What are the best restaurants in Reykjavík? With many travellers having a limited amount of time and lots to choose from, it can be quite hard to make a decision. This post was researched (tough job, I know) to give you a brief run down of our absolute favourites. Enjoy!
ICELAND’S LOCAL OPTIONS
Iceland’s culinary background was influenced not by abundance, but by hardship. We relied on salted, fermented and preserved meats and seafood to get through the harsh winters. You’ve probably heard about the classics; sheep’s head, fermented shark and dried fish. Very little went to waste, really!
But these less palatable options only told half the story. In fact, if you look beyond the more grim sounding foods, you’ll find that Iceland is bursting with delicious local options.
We knew spring had arrived when the more than 100 different bird species migrated back to the country. Icelanders would swing on long ropes and gleefully climb the cliffs and collect the eggs. The fruits and berries of summer, such as blueberries, would be made into jams. The Arctic Thyme and other flora would season our food and act as natural remedies. The autumn harvests of potatoes, carrots and other vegetables would compliment the annual sheep round up, who roam free in summer. The nutrient rich hay would allow Icelanders to raise cattle, horses, goats and sheep, giving us a wide choice of local meats, cheeses and other dairy products. Trying the high protein, Icelandic Skyr is an absolute must. And the fishing industry is still a big part of the Icelandic diet.
The utilisation of geothermal energy in greenhouses, gave us the opportunity to become even more self-sufficient and grow fruits and vegetables all year round. A welcome top up to the summer stores. Things like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, strawberries, and even bananas and grapes could now be enjoyed at any time of year.
I think we’ve convinced you? Now it’s your turn to try it for yourself.
THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN REYKJAVIK
Iceland’s restaurant scene is at an all time high. Delicious Icelandic ingredients are highlighted in a wonderful way, often influenced by our culinary traditions. Diners from far and wide have plenty to choose from. Listed below are our go to favourite restaurants for dinner.
This intimate and delightful ‘Nordic-Italian’ place has fast become trusted restaurant in our circuit for any occasion. Their produce-first approach means that their menu changes seemingly in the blink of an eye taking on the currents of the kitchen. Their dishes are tapas styled and perfect to share with your loved one on a date or with your family. Perfect spot for drinks as well!
Tides Restaurant is the signature restaurant at The EDITION Reykjavík hotel, where nordic cuisine is mastered by Iceland’s first Michelin-star chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason. Timeless traditions and the best available ingredients drive the menu for lunch or dinners, or even a (bottomless) brunch on the weekend. Well trained staff will expertly pair a great wine selection during your unique dinner. Finish with a cocktail in the adjacent lounge or even pop up to the Rooftop bar for a chance to spot the Northern Lights on a clear night. Oh and the coffee is one of the best in the city too. Not bad for one of Iceland’s newest opened restaurants.
A clothing shop and Restaurant? It’s a funky concept but it works! After a browse through their curated clothing store in the front of the space, sit down in the back and choose from their selection of natural wines and classic cocktails, followed by lunch or dinner. Their osso buco is game changing.
Austur Indíafélagið (East India Company)
One of our favourite for sure, Austur Indiafélagið has been open since 1994 and still stands strong. It’s an easy place to find due to it’s central location on Hverfisgata, the street parallel to the main street of Laugarvegur. Their tasty Tandoor dishes, paired with rice and naan of your choise, will impress you from the first bite.
Gaia means Mother Earth, one who is beautiful, exotic and exciting. She’ll greet you as you enter the main doors of the restaurant which is one of the brand new restaurants that have recently opened in Reykjavík. Located near Grandi harbour area, the restaurant takes you on an exotic taste-journey, mainly focusing on Asian cuisine, ranging from fish, sushi and steaks. Not to mention their extensive high-class cocktail bar.
Ráðagerði Restaurant is a newly opened establishment located in a recently renovated old timber house, located right by the charming Grótta Lighthouse by the beach on Seltjarnarnes Peninsula. On any given day we can recommend a walk from downtown Reykjavík, along the seaside through to Grótta lighthouse to enjoy the sunrise, or sunset depending on the season, and then pop in to Ráðagerði for brunch, lunch or dinner.
Brút Restaurant is a fish restaurant and bar that opened it’s doors in the fall of 2021 in one of Reykjavík’s oldest and charming buildings, sharing it’s space with Radisson Blue 1919 Hotel and Café O-Le. The menu consist of seafood from the vast ocean that surrounds us, changing seasonally. The kitchen is mastered by Ragnar Eiríksson, the former head chef of Dill Restaurant. Co owned with long time sommelier and restauranter Ólafur Örn Ólafsson. As such, the wine list is extensive and is more like a good book than a wine list.
Public House Gastropub
This restaurant offers smaller dishes designed to share amongst couples or group of friends. Don’t be mistaken though, there is always plenty to go round. Here, they showcase traditional Icelandic ingredients with a Japanese flair resulting in really delicious, reasonably priced dinner options that we visit over and over again. Do not let the So Not Pizza and JFC Chicken pass you by. The energetic atmosphere and friendly staff makes this restaurant feel more like an upmarket bar but don’t be fooled, the food is very impressive.
It takes someone really bold to open up a new restaurant in the middle of the pandemic. But they did it and not only made it but thrived through the restrictions following the pandemic. It’s an excellent spot for a good dinner; its menu is small and rotates on a weekly basis, only consisting of appetisers, three types of mains (vegetarian, fish and meat option) and desserts utilising the best ingredients available each week. The atmosphere is cozy and intimate, but the tastes are unique and big.
The Italian restaurant La Primavera is Reykjavík’s longest living restaurant. Their head chef Leifur Kolbeinsson first introduced Icelanders to freshly made pasta in 1993. In 2011 they closed for a few years, but re-opened for their 25th anniversary, and returned even stronger in the picturesque Marshall House in Grandi Harbour Area. Just recently, they opened their second location on the 4th floor of Harpa Conference Hall. The restaurant marries Italian traditions with Icelandic ingredients, focusing on simplicity and fine Italian cuisine.
The restaurant arrives like a breath of fresh air, this recently opened gem is one to try if you’re looking for a real treat, for special occasions. This intimate 11 guest restaurant is hidden within another restaurant. While Sumac Restaurant, worthy of this list in its own right touches on Moroccan and Lebanese tones, Óx looks closer to home and takes you on an adventure of Iceland that you’ve never imagined. Aided by free flowing wine, the fourteen bite sized courses becomes the setting for friendship building before long.
The chef is just as much a part of the experience as the food in sharing where each ingredient comes from. Learning the back story of the sole retired farmer who provides the duck, or that the perfectly roasted garlic took 6 weeks to prepare, makes each bite all the better. Dining at Óx is an experience that’ll linger on your palate for days to come and in your memory for years. A truly unique dining experience, unlike any other.
Book far in advance as this hidden gem sells out fast.
Thankfully, there is an abundance of restaurants to choose from in Reykjavík these days. Ranging from casual and cheap take away, to extravagant treat-yourself style dinners. It’s an exciting time to be a foodie in Reykjavík! One way to get a quick introduction into the classics and the culture around food is to join a Reykjavík Food Walk. Or simply make your way around the amazing restaurants located in the downtown area.
Hi, I’m Dagný Björg, Reykjavík-dweller, mother, designer and freelance journalist. I love getting lost in nature, coffee and easy Sunday mornings.