Iceland — Food and Restaurants
Reykjavik and Akureyri are well set up for dining out, with a good selection of restaurants, although food prices here are expensive, yet the quality is hard to beat. Most small towns and villages feature only one or two local eateries serving the distinctive Icelandic local cuisine. Local foods may come as a surprise, especially at festival times, but no offense will be taken if you politely refuse some of the more exotic offerings such as putrefied shark cubes, sheep’s fat, and pickled rams’ testicles. Traditionally, whale meat is served in most restaurants.
Bars and Pubbing in Iceland
Reykjavik’s lively nightlife scene kicks off at around midnight, perhaps due to the high price of alcohol here. It’s normal to meet up at homes or hotels and get the evening started with cheaper, store-bought drinks before hitting the bars and pubs around midnight or later.
The music scene in Iceland is eclectic and supports most genres, from hardcore punk rock through to hip-hop. Pub crawls end at around 5:00 a.m., the closing time of most bars, pubs, and clubs, and it all happens in the small downtown district. NASA (off Austurvullur, Reykjavik) is the main dance club. Kaffibarinn (Bergstadastraeti 1, Reykjavik) is the see-and-be-seen hub for the media crowd and is cozy, arty, and sometimes candlelit.
Akureyri town is no slouch when it comes to party-people offerings, with the same late-night buzz as Reykjavik. As in the capital, Icelanders hit the clubs, bars, and pubs here at midnight, having stoked up on drinks at home, although pub crawls start slightly earlier at 11:00 p.m. and finish around 4:00 a.m. Velsmidjan (harborside, Akureyri) is good place to start as its has the longest bar in Iceland and popular Sjallinn (Geislagata 14, Akureyri) is club, bar, and live music rolled into one, although it closes at 3:00 a.m.
Dining and Cuisine in Iceland
Iceland’s cuisine is known for its high-quality ingredients, ultra-fresh seafood, rich dairy produce, and free-range lamb, and there’s enough diversity in restaurants to satisfy the most demanding gourmet. The best choice of eateries is found in Reykjavik, with Frakkar (Baldursgata 14, Reykjavik) specializing in fish dishes prepared by its master chef Ulfar Eysteinsson. For a seafood feast with a view, Saegrefinn (Old Harbor, Reykjavik) is the place to go, famous for fishy delights such as lobster soup and grilled seafood skewers.
Italian and Asian restaurants are popular in Reykjavik and a visit to the world’s northernmost Indian eatery, Austur Indaifelagid, (Hverfisgata 56, Reykjavik), will give you the unique experience of Icelandic seafood prepared by master chefs from India. Asia (Laugavegur 10, 101 Reykjavik) serves Chinese-style prawn, chicken, beef, and fish dishes and, for Italian cuisine, Caruso (Thingholtstraeti 1, 101 Reykjavik) serves top-quality pastas in a charming environment.
Although Akureyri doesn’t have such a huge choice as the capital, there’s plenty to please as regards restaurants. A gourmet gem at the top of the price range is Fridrik V (Kaupvangsstraeti 6, Akureyri), known across Iceland for its signature dishes of langoustine with roasted vegetables and filet mignon carpaccio, as well as for its in-house deli. For minimal chic, RUB 23 (Kaupvangsstraeti 23, Akureyri) has it all, including sushi and fish dishes, as well as a great reputation in its former incarnation as Karolina Restaurant.