do a dissertation on that topic alone. But whatever chapter you’ve stopped writing at, add another for La Masa Taqueria. Created after owner Einar Örn Einarsson went on a taco-fueled journey through Miami, the selling point for this place is their fresh tortillas, which use corn directly imported from Mexico—in fact, it’s the same one that wowed Einar in Miami. You won’t find anything, and we mean anything, like it in Iceland. The fish tacos are a must, but seriously, they could serve us anything on those tortillas and we’d be pleased. In fact, if La Masa could drop off some tortillas at the Grapevine office, we wouldn’t complain. Actually, that goes for any restaurant at Borg29.
Hipstur, as you might imagine, serves up stylish, international dishes. The offerings, however, are not simply fusion-for-the-sake-of-fusion, but intelligent twists on tradition. The bacalao, for instance, is a traditional Iberian dish with roots firmly in Iceland. With a side of focaccia (made in-house, of course) and the overall quality, it represents a great value. Also on offer are vegan dishes with wide appeal, including a delicious open-faced sandwich piled high with a forest floor’s worth of fried mushrooms, horseradish, onions, apples, and other goodies.
Reykjavík has been in dire need of a proper pasta place for years so you can just imagine the excitement when Pronto Pasta arrived. A full-on fresh-pasta-cooked-right-in-front-of-you, it’s got that local Italian charm that has been sorely lacking in the Reykjavík food scene. While you can’t go wrong with a Bolognese, here’s the secret: Get the mushroom pasta, chock with lovely cream sauce, and put some shrimp on it. This dish was recommended not only by the chef of Pronto, but the owners of Borg29 (and Wok On) and Yuzu, along with other local foodies we talked with after. Seriously, conversations after we mentioned we stopped by Borg29 included, “Did you get that shrimp mushroom pasta?” Yes, we did.
It’s Wok On, baby. We all know you’ve been in that situation where all you want is noodles. In fact, we’re stressed about making this issue right now, so we’d like to gorge ourselves on some noodles. But as longtime Wok On eaters, we swear they are the best place to cure everything from unquenchable hunger (their portion size tho) to the worst hangover to a hankering for creativity, as you can put anything you want on your noodles. But for us, it’s all about the Kóngurinn—egg noodles with chicken, beef, broccoli and much more—as the dish that never fails to delight and never gets old. That said, when half our office was on Keto (yes, that actually happened), the Keto special was many times savoured for its zucchini noodle carb-like wonder. Rock on.
God bless Iceland, but they don’t exactly know how to make a pizza. The Domino’s here has a pizza with dates and cream cheese on it, for Christ’s sake. But Natalía pizza goes back to the source, circumventing Scandinavian misconceptions of what this flatbread means to the world. The crust is fired to perfection in a real oven (with flames and all) and the toppings are without exception high-quality and well-paired. Try the parma ham loaded with greens for something light and fresh, or the pizza Natale for gooey, meaty indulgence.
Check out Borg29 at Borgartún 29. For the Borg29 website, click here.
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