When planning our recent trip, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the restaurant scene in Iceland. I had heard that the food was boring and not very creative; I decided to plan with an open mind and with not very high expectations. What I discovered was a vibrant food scene that has changed greatly in the last few years. We found restaurants that used the freshest, often locally sourced ingredients; the food was creative and lovingly prepared.
The first day of our trip was spent in Reykjavik; we arrived early in the morning and dropped off our bags at the charming Apotek Hotel. We asked the desk clerk to recommend a good bakery and her eyes lit up. She said, “You must try Baka Baka for the most delicious pastries”. We decided early on that for this trip there were no holds barred; we were going to enjoy as much sugar and rich food as we wanted! We headed down the street, walked up a small hill and saw the open door of Baka Baka beckoning to us.
As we entered we were welcomed with the rich smell of coffee and freshly baked pastries. We ordered a yeasty fragrant Cardamom Bun filled with almond paste and enjoyed it with coffee and a pot of herbal tea that had the light delicate taste of currents.
The plan for our first day was to explore Reykjavik and at the the same time try to stave off jetlag. We spent the next few hours walking slowly around the quaint streets and adjusting gradually to the lovely cool windy temperature of 50 degrees F!
The time flew by and we were ready for our first lunch reservation at Hosilo, a small unpretentious restaurant on a quiet side street. The other diners were young Icelanders and as we waited for our food to arrive, we enjoyed listening to the lyrical sounds of the Icelandic language. The food was creatively presented; I started with an appetizer of “watermelon” sushi-cool, rosy slices of fruit in a savory gingery sauce. Expecting the taste of raw fish, my taste buds were jolted awake- a good remedy for my sleepy mind!
I had some of the freshest and most tender shrimp I have ever tasted with house made pasta, basil, tomato and roasted garlic.
It was all bathed in extra virgin olive and served with a slice of crunchy parmesan toast.
We were starting to fade quickly, but thought a walk down the hill to the harbor and to the Harpa Concert Hall might revive us.
Luckily for us, we discovered that there was a short interactive visual installation offered; Circuleight. As we entered a large gallery, we were surrounded by animations that were inspired by eight natural elements: lava, glacier, water, algae, micro organism, flora, basalt, and volcanic gas. If you waved your hand or came close to one of the images, the image would respond to the motion; it gave the effect of the artwork improvising. The installation was accompanied by a score written by the Icelandic composer Hogni Egilsson. I found a place to curl up, leaned against one of the walls and immersed myself in the experience; although I confess, I fell briefly asleep! It was time for a short nap at our hotel.
Just an hour of sleep and we were refreshed and ready to continue on our culinary adventures of the day! For dinner, I had a made a reservation at The CooCoo’s Nest. From our hotel, we walked a few miles to the quirky, newly developed section of the waterfront with art galleries, specialty food shops and restaurants. CooCoo’s Nest was opened in 2013 by Anna and Lucas Keller.
A passionate chef, Lucas is originally from California and trained and worked in Italy. Since opening, the restaurant has gained a loyal local clientele.
It was Taco Tuesday, so we ordered the sampling menu of 3 different tacos that included tequila marinated fish with guacamole, shredded cabbage and spicy sour cream; slow cooked lamb, salsa verde and pickled raddish; and a vegetarian taco with sweet potato, charred broccoli and a spicy romesco sauce. They were delicious and the flavors danced in our mouths.
We ate our dinner outside the restaurant at a picnic table and watched young families strolling by; several of which were licking ice cream cones. Glancing to our right we saw an inviting ice cream shop- well one more treat for the day!
An interesting flavor was listed on the wall that looked very similar to my last name- “Danskur lakkris”. I asked for a taste and the young clerk told me that the flavor was Danish licorice. Very nice, but I settled for a double dish with dark chocolate and lemon ginger crunch and then enjoying our ice cream, we walked oh so slowly back to our hotel; the sky still bright blue in the late evening. Shortly after we returned to our room we fell into a deep slumber!
Thus ended our first day in Reykjavik. Coming soon…. one more Icelandic blog detailing the other food highlights of our trip; some from restaurants where the food was simply but expertly prepared in lovely peaceful settings.
AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!
HAPPY SUMMER-STAY SAFE AND COOL!!