Relatively new, Iceland’s Silfra Restaurant & Bar has only been around since February 2013 and is part of the new luxury adventure property ION Hotel, roughly 45 or so minutes drive outside Reykjavik. The restaurant and resort lies within a stone’s throw from Thingvallavatn Lake, so there’s plenty of fresh fish on the menu, from cod and monkfish to salmon.
The restaurant focuses on new/modern Nordic cuisine, which encourages sustainable practices and tries to support local food producers, artisans and entrepreneurs as often as possible. Its design is modern Scandinavian which means no bells, whistles and frills – it’s simple, stark and crisp.
Since there were limited choices of red wine by the glass (a Spanish Rioja, a Chilean Cab and an Argentinian Malbec, if you want something bigger, bolder and more serious, you have to dive into a bottle. Luckily restaurant manager Bjarni Kristjansson sensed my pain and opened a bottle of French Bordeaux for me and suddenly my evening was transformed as was my food. It was a 2009 Cheateau Tour Puyblanquet from St. Emilion. Yum!
They start you off with homemade warm bread with butter and sea salt on a wooden bread board. Since ION was new on my Iceland schedule, I didn’t realize it at the time I dined here, but later discovered that sea salt is a frequent add-on to Icelandic butter in restaurants.
As an appetizer, I kicked things off with a duck salad which was prepared with wilted spinach, curried cashews and pistachios, and broccoli.
On the menu, choices for main courses included Beef Tenderloin with potato puree, red beets and licorice sauce, Salted cod with barley, cauliflower, lemon and parsnip, Salmon with parsnip, broccoli, and white wine sauce and pan roasted scallops, lemon risotto and pickled onion. (below)
They always have a special of the day as well which in this case was monkfish. Since I stayed in the red meat category for dinner, Executive Chef Gudmundur Sverrisson (aka @chefgummie) insisted I try the fish the next day before I headed out. The monkfish was incredibly fresh, and served with garlic and herbs, two monster scallops with sweet potatoes, pickled purple onions, cauliflower, broccoli and a pesto sauce prepared without nuts.
And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t try his creamy fish soup which was made with more coconut milk than traditional cream. To this he added Turmeric, Coriander, Fennel and Fennel seeds.
The Lamb dish was a great pairing for my French Bordeaux. It was served with red and sweet beets (diced into small cubes), and a red wine sauce with onion and garlic.
For dessert, I tried the chocolate cake with berries and white chocolate mousse along with a few “small” tastes of their specialty liquors, a few of which the head waitress claimed to be uniquely Icelandic: alas, the crowberry and Einiberja.
The liquors they brought out (and they brought them all out) come from a place called Reykjavik Distillery, Iceland’s first micro-distillery. They make unique hand-crafted liqueurs and schnapps from wild berries and botanicals using renewable energy and crystal clear glacial water in their purifying distilling process. They offer quite the variety, from juniper schnapps, crowberry liqueur and rhubarb liqueur to more traditional organic aquavit, organic Brennivín and their famous blueberry liqueur. Blueberry lovers must give the latter a try.
By around 9 pm, the restaurant was all a’ buzz. A large group of people were in for the night for a corporate employee “get away,” four or five couples out for a romantic evening out and a troupe of blonde girls in their twenties to celebrate a bride to be, the Icelandic equivalent of Hen’s Night out…
Two thumbs up from We Blog the World and a thanks to ION’s Executive Chef Gudmundur Sverrisson, restaurant manager Bjarni Kristjansson and lead waitress Marta Palsdottir. Below Gudmundur shares his journey with me….from Switzerland and Belgium back to Iceland. He even learned a bit about Lebanese cuisine from the Romanians along the way.
Photos by Renee Blodgett. For other posts on Iceland, visit our Iceland travel section and food in Europe, our Food/Wine European Section and also Food/Wine in Iceland. Other top restaurants in Iceland / Iceland restaurants. Also check out our review of ION Hotel.
Note: I was hosted by Silfra for my dinner but all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.