Destinations

A chef's guide to where to eat in Reykjavik

In our new series, we ask the world’s best chefs to share where to eat and drink in their hometowns. This month, Ragnar Eiríksson shows us around Iceland's capital.

By Jessica Rigg
Reykjavik, Iceland
In a past life, Ragnar Eiríksson was at the helm of Dill, Iceland's first Michelin-starred restaurant and an operation that zeroed in on the ingredients and food traditions of North Iceland. Today, his focus is on Vinstukan, a small natural-wine bar that represents Reykjavik's new food and drink order.
"When I moved back to Reykjavik in 2014, the city was a global tourism hotspot and restaurants catered for foreign visitors," says Eiríksson. "They had, more or less, the same menu. Things have calmed down since and the restaurant scene is renewing itself. Menus and spaces are being designed with locals in mind. When it comes to attracting visitors, 'try the local cuisine' has been replaced with 'try the local ingredients', not just puffins."

Makake

Everyone is raving about Makake, a new dim sum and Japanese tapas bar in an old sailor's canteen. The menu is mostly handmade dumplings, but the small plates such as braised daikon with red-miso butter sauce are really exciting. The tables are made of beer crates and the lights feature repurposed Bundaberg ginger-beer bottles.
Grandagarður 101, 101 Reykjavík, +354 782 0210, makake.is

La Primavera Ristorante

Northern Italian restaurant La Primavera is one of the city's greatest comeback stories. It originally opened in 1993 in Reykjavik's House of Commerce but closed in 2011. Then, in 2018 after a brief and very successful pop-up, the restaurant decided to reopen on its 25th anniversary. The restaurant is inside the Marshall House by the harbour which is almost in the middle of nowhere, yet you'll always find it busy, day and night. The small menu of regional Italian dishes also seems like it's returned from the 90s and includes classics like veal Milanese and a creamy tomato fettuccine with beautiful local langoustines.
Grandagarður 20, 101 Reykjavík, laprimavera.is
La Primavera chef Leifur Kolbeinsson.

MB Taqueria

MB Taqueria has just opened and I'm already hooked. It has the largest selection of mezcal and tequila in Reykjavik, and the tacos are awesome. I love the poached ocean perch taco and the celeriac kebab. It's your typical rotating kebab spit, but instead of the usual chicken or lamb, chefs carve off deeply caramelised slices of roasted celeriac and serve it with coriander and hazelnuts. The space is also really cool; local artists were invited to paint the walls.
Bergstaðastræti 4, 101 Reykjavík, instagram.com/mbtaqueria

Sumac

Sumac is a fun and lively restaurant cooking North African and Lebanese dishes using Icelandic ingredients. My girlfriend is vegetarian, so we usually head here on date night for great vegetable dishes such as baked cauliflower with pomegranate and almonds; or grilled oyster mushrooms with ras el hanout.
Laugavegur 28, 101 Reykjavík, sumac.is

Óx

This is the hottest place to eat in Reykjavik right now. It's a completely unique experience and if I had to put my money on it, I'd say that it will be the next in the city to receive a Michelin star.
The 11-seat counter wraps around an open kitchen and sits in the back of Sumac. Because all guests start their tasting menu at the same time, the chefs can create dishes to be shared and encourage interaction, such as a whole saddle of lamb served with indigenous herbs or whole-grilled monkfish with a creamy birch and mussel sauce. Dishes like lumpfish roe with cultured cream on thin pancakes are evidence of Icelandic cooking traditions at play, but the moist lava-baked rye bread that's steamed in milk cartons for 24 hours proves that there's really no other restaurant quite like Óx.
Laugavegur 28, 101, 101 Reykjavík, ox.restaurant

Kaffivagnin

For a super local experience, this coffeehouse by the harbour where the old fishermen meet up in the morning to talk about the weather and pretty much everything else. It's been there for at least 50 years, and somehow it's still the same.
Grandagarður 10, 101 Reykjavík, kaffivagnin.is

Kolaportid Flea Market

When industry friends come to visit, I take them to Kolaportid flea market (it's open on weekends from 11am to 5pm). I also go there frequently to scout for vintage LPs. There is a food market inside with all sorts of weird traditional food, and the producers are usually more than happy to give curious visitors a little taste. Look for my man Siggi from Depla – he is usually in the central booth wearing yellow overalls, and he is happy to share his stash of fermented shark and whale blubber. It's only for the brave; I'm afraid it's too much for me.
Tryggvagata 19, 101 Reykjavík, kolaportid.is or visitreykjavik.is/kolaportid-flea-market

Mat Bar

Mat Bar is a lovely little bar serving tapas, wine and amazing cocktails. The menu changes quite frequently, but I always start with the flatbread, which is cooked over open fire – it's awesome. Then I just let them take charge and send me what they want, and it's always good. I like being handed rows of food and drinks, and I like not having to think about food for a couple of hours after a busy week. Their kitchen is open until 11pm, so it's also a great spot for a late-night snack.
Hverfisgata 26, 101 Reykjavík, matbar.is

Vinstukan

My friend Oli (a sommelier) and I recently opened Vinstukan, a wine bar in downtown Reykjavik. It's designed to be exactly the kind of bar we would like to go to ourselves. The wine list has a big emphasis on natural wine and wines from smaller producers, but not exclusively. There are only three small importers of natural wine in Iceland. They only import between 60 and 120 bottles of each wine, so we rotate our glass list weekly.
The food is simple: small plates served fast and full of flavour such as cured cod with black-garlic mayonnaise and olives. One of the more popular dishes is a local cheese called tindur – an 18-month cow's milk cheese that has a very similar taste and texture to Comté – that we serve with brown butter and hazelnuts.
Laugavegur 27, 101 Reykjavík, vinstukan-tiu-sopar.business.site
Dishes at Vinstukan. hoto: Unnar Magna
As told to Jessica Rigg for The Local Tongue. For chef's guides from around the world, see the thelocaltongue.com