In the last few years, Iceland has become a mecca for travel and food and we are often asked when is the best time to visit and where are the best places to eat. So we headed back to our beloved second home and with the help of Lotus Cars we planned one of the many trips around the city and indeed the country with their advice on where best to go with one their very stylish and sturdy cars.
Before heading anywhere, especially in the winter month but also in summer to protect yourself from the occasional cold winds often present in the land of fire and ice, make sure that you are well prepared with a traditional raincoat or a Parka from 66° North, the Icelandic wear for all weathers. Founded in 1926, their outerwear brave the elements this is the one and only and original brand, which is still worn by local fishermen while trawling the perilous seas of Iceland.
Plan ahead as the summer months can be busy. Yet you can still drive for miles without seeing a soul. This is the best time for sightseeing, as there is an abundance of light. In the north of Iceland, you can even see the sun touch the horizon and rise again. Head to Akureyri, the north’s commercial centre, a charming and artistic town with a great restaurant called Strikid you can spoil yourself trying some of their best dishes such as Fried cod cheeks, langoustine or arctic char with cauliflower pickled puree and a lovely chocolate mousse with baked chocolate and arctic thyme.
If you have a bit of time on your hands, a round trip of Iceland is unforgettable, either travelling clockwise heading up the west of Iceland or, as we did, taking the even more scenic south route, traversing the black sands and glacial rivers. Among a multitude of places to visit is the breathtakingly beautiful beach of Vik and further east the fishing village of Hofn, hosting several excellent seafood restaurants. When approaching Akureyri up north you will not want to miss visiting Husavik and go whale watching on board one of North Sailing’s original wooden sailing boats, surely the most exhilarating of travel experiences.
Trying not to get too distracted by the beautiful scenery, we head to Reykjavik to resume our culinary journey. Reykjavik harbour provides the most choices of excellent dineries in town where you will find a plethora of culinary delights. Kopar Restaurant is one of them with great views of the harbour, a fantastically varied menu and a special Christmas menu, which is served like an afternoon tea, with a variety of dishes beautifully arranged. Mesmerizing in a different way, the short, cold and dark days of winter offer you a very intense experience of the north with a garland of Aurora Borealis when skies are clear. If you happen to be there during that time of the year, you are spoiled for choice for a warm and festive eatery in downtown Reykjavik best enjoyed staying centrally or even by the old dry dock in the characterful Hotel Marina Reykjavik. All the restaurants by the harbour and the ones we visited are proud to say that they do not serve whale meet, which is a welcomed relief to the environmentally discerning traveller.
One of these atmospheric places is on the busy street of Skolavordustigur close to the towering landmark of Hallgrimskirkja Church, Kol Restaurant. We start with a selection of cocktails while we soak up the atmosphere of this friendly and buzzing restaurant. The menu is enticing and the charred salmon and Icelandic scallops did not disappoint. It may come as a surprise to the reader that the best Indian food may well be found in Reykjavik. Just a mere 5 minutes stroll down the hill of Skolavorduholt, in the authentic and lively restaurant Austur-India Felagid, which was established in 1994, you will find a menu with a mix of traditional and innovative dishes representing the many different culinary styles of India. The dishes are fragrant and light, beautifully presented, leaving you wanting for more. Our culinary trip would not be complete without visiting the Lobsterhouse, which forms an essential part of a very picturesque row of old buildings in in the old city centre, immaculately refurbished and preserved. The menu features lobster in many guises as might be expected, but the catch of the day from the nearby harbour is not to be missed either.
One way to support sustainable eating is to visit the intriguing and quite wonderful Dill Restaurant with locally sourced produce from local farmers and fishermen, enhancing old traditions with a new direction in gastronomical experience. Chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason and sommelier Ólafur Örn Ólafsson will cater for excellence and add a touch of exotic flair with their Icelandic herbs, which are kept in the small greenhouse adorning the small and modern restaurant.
For your last minute gifts to take home, Upplifun books and flowers makes a good choice with their wide selection gifts to suits every budget, situated at the entrance of the renowned Harpa, Reykjavik’s concert and conference centre by the harbour. As often before, this is our last stop before heading for the airport but not arriving there before enjoying what surely must be one of the most revitalising places on Earth, the Blue Lagoon. After having a relaxing dip into the blue waters we head to their truly original restaurant, appropriately named LAVA restaurant, which combines a modern design with the spirit of Icelandic nature, built into a stunning lava cliff with views of the lagoon. A fitting reminder that a visit to Iceland is both, an experience of nature and a culinary delight, with ever more appetite for Iceland.