Throughout the years I haven’t written much about restaurants in Reykjavík here on the blog and although it may seem like a strange oversight on my part it’s actually quite intentional. It’s not that I don’t want to share this information with you – I share all of it and then some on my walking tours all the time – it’s just that the restaurant scene in Reykjavík is somewhat fleeting. If you can even use the word fleeting in that way.
Places go out of business all the time, the ownership changes or my favorite dishes evaporate into thin air off menus. As soon as I hit publish the post is already outdated and then I get bombarded in the comment section about restaurants that are now MIA or alleged food poisoning or something. I just can’t deal – in this regard I’m a delicate flower (the Icelandic equivalent of the infamous snowflake) that needs to keep everyone happy.
I do know, however, that a lot of you are looking for restaurant recommendations so this is a constant struggle. OK, saying it’s a struggle is maybe a bit hyperbolic. It’s not like I lose any sleep over this or anything but you know what I mean.
So with this in mind I want to put the following disclaimer on this post:
The following restaurants are just a few places I like at the time this post is written (June 2018) and the list is not exhaustive. I don’t guarantee that by the time you read the post that they are still good or even there. I also don’t guarantee that you’ll like them since everyone’s taste buds are different or that they are necessarily the best restaurants in Reykjavík. I cannot be held responsible for any food-related illnesses you may be exposed to nor is it my fault if you go over your daily calorie limit if you do like it. Known side effects may include but are not limited to: “damn, I shouldn’t have eaten that last bite” syndrome and “I don’t think I can button my pants” disease.
A few casual Reykjavík restaurants that you may want to try on your next visit – in no particular order
If there’s one thing you need to try while in Iceland then it’s our fish. If you want to try a lot of different fish in one meal without having to sell some vital organs, the fish buffet at Messinn Granda is probably your best bet.
Messinn has been around for a while and is known for its scrumptious fish and fair prices and with their new location at the Reykjavík Maritime Museum, the owners took this concept even further. Their main attraction is their fish buffet which is very reasonably priced and usually has up to 8 different dishes plus soup and bread that is included in the price. They are open for lunch and dinner and the price is considerably lower during the lunch hour.
I’ve only been to Mat Bar a few times but the food has always been really good. They categorize themselves as an Italian restaurant with a Nordic flair which I think is pretty accurate. I like Mat Bar because it’s not terribly expensive, the food is really tasty and the atmosphere is appropriately relaxed. It’s not very big so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for big groups but for a small group of friends or couples, it’s an ideal night out.
I like going to places like Dill and Nostra (often considered among the best restaurants in Iceland – Dill with its Michelin Star and 3 months waiting time and Nostra a relative newcomer) to try them out but places like Mat Bar are much more my vibe. I’m also going through a phase right now where I love Italian food so that may play a part and I’m on a constant hunt for best risotto in town. Mind you, I don’t know exactly what authentic risotto is supposed to taste like since this is a relatively new love of mine that I’m still exploring but the Arancini and the Wild Mushroom risotto I had a Matbar did not disappoint. The menu changes with the seasons though and the last time I checked I saw neither dish on it.
During those rare moments when my husband and I have some time for ourselves on the weekend (happens once in a blue moon), we often end up at Forréttabarinn after a stroll around town. Forréttabarinn is divided into two areas: the bar area and their restaurant but you can order from the same menu in both. We prefer sitting in the bar area and we always try to arrive during their happy hour which is pretty good.
The food at Forréttabarinn is an eclectic mix of this and that but I particularly like the white wine and cream mussels with fries and Dijon mayo (yum) which I think is a meal that goes very well with some nice white wine and a gossip session with friends. Forréttabarinn is by no means the fanciest or even the best restaurant in Reykjavík but it’s always solid and I’ve never walked out of there disappointed. Plus it’s reasonably priced which is always a plus.
Café París has been around for a long time and to be honest I was never a big fan. The food was not great, the interiors did not match the vibe of the location and the service was notoriously bad. To make matters even worse, the prices were a bit ridiculous for what was on offer due to its popularity with tourists.
It got a big overhaul recently where both the interiors and the food was completely revamped and I although I was hesitant to try it at first they won me over. Some of the food is a bit decadent (I’m looking at you chicken and waffles -slurp) and it’s still at Reykjavík prices (they do have good lunch offers though) but they are doing enough things right that I often find myself suggesting them when meeting friends and cooperators for lunch.
Café París is also very popular for its outdoor seating area right next to Austurvöllur square which fills up as soon as the sun makes an appearance.
Ever since Snaps opened a few years ago it has remained a local favorite. It’s not just their French bistro food that attracts, it’s also their relaxed and fun atmosphere.
I have to be really honest with you and say that I haven’t been to Snaps often but when I’ve been there I’ve always enjoyed it. For me, it’s one of those places that everyone always raves about but you never go to somehow for no good reason so I base this recommendation on the opinions of others more than anything. I will say though that my love affair with boeuf bourguignon started here one dark winter night when I wanted something hearty and delicious. This experience may or may not have resulted in endless consumption of Julia Child videos and lofty ideas about me as an accomplished home chef that have not yet materialized.
Ostabúðin or the cheese shop has long been a favorite among lunching locals. They started out with just a few tables in the back of their deli but a few years ago they added a more formal restaurant area next door and opened up for dinner service as well.
The lunch-time attraction at Ostabudin is their fairly priced catch and soup of the day but I mostly go there for their fish soup because apparently, I can’t get enough of it. At night you can try Icelandic game like goose and reindeer or their Icelandic cheese platters. Even at night, their prices are not bad and it’s relaxed enough that no one is going to look at you funny in your Gore-Tex and hiking shoes.
OK, Mandi is not actually a restaurant – it’s just a tiny little take-away hole-in-the-wall type place that serves great falafel rolls and hummus and I love it. It’s been closed now for a few weeks for renovations that have taken way longer than expected (sounds vaguely familiar) and not a day goes by that we here at the I Heart Reykjavík HQ (aka our tiny little office) don’t ask ourselves: When will Mandi open again?
So the fact that Mandi has made this list may have more to do with deprivation than the quality of their food.
I’m sure you big city folks that have the whole world at your feet food-wise have many Syrian Shwarma/Kebab type places where you live but here in Reykjavík they are few and far between. Actually, not so far between since there’s another one right next door (Ali Baba).
Mandi is also one of the cheapest bites in Reykjavík and is open late every day so there’s that too.