Published July 4, 2014
(The Grill Market )
- What we think
- Casual atmosphere at an almost fine dining establishment.
- Grill. Charcoal. Herbal.
- Loud, festive.
- Very good, attentive, pleasant, humorous.
- Price for 2
- 20-25,000 ISK
Grillmarkaðurinn, or The Grill Market as it is known in English, opened to wide acclaim in the summer of 2011. A huge buzz had been created about the establishment. The reason was first and foremost because of its owner and head (celebrity) chef, Hrefna Sætran, who had previously won the city of Reykjavík over with her first restaurant, Fish Market, which is still going strong.
The Grill Market is situated in a beautiful building rebuilt to look like its predecessor, which originally housed Nýja bíó (“New Cinema”) in the 1920s and burned down in a historic fire in 1998. The new building is a success, and fits perfectly to the overall atmosphere of Hrefna’s restaurant. That is, casual fine dining in which guests are expected to have a good time.
The Grill Market takes pride in its cocktails, which are no exception to the restaurant’s philosophy of making the most of local ingredients. I chose a take on the classic Mojito, this one mixed with Icelandic rhubarb (2,090 ISK). It was excellent—boozy, yet fresh and sweet. My companion chose the blueberry version of the same drink (2,090 ISK), and it was not as boozy and even sweeter, but still good.
For starters my companion chose Grilled Chicken Wings (1,990 ISK) and I had the signature Crispy Dried Fish and Squid (2,390 ISK). The chicken wings were lovely—the meat was tender and had a lovely hint of charcoal, as does everything that touches Hrefna’s grill. They were served with homemade peanut butter and popcorn, an unusual yet successful combination.
Crispy dried fish is essentially one of Iceland’s most popular snacks. Dried cod is (mostly) eaten on its own with a generous amount of butter with every bite. This time, the dried fish had been battered and deep-fried, just like squid. Whereas dried fish is typically chewy, in a good way, this brought to it a different texture: crispy, but still chewy. Somehow it worked. The combo was served with homemade tartar sauce, which was excellent. This dish is recommended.
For our main courses, my companion had Tenderloin of Horse (5,490 ISK) and I had the Breast of Duck (5,490 ISK). The horse steak was very tender and perfectly cooked. My companion ordered an extra side, corn on the cob, which The Grill Market treated with the upmost respect. Served in a bowl, the duck breast was a mix of good things. The slices a touch too thin, but it was still tender, and with a touch of orange and honey, you can’t go wrong. In the bowl there were also sweet potatoes and a portobello mushroom, the latter I did not really feel belonged there. In the end the bowl also presented a problem—the dish had turned a bit sloppy. All in all though, it was still good.
Dessert was a certain impossibility after a meal like this, but just for kicks we shared a Grill Market Chocolate (1,990 ISK), served with mascarpone sabayone, coffee ice cream and warm caramel sauce. This was a very satisfying dessert, and much lighter than the name suggests, which was positive. We were almost able to finish.
The Grill Market experience was a good one. It usually is. It’s probably one the most popular restaurants in the country, and there is a reason for it. The service is professional, and it even seems like the staff enjoy working there! The waiters are great at finding the perfect balance of being accommodating, helpful and friendly. The food is well above average and drinks are ample. It is a bit pricy, at fine dining prices, but if you feel like splurging, you will not regret a visit to The Grill Market.