I have so much that I want to share about our amazing five day trip to Iceland that I really don't know where to start. My head is buzzing with recipe development ideas (mostly involving Lamb and Skyr) but I'm going to kick off by sharing a selection of what we ate in Reykjavik, the island's capital and where we stayed on our trip. Suffice to say we had an absolutely amazing holiday and totally fell in love with Iceland. The price of everything is eye-wateringly expensive (£15 for a cheese and ham sandwich!) but the food throughout our entire stay was absolutely wonderful no matter where we ate. Cafes at motorway service stations and tourist attractions in the UK could learn a lot from those in Iceland.
We spent the first night in Keflavik which is where the airport is situated. Our accommodation was at Hotel Keflavik and was absolutely ideal for a one night stay. Breakfast there was particularly good and we soon learned to eat as much as we could to fill us up for the day ahead! For our first Icelandic meal we headed to Kaffi Duss at the opposite end of the town where I had the most amazing Grilled Icelandic Lambchops with red cabbage, rhubarb jam, baked potato, and brown sauce (thankfully not of the HP variety!) Boy had Lobster Soup with Whipped Cream, Foodie Loon had Bacon wrapped monkfish with glazed vegetables, potatoes and house specialty lobster sauce. Girl had Pizza. You can bring a horse to (Icelandic) water but you can't make it drink.
For the following four nights of our stay we were in a luxury 2 bedroom apartment at the Grimsborgir Hotel. This was absolutely perfect for us with terrace, bbq and a private hot tub plus a buffet breakfast served in the main hotel itself. It is located just off the 'Golden Circle' route close to Pingvellir National Park. We had optimistically hoped to spot the northern lights from our hot tub but unfortunately cloud throughout our stay put paid to that. Our travel agent Kate at Travel Counsellors had organised wine and mini deserts for our arrival which was much appreciated. So glad we chose to stay outwith Reykjavik and hire a car, it was definitely the best option for us and provided much more freedom than being tied to tour buses.
I had a checklist of both sights and food to tick off in Reyjjavik. First stop was Harpa, the capital's twinkling concert hall with seemingly ever changing glass panels overlooking the harbour. Much fun was had by both little and big people building towers on the beach with black volcanic rocks before heading along the waterfront to Jon Arnason's ship like Sun Voyager sculpture. Hot Dogs are a huge thing in Iceland and the place to go in Reykjavik is Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur which translates to 'the best hot dog in town'. We ordered one with the works - ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion and remolaði, a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish. If truth be told I was rather underwhelmed although I did like the raw and crispy onion combo. Bitafiskur - pieces of dried fish - were an absolute must try. These are best served with lashings of Icelandic butter. Perhaps not for everyone but I got a real taste for them. The perfect snack with a tipple, much like pork scratchings. Reykjavik Chips was recommended to me by a number of people and most definitely did not disappoint. We went for a family box to share which unfortunately meant that we didn't have a cone to insert into the holes in the table. The chips themselves were amazing, skin on, twice cooked served with your sauce of a dozen different sauces. A Gull beer on the side finished them off perfectly.
Probably the most iconic building in Reykjavic is Hallgrimskirkja (as also cleverly seen in the the Reykjavic Chips logo - go back and look!) The silhouette of this immense white concrete church is stunning whilst the interior is very simple bar a huge pipe organ. We took the opportunity to light a candle in the church in memory of my cousin Valerie. She had traveled to Iceland and had hoped to do so again but sadly passed away last year. We used the money she bequeathed to fund our holiday. Well worth taking the elevator trip to the top of the 73m high tower for fantastic views. The sun came out at this point and we had a fantastic vantage point over the multicoloured houses of the capital. Time for a wander around the Old Harbour in search of further sustenance. Saegreiffin - The Seabarron was our destination located in a turquoise harbourside shed. The interior is far from salubrious with communal benches and plastic barrel seats. We tried their famous lobster soup and a grilled fish kebab. The kebab was fantastic but I found the soup rather wishy washy.
Whilst in the vicinity of Hallgrimskirkja I'd been told to look out for Braud & Co Bakery. The smell of their warm cinnamon buns baking was amazing and the taste more than lived up to the enticing aroma. Eaten so quickly I never even got a photo but well worth following your nose to their highly graffitied building. Lunch on our final day in Iceland was at Kaffivagninn. A slightly confusing self service system of ordering but we got there. Main meals come with a portion of their soup of the day and a coffee. A selection of traditional scandanavian and Icelandic dishes were on the menu and the cold Danish Smørrebrød looked tempting but we all opted for hot fish dishes quirkily served in frying pans. Fishpan Cod Loin au gratin with shrimp and bernaise for me, Panfried Fish Balls with onion butter and remoulade for boy and Fish Stew with rye bread and butter for Foodie Loon. Girl went to Subway for her lunch but joined us for desert of apple cake. Baby steps.
Lamb and Fish are most definitely the most prevalent items on menus in Iceland although there was also chicken, pork, pizza, pasta and vegetarian options available. We really didn't see much at all in the way of beef. We did see both Puffin & Whale on menus but chose to avoid both for ecological reasons. Even without that concern I think fermented whale would be a step too far for my palate and no way would girl have let me eat Puffin as they are just too cute. My only souvenir from Reykjavik? Yup you've guessed it. Gin.
For further Icelandic inspiration Helen has blogged about travel and gastronomy at Fuss Free Flavours and Kavey Eats has sent a fascinating series of Postcards from Iceland. More Iceland travel and recipe posts to follow from me too. I've got a pan of Icelandic Lamb Soup bubbling away at the moment just waiting to be blogged about...
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