Often when we decide on taking the adventure of a lifetime and travel to exotic and foreign lands, one of the factors that dictate our choices is food. Many people travel to Italy because of their deep love for pasta. After my last post introducing you to the Aperitivo, it gave you have more reason to want to go there aside from the spectacular sights. Food can also go further in being that lifeline that connects us with different cultures and helps us understand the people and what drives them when we travel. Even if you don’t speak the same language, sharing an Aperol Spritz with the local Italians helps us see life from their eyes and how they live. In my last post, I introduced you to the Italian pastime of Aperitivo, but today I’d like to bring you back to my home in the Nordic and show you why if you are a foodie, Iceland should be the next stop on your journey.
Iceland’s known for its unmatched nature and has become a real hot spot for adventure travel. But what isn’t paid as much attention to are the culinary strides the country has made. People often stop when they hear about food in Iceland and get a grim image of fermented shark and Svið (please don’t google it if you have a weak stomach. Its sheep’s head, It works well in soups). Because of the abundance of geothermal water, greenhouses have grown the wildest foods that our climate would have never allowed for before. Inspiring chefs to craft absurd creations like 100% Icelandic Wasabi Ice cream. That’s right; we grow nordic wasabi. It changed many fish-specified restaurants deciding to take on Asian cuisines that incorporate this ingredient and make them a little more Icelandic.
Below you can find my favourite places with classical Icelandic cuisine and those pushing the boundaries to craft something inspirational
Giant red Atlantic lobster is alright, and all but haven’t you ever thought what if it was sweeter and even more delicious? Well, Pakkhusid offers just that and some history with it. The building was built in 1932 and was refurbished in 2012 to serve as a restaurant. But before this, it was an old warehouse used for both storage of fishing equipment and the fish itself before it was shipped to other countries. The walls still showing old stamps used back in the day for organizing the fish.
Located right on the port, you can enjoy a very authentic Icelandic meal from a local chef who studied abroad to refine old school dishes with a beautiful view. What makes this restaurant unique is its location in the East. Höfn is a small town with a population of 1800 that has been celebrated for fishing the ever-elusive Icelandic langoustine. The town hosts a Langoustine festival every summer where locals will come together to the port just in front of the restaurant and cook their version of Humarsúpa, which translates to langoustine soup. If you wanted to try the Icelandic seafood, I recommend starting at Pakkhusid and working your way into the city of Reykjavik.
Tomato Greenhouse Restaurant
A family-run restaurant started by a couple who had a lust to do something different and against the grain. With the wife interested in agriculture, they located themselves on the trendy and geothermal active region in Iceland known by foreigners as the golden circle. The restaurant was initially just a greenhouse powered by geothermal energy that’s found in abundance nearby. They focused on growing vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers for the Icelandic public, and they still do with the greenhouse, accounting for around 11% of all the vegetables sold in Iceland. But now they’ve created an experience like no other where guests can enter a real Icelandic greenhouse have themselves a seat amongst the tomato vines as they enjoy a hot bowl of tomato soup at the buffet before continuing on the circle to see phenomena like Geysir and Gullfoss.
Micheline guide restaurant
Picking a single restaurant in the capital is difficult, but one that still leaves me drooling for more is ÓX. Noted as the smallest restaurant in Iceland with only 11 seats, it’s a fine-dining experience done very relaxed. You get a very personalized experience with the head chef Þráinn Vigfússon cooking and crafting your dinner in front of you and cracking a few jokes as he tells each dish’s stories and how they connect with the land. What makes it still fit with the above recommendations is its warm homely vibe. With the interior of this tiny space decorated with Þráinns grandmother’s old kitchen cabinets that his grandfather built, it feels like he has invited you into his home. But his ground-breaking twists on Icelandic classics are what makes them stand out, and their menu changes frequently to adapt to what’s in season or frankly just available in Iceland.
So, if you’re someone who likes to travel with their stomach, be sure to stop by in Iceland and taste for yourself the new normal for this exponentially growing food mecca. I promise we have so much more to offer than just fermented concoctions and fish. Where would you like to eat from the examples above? Leave a comment below telling me how you like to travel!
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