When you think of Iceland, you don’t necessarily think of some of the top chefs and restaurants in the world. Simply put, there are places in the world you go specifically to have your food orgasms, with Paris, San Francisco, New York, Singapore, Montreal and Cape Town being high on my personal list. While the reason I went to Iceland was to absorb the nature and take in the energy of the land, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that this foodie did some research on the best places to eat in the major urban areas when I was there. Note: there isn’t many.
Outside of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city, the northern most town with the most restaurant activity is Akureyri. Refer to our Rub23 restaurant review in the north and a few other fun finds in the region like Myllan Restaurant in Lake Myvatn.
Below are our top ten call outs although there were plenty more we could have added to the list. In other words, there are some amazing chefs in Iceland, SO if you’re a foodie, start taking notes!
Hotel Holt’s Gallery Restaurant at Bergstadastraeti 37:
I stayed at the hotel that houses the Gallery Restaurant: Hotel Holt, longer than any other hotel or resort while I was in Iceland, which spanned over a month. Two thumbs up for the hotel and for the restaurant.
Did I mention that our meal lasted for four hours? See our extensive write-up on Gallery Restaurant. This restaurant is fabulous – do not miss stopping here. There’s too much to say about this place, so I’ll just entice you with a photo of my favorite dish: the Kangaroo steak. (above). Read our review for all the details including tons of great photos of their orgasmic dishes, which will have you wanting to come back more than once. Hint: the award-winning chef also offers cooking classes as well – details in our review.
It is located in the Hotel Holt in the center of the city on a quieter street just a few blocks from the main drag. Address: Bergstadastraeti 37, Reykjavik.
Radisson Blu’s Grillid at Posthusstraeti 2:
We LOVED this place. Allow yourself to be carried away by the magical dishes prepared by the hands of chef Sigurdur Helgason and his team. There’s too much to say about this fabulous restaurant with an awe-inspiring chef, so we did an extensive restaurant write-up on it so be sure to see our restaurant review.
The reason we listed Gallery and Grillid as the first two restaurants on this list is because they were our two favorite restaurants in the city. DO NOT MISS the experience!! Please note that the rest of the restaurants on this list are not listed in any particular order however.
Grillid is located in the Radisson Blu at Posthusstraeti 2 in Reykjavik on the top floor, which means that yes, you’ll have a fabulous view of the entire city!
Fish Company at Vesturgötu 2a, Grófartorg:
Truth be told, we did not have a meal here. In fact, we had a reservation lined up for the last night of my stay and I got derailed (pleasantly so) in the West Fjords. In other words, nature took precedent which is saying a lot for those who know how much of a foodie I am. That said, I had a drink here one night and fell in love with the ambiance. The below shot was sadly taken on my iPhone in dark light, but it will give you an idea of the funkiness of the place.
This is not a low end casual seafood bistro however – the ambiance is sophisticated, elegant and tres chic. You can rest assured that I’ll return for a full blown meal and review -I have heard many great things about the venue, particularly from locals.
One thing I particularly liked was their international connection. For example, from Malaysian style, they do a slowly cooked salmon with dismantling egg, buried mushroom & mayonnaise wasabi root, coconut jelly & soya macadam with fungicide. From Madagascar, they offer a slow cooked bacalao in vanilla oil, pulp & Nípa smælki cake, fried linskelskrabbi and white chocolate macadam. Yum!
From Ireland, think beer baby. They serve a rolled & lobster stuffed trout with fried scallops & smoked apple, beet spaghetti, beer jelly, beet-potato & apple butter sauce. France – it’s lobster, roasted that is. They offer a roasted lobster & erect monkfish with spring onion cream, onion & pikklaður soft leeks, asparagus top & lobster sauce for 7,400 krona (roughly $62 at the time of writing this). There was also an Argentina influenced dish as well as a few Icelandic ones of course.
I will be back! The address for those who will dine there before I do is: Vesturgötu 2a, Grófartorg in Reykjavik.
Prir Frakkir at Baldersgata 14:
This is a family-run business and it shows in all the nice ways that a cozy family-run restaurant does. It is located in old Reykjavik Central and opened by chef Úlfar Eysteinsson in 1989. Popular with locals, there are roughly 45 tables so the ambiance is so cozy that you feel as if you are in someone’s home. The restaurant has mounted fish and stuffed rams’ heads on the walls and bottles of wine that stack up above the small very European bar that takes over the center of the place.
The restaurant is incredibly traditional and is known to serve up popular indigenous dishes including salted cod, fried fish-chins, and hashed fish with black bread. More exotic specialties include whale pepper steak washed down with potent shots of a local hooch called Black Death. Please note that the lighting wasn’t great, so the photo resolution of some of my shots is a bit poor.
Did I mention the fabulous chef who even allowed me to venture into the kitchen for a snoop around?
Address: It is located at Baldersgata 14 in Reykjavik.
Vid Tjornina on Templarasund 3:
We did a standalone review on this place, largely because of its reputation as being one of the best seafood restaurants in Reykjavik. That said, Grill Market, Fish Company and Fish Market are definitely in the top 10 as well and are well worth a stop. Please refer to our Vid Tjornina restaurant review for more details and photos.
Order any of the fish dishes and you won’t be disappointed and pair them with a nice Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. Vid Tjornina Restaurant is very centrally located at Templarasundi 3,
The Grill Market at Lækjargata 2A:
Note that we did not have a full meal here, but only visited for drinks and appetizers, however we loved the staff and the ambiance so much that I wanted to list it here, as I plan on a return visit one day to do a full review.
Hip and funky, there are many things to love about this two-story restaurant, that has a great bar (aka loungy) scene and fabulous food, at least the appetizers we tried.
It is located at Lækjargata 2A in Reykjavik.
UNO Cucina Italiana | Hafnarstræti 1-3:
UNO was such a treat – I can’t say enough good things about this restaurant in the downtown square. Ask for owners Hrefna Ingolfsdottir and Erna Vigdis Ingolfsdottir (a sister duo) and tell them Renee sent you. Not only are they gracious, but the food is out of this world, and the ambiance is fun, hip and modern.
There’s an astounding variety on the menu, from lamb and oxtail to grilled seafood and shellfish combos. All of it was out of this world so you can’t go wrong regardless of what you order.
Note that they have a yummy special red chili sauce and a pesto herb spread for their bread. UNO is also noted to have a number of unique specialty drinks (think Martinis and beyond baby), so be sure to test a couple of them out before or after your meal. Read up on our individual UNO Cucina Italiana restaurant review as well – don’t miss it, since it is loaded with photos that is bound to give all foodies one orgasm after another.
Mar Restaurant Geirsgata 9 at the Old Harbour:
We loved MAR located in Reykjavik’s harbor. Fresh, modern and oh so mediterranean. See our Mar Restaurant restaurant review and note that it was a little cut short because of a travel conflict, so we’d love to return on our next trip to Iceland for more tasting.
One other quick add, while ION Hotel and its restaurant is not in Reykjavik (it’s about a 45 minute drive into beautiful countryside), take a look at our ION Restaurant review aka Silfra Restaurant in case you want to take a quiet retreat there for a couple of days.
Also, be sure to see the individual write-ups on most of these top Reykjavik restaurants that we have on most of these places, which include extensive photos and more in-depth information on the dishes they serve.
A little bonus to add. Here are five casual places I’d recommend for lunch or if you don’t want a more formal meal in the evening.
French Cafe on Laugavegi 12 (Formerly Called Fru Berglaug):
The place that currently has no reviews because it’s relatively new. Formerly Fru Berglaug, which was touted as a traditional Icelandic restaurant, it has been redesigned as a French style bistro. The decor has changed dramatically from what you will find over on fruberglaug.is. They serve fabulous chicken dishes, burgers, salads and of course wine by the glass or bottle.
Address: It is still located on Laugavegi 12 in central Reykjavik.
Geysir Bistro & Bar at Aðalstræti 2:
The Geysir Bistro & Bar is located in the center of the Vortex in the heart of Reykjavik. The menu is varied with a focus on Icelandic specialties mixed with dishes and an international twist.
Try one of their crepes (chicken with vegetables is my favorite), or the chicken pasta with bacon, mushrooms and parmesan. Since lamb is such a specialty throughout Iceland, go for the lamb with potato puree and wild mushrooms. Prices roughly range from around 2,800 to 4,600 kronas ($24-38 at the time of writing this) for entrees.
The address is Aðalstræti 2 in downtown Reykjavík, which is in the main square, a great place to hang out particularly in the summer.
Cafe Paris at Austurstræti 14:
There’s not much to say about this place to be honest as there’s nothing really special about it — the food or the ambiance, yet it’s centrally located and serves simple cuisine at reasonable prices, which worth knowing about in a city with tons of scrumptious but not so inexpensive bistros and restaurants. Cafe Paris is a great option for a quick bite: soup, chicken dishes, pastas, salads or sandwiches.
Cheeseburgers and hamburgers will run you around 1,900 krona (roughly $16 at the time of writing this) and if you do want to be a little more adventurous, you can get one of their delicious appetizers: garlic roasted lobster tails with garlic butter, boiled mussels with white wine sauce and bread and caramel coated French goat cheese, smoke salmon with dill cream, onions and lettuce.
Burgerjoint (aka Hamborgarbúllan) at Geirsgata 1, Reykjavik Center:
I loved this place. On a corner intersection near Reykjavik’s Harbor, the whole place is funky, inside and out (see above) and it has fabulous burgers, so when you’re not up for an extensive seafood meal or trying minke whale on a kabob, give this place a try!
It’s otherwise known as Hamborgarabúllan in Iceland and it’s more of a local hang out than a tourist one. Reasonably priced, Hamborgarabúllan (Burgerjoint) was founded by the Icelandic Burger King Tommi of the late Tommaborgarar, the first Icelandic fast food chain. He was also responsible for bringing Hard Rock to Reykjavík so I’m told.
The burgers are good, delicious and reasonably priced — it’s casual but fun. Fun and simple also means inexpensive, which as noted above, is useful to know about if you’re planning to stay in Reykjavik for any length of time. For around $18, you can get a burger, fries and a coke, a real steal.
It is located at Geirsgata 1, Reykjavik Center.
Vinbarinn or otherwise known as The Wine Bar. It is in fact the only real wine bar in Reykjavik and Gunnar is the go-to-guy, owner and manager. If you want a Chataneuf du pape or serious Bordeaux and don’t want to go to a five star restaurant to get it, Vinbarrin is your place.
It is located next to the newly opened Kvosin Hotel and across from Parliament in the center of town and the Reykjavik cathedral. As noted elsewhere on the web, please note that the big church on top of the hill is Hallgrímskirkja memorial church which is not a cathedral. Gunnar is apparently remodeling (I saw some of the new tiles), so by the time you get there, it may have a new look-and-feel. Two thumbs up! We adore this place. The address is Kirkjutorg 4 in Reykjavik.
LASTLY, 3 other places worth mentioning: The Guinness Bar, the Kaffibarinn and the Seagreifinn. While the Guinness bar may not be your cup of tea (young, a whole lotta drinking and crowded), they do have live music frequently, so it’s worth popping in for that alone.
The Kaffibarinn on Bergstaðastræti 1 is an interesting place that was recommended by a few new local pals from Startup Iceland when I arrived. It’s essentially an old house, with the London Underground symbol over the door, and is known as one of Reykjavík’s coolest bars. It even had a starring role in cult movie 101 Reykjavík (2000) and at weekends you might meet a famous celeb or personality I was told, although we didn’t see any when we were there. The below shots were taken on my iPhone so the quality isn’t great, but you’ll get the idea.
Seagreifinn (aka The Sea Baron) on Geirsgata 8 is down by the Harbor. Adorable and casual, you feel as if a little bit of Cape Cod has been transported into this little restaurant, with picnic tables outside and seafood on a stick inside. You essentially choose what you want and they’ll cook up a kabob for you. They of course have the kind of fish you don’t regularly see at home, like whale for example and other options you’re more familiar with such as cod. I’d also recommend ordering a Gull (pronounced Goot) Beer to go along with your order. We did a separate review/write-up on this place.