The Food of Iceland
March 2, 2016
We actually ate more on this trip than we usually do. Perhaps it was because we love seafood or just because every day was a long day of exploring the beautiful landscapes. We definitely wanted to try authentic Icelandic fare, but there were also a few things that we knew that we wouldn’t eat. When reading about the food of Iceland before we travelled, there was quite a bit out there about the restaurants serving whale and puffin. We’d also heard about the fermented shark, which was featured on a couple of shows, including Bizarre Foods. We mostly ate in Reykjavik, but we did enjoy a couple of meals while we were travelling around the countryside.
Seafood and lamb were on every menu in one shape or form and the most traditional dishes seemed to be the soups, fish soup, meat soup, and lamb soup, of which we tried each. We had fish soup several times and each time the broth was a little different, but they were all delicious. Langoustine, which are small lobsters, were also very common on most menus. Some of the best that we had were actually at the restaurant at the Settlement Center in Borganese. They had a wonderful buffet, but we chose to order a la carte, having lamb and fish soup and then entrees. In addition to the langoustine on tagliatelle, we also had Ling, which is a white fish in the cod family, but it was lighter than traditional cod and very delicious.
When we went out to the Snæfellsnes peninsula, the Hotel Búðir was highly recommended to us as the place to stop for lunch and we weren’t disappointed. They are a wonderful hotel and would probably be a great place to stay and get out of Reykjavik, but we had to settle for just having lunch there. Again, we had fish soup as well as a lamb sandwich, with the meat being very mild in flavor.
On one of our nights out, we decided to do the chef’s menu at the Seafood Grill, something also offered at many restaurants, where you get several courses all chosen by the chef to represent the food of Iceland. We told them that we did not want puffin or whale, ordered a couple of glasses of wine, and then the food started coming, all nine courses. Unfortunately they still brought us puffin, but we asked them to replace it with a second order of goose, but otherwise every course, all meat except for dessert, were delicious. We had goose, grouper, salmon, lobster, ocean pearch, and lamb. It was way more food than we could eat, but each course was incredible.
In addition to the food, Iceland is quite proud of its beer. The most common is Gull beer, which is brewed in Reykjavik and can be found just about everywhere. We tried Boli Premium that is a premium lager that is also brewed in Reykjavik. There is no wine produced in Iceland, for obvious reasons, but we did hear that they were going to attempt it in the near future. The other thing that they produce in Iceland is vodka as well as Brennivín, which is an unsweetened schnapps that is the most popular distilled alcohol in Iceland and is usually taken as a shot.
We chose not to eat any puffin or whale during our trip because of the environmental impact. From what we heard, the puffin population has decreased by 38% since it became a popular dish on the island and some whales are still on the endangered species list. We don’t judge anyone else who chooses to eat puffin or whale, it is just something that we didn’t want have while we were there. Fermented shark is a shark head that has been left out for a month to rot and is then served. We didn’t see that on any menu, but it just sounds disgusting, so we were glad not to see it. The one other thing that we saw on a menu, but didn’t try, was reindeer. We probably would have tried that had we had the chance, but the restaurant that served it was so busy that we ended up walking out without eating there.
Overall, the food that we had was terrific, especially the seafood. Because we wanted to try as many different things as possible, we ended up eating way more than we usually would. Normally we split a meal or just eat small bites, but on this trip we ordered appetizers and full meals for each of us so that we could share and order different things. Reykjavik definitely has a wonderful variety of restaurants to choose from, both Icelandic as well as traditional restaurants such as Italian, Thai, American, etc. The food was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.