On our recent trip to Iceland, we were awed and amazed by the natural beauty of the island. Everywhere you turn, there are gorgeous vistas, mountains, water (and waterfalls) and the ruggedness of a volcanic island. After a day touring around the Golden Circle and appreciating the stunning natural splendour of Iceland, we got to experience another type of beauty – the beauty of a great meal.
Where did we go? Grillmarkaðurinn! The restaurant was a short walk from our hotel (okay, let’s be honest, most things were a short walk from our hotel in Reykjavik, Iceland), located near the harbour and town hall.
The room is very Icelandic and Scandinavian. Natural woods and exposed ceilings decorate the room. An open kitchen is showcased in a room featuring modern elements. The lighting is focused on the centre of each table, putting the spotlight on the food.
Dalmar was our excellent server for the evening. The meal started, like in most Scandinavian countries, with bread and butter. How can you not love good bread and butter? The homemade bread was a caraway rye, crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside, served with butter topped with lava salt. Yes! I’ve become a bit of a salt nut, so this was I one I went out and bought after the meal. The salt is black and very slightly smokey.
The restaurant has an interesting beer and cocktail list. Pete went for a local craft beer, Olfur Nr 3 IPA from Borg Breweries. I went for a cocktail with the very cool name Þórsmörk (pronounced Thorsmark) which consisted of Brennivin (the local Icelandic aquavit), Björk Birch liqueur, thyme syrup and muddled blueberries, finished with blueberries and fresh thyme.
We decide to do the “trip to the countryside”. This multi-course meal consisted of a duck salad, Minke whale, puffin and langoustine (Icelandic lobster) burgers followed by beef tenderloin and dessert.
The duck salad was served on a bed of spinach with pomegranate, mandarin oranges, baby mozzarella, onion sprouts and shredded duck. The dressing was a combination of mint, coriander, date jam, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil.
The Minke whale (don’t hate, it is sustainable) was served with deep-fried oyster mushrooms, chili threads and lime. It was marinated in a soy vinaigrette and served on a grill, smoked. So how does whale taste? It is like a cross between rare beef and seared tuna, served seared on the outside with a deep-red buttery-soft middle and a slightly (very slightly) gamey taste.
Next up, the must-have mini burgers which are a trio of puffin, Minke whale and langoustine. (Since we were splitting this appetizer and we had already had the Minke whale, we opted for two puffin burgers and one langoustine burger. The puffin, from Grimsey, was served with a bacon-wrapped date (which added a slight sweetness) and had an almost steak-like quality. I thought these were excellent. Pete agreed, although he thought the langoustine burgers were the best. “Killer” was the actual word he used to describe the langoustine burgers that were topped with a chorizo salad.
The beef tenderloin that followed was huge. It was served with a mushroom glaze, awesome french fries (I know fries are one of my weaknesses!) and kale, carrots and mushrooms. Cooked perfectly, our only complaint was that we couldn’t eat it all!
We were lucky to be visited by the very talented Chef Haukur Már Hauksson. At 25, he has been cooking for nine years! He studied at The Culinary School in Iceland, starting at the Fiskmarkaðurinn (the Fishmarket) Restaurant in Reykjavik with a stint at Zuma in London. This incredibly talented chef was also interesting to speak with – did you know that whale if overcooked becomes dry and fishy? I’m sure that we’ll be hearing more about Chef Haukur Már Hauksson in the future – he is one to watch!
Last up was the “pass the dessert tray” which was a selection of some of the most popular dessert items. Dessert or sweet lovers, this is one for you, especially if you think everything looks so good that you would love to taste it all!
There was a Skyr (the local Icelandic yogurt) liquorice sorbet with Skyr cream and sponge cake; passionfruit sorbet; chocolate cake with raspberry crumble; and the very dramatic mascarpone chocolate ball with rice crisps and caramel sauce over coffee ice cream. Definitely dessert lovers heaven!
When in Reykjavik, put Grillmarkaðurinn on your dining list. You will love this taste of Iceland!