What are the best restaurants in Reykjavík? With many travelers having a limited amount of time and lots to choose from, it can be quite hard to decide. So this post was painstakingly researched (a tough job, I know) to give you a good idea of what we deem to be our absolute favorites. 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 in the old days.
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.
Each year, we knew spring had arrived when over 100 different bird species migrated into the country. As the birds began to nest and mate, the Icelanders would swing on long ropes and gleefully climb the cliffs and collect the eggs. The fruits and berries that naturally grow in summer, such as blueberries, could be made into jams. The Arctic Thyme and other flora could season our food or act as natural remedies. The autumn harvests of potatoes, carrots and other vegetables could 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 prospering fishing industry is still a big part of the Icelandic diet too.
More recently, with the utilisation of geothermal energy in greenhouses, we were gifted another opportunity to become more self-sufficient and allow us to grow fruits and vegetables all year round. A welcome top-up to the summer stores, as you can imagine. We now have things like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, strawberries, and even bananas and grapes available locally all year round!
In short, Iceland is bursting with local options to create unique dishes. I hope we’ve convinced you? Now it’s your turn to try it for yourself!
THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN REYKJAVÍK
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 favorite restaurants for dinner.
This intimate and delightful ‘Nordic-Italian’ place has fast become a 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.
The concept of OTO’s menu was developed by the award-winning Icelandic chef Sigurður Laufdal who has worked in some of the best kitchens both at home and abroad. The dishes marry together the flavours of Japanese and Italian ingredients, and the outcome is nothing short of a unique gastronomic experience! Not only is each dish more delicious than the other, but they are equally visually appealing. Enjoy your meal with a side of their impressive wine selection and cocktail menu, offering the classics as well as their signature drinks.
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 favorite for sure, Austur Indiafélagið has been open since 1994 and still stands strong. It’s an easy place to find due to its central location on Hverfisgata, the street parallel to the main street of Laugarvegur. Their tasty Tandoor dishes, paired with rice and naan of your choice, will impress you from the first bite.
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.
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 appetizers, three types of mains (vegetarian, fish and meat option) and desserts utilizing 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 Harbor Area. 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 17 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 in Iceland that you’ve never imagined. Aided by free flowing wine, the fourteen bite – sized courses become 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 backstory 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 brief introduction to the classics and the culture around food is to join a Reykjavík Food Walk. Or simply make your way around the outstanding 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.