The taste of Iceland is amazingly vibrant and unique. In Reykjavik you can find everything to eat, from modern cuisine to boiled sheep heads! As Iceland is a tiny island way up north in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, it may surprise you to hear that the food culture here is amazingly diverse. There are some world-class restaurants, whose master chefs only use pristine ingredients, quaint little local diners and of course the unique and unusual traditional cuisine. One thing‘s for sure, there‘s no shortage of flavourful experiences for both the adventurous explorer and the demanding connoisseur.
Modern Icelandic Cuisine
Icelandic restaurants are sure to be a thrill. The long maligned Icelandic cuisine, for several years thought to consist mostly of boiling things, maybe adding a bit of salt, is going through a revival period. Most restaurants will offer some traditional Icelandic dishes, such as smoked lamb, or some twist on tradition, such as a reindeer burger. Many new restaurants are focusing on working with traditional Icelandic food and ingredients, updated for the modern age.
When it comes to food, Icelanders are always keen to try new things. The result is that modern day Iceland offers every kind of food you can imagine, and many that you probably can’t. Reykjavik offers any kind of international food you can imagine, sushi, thai, mexican, you name it. There are also several great steak houses and seafood restaurants, most of them crammed together in the city centre, meaning you can go from very high end to fast food in one block.
Because Icelandic farms are relatively traditional, locally sourced ingredients will be absolute first rate. We particularly recommend you try the lamb, which is in a league of its own.
The Icelandic Hot Dog – an unusual institution
A hot dog might not sound like the most specifically Icelandic thing in the world, but trust me, it is. At least the way we do it.
First of all, they are available everywhere. It should be comforting to know, that when you’re in Iceland, you’re never more than a few minutes away from your next hot dog.
Secondly, that flavour in the sausage, the one you can’t quite put your finger on? Yeah, that’s lamb, mixed in with the more international pork and beef filling. It makes all the difference.
Last but not least, the toppings. An Icelandic hot dog is supposed to be eaten “með öllu” (with everything). Everything, in this case, means raw chopped onions, deep-fried onions, ketchup, mustard and remoulade, a mayonnaise based sauce containing spices and pickles. If you order one “with everything” up north, it will also include “cocktail sauce,” a mixture of ketchup and mayo.
Ice (Cream) Land
Icelanders, somewhat appropriately, love ice cream. Other nations may claim they love ice cream, but their love doesn’t have the same resilience. In Iceland, people don’t just love ice cream on the hottest days of summer. They love it at any time, all year round, come rain or snow or sleet or storm. In fact, you can sometimes see the line at the ice cream parlours stretch out into the street in a snowstorm. There is a long-standing debate in Reykjavík of which is better, Ísbúð Vesturbæjar or the one in Skeifan. If you’re from the north, the obvious winner is Brynjuís. No doubt.
Traditional Icelandic Food
Finally, don’t miss out on the traditional Icelandic food! These dishes, prepared the same way they have for centuries, are steeped in history and… other things. There are some flavours everyone can enjoy such as the smoked lamb, flat bread, slátur (basically liverwurst and blood pudding) and dried fish. At the far end of the spectrum you find curiosities of acquired taste such as fermented shark, singed sheep’s head and pickled ram’s testicles. These are also known as “things you only eat so you can tell your friends at home you did it”. A shot of Brennivin, an Icelandic Schnapps lovingly nicknamed “Black Death”, is encouraged to wash down your meal, probably along with any memory you might have had of the whole affair.