Reykjavik's First Food Hall: Hlemmur Mathöll

Reykjavik's First Food Hall: Hlemmur Mathöll

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Hlemmur Mathöll, Reykjavík's only Food Hall

Attention all foodies coming to Iceland: Reykjavík has a one-stop-shop for some of the best food in town, and also with the best prices. There's a new Food Hall in town, Hlemmur Mathöll, briefly the only Food Hall in Reykjavík, and it's amazing!

Okay, so not exactly new, as I write this several months after Hlemmur Mathöll opened its doors to hungry and thirsty Reykjavík-ians as well as curious travellers in August 2017. But that just means I've had the time to go there several times and almost check out everything on the menus of all the restaurants in there. Of which there are a few. Ten to be exact.

Their motto is "All kinds of food, for all kinds of people". And that's exactly what they do. You can find Mexican, Vietnamese, Danish, Italian, French and of course Icelandic cuisine here, freshly baked breads, artisan fair-trade coffee, organic vegetables as well as ice cream made with liquid nitrogen all packed neatly into a reformed local bus terminal (convenient if you need to catch a bus somewhere). And each place offers vegetarian and vegan options.

Hlemmur Mathöll is open from 8 to 23 daily, although the establishments inside have varying opening hours. There are for example only two places open from 8am, the bakery Brauð & Co and the coffee shop Micro Roast Te & Kaffi. The other ones all open at 11 or 11:30. The bakery closes earliest, at 18:00, same as Jómfrúin on weekdays, whereas the other restaurants close at 19:00, 20:00, 21:00, 22:00 or 23:00. 

But lets explore each one in more detail!

Header photo by Arthur Lawrence.

Brauð & Co Bakery

Freshly baked breads at Bread & Co at Hlemmur Food Hall in Reykjavík

Photo by Arthur Lawrence.

Brauð & Co (translates to Bread & Co) is quite possibly the best bakery in Europe. At least they have the best cinnamon buns in Europe. Believe me.

Their original location in town is just a few streets away, at Frakkastígur 16 where they still run the bakery that's been open since 2016. They opened up a second location in Fákafen on Iceland's independence day, June 17th, in 2017 since the first one was an immediate success.

So it was no surprise that this local, small Icelandic chain was incorporated into Hlemmur Mathöll foodhall. Brauð & Co had already established themselves as the most popular bakery in town, known for their organic sourdough bread, as well as their melt-in-the-mouth experimental buns. The classic bun is the cinnamon bun, but occasionally they may have such concoctions as liquorice+rhubarb buns, or blueberry+müesli buns.

At Hlemmur they've also started experimenting with making pizzas, which I've yet to taste but they smell delicious!

Hot tip: There is always a large queue outside their original bakery of people waiting for a fresh cinnamon bun at noon, but you can skip the large queue if you go to Hlemmur instead.

Opening hours: Daily from 08:00-18:00.


Salumi platter from Borðið at Hlemmur Food Hall

Photo from Hlemmur Mathöll instagram page.

Borðið (translates to The Table, or Eat) opened up a Mediterranean gourmet shop and bistro in the West part of Reykjavík in 2016. This family run restaurant fuses Nordic cuisine with Mediterranean flavours, but is also influenced by French and American cuisine when it comes to their pastries and desserts.

Going along with Hlemmur Foodhall's standard of good quality food made with fresh and organic ingredients, as well as their policy of no-waste and no-plastic use, Borðið and Hlemmur are a perfect match.

Indulge in a platter of salumi, with various meats such as prosciutto, coppa, bresaola, salami, guanciale, lardo or pancetta, accompanied with pickled and fresh vegetables, cheeses, sourdough bread and olive oil. Alternatively dig into their fried gnocchi or grab a juicy sourdough sandwich.

Opening hours: Daily from 11:00-22:00.

Ísleifur heppni

Festive cup of coffee at Micro Roast inside Hlemmur Mathöll, Reykjavík's Food Hall

Photo by Zoe Sarsanedas.

This has quickly become my favourite ice cream shop, and it has some tough competition from other incredible ice cream parlours in town (and around the country). The thing is, the ice cream here is just so impossibly smooth that it's tough to beat!

I have more of a savoury tooth than a sweet one, but it's hard to resist the handmade ice cream, made on the spot for you, using liquid nitrogen to freeze it. When the freezing time is so short, then the ice cream is left with fewer ice crystals, making it much more dense and smooth than regular ice cream. And you can really tell the difference!

On top of that, they're always experimenting with new flavours and combinations (freshly baked waffles from the bakery next door to create a waffle ice cream cake, or Baked Alaska with liquorice flavoured ice-cream and quinoa anyone?) that puts them on the top of my list for ice cream parlours in Reykjavík (and beyond).

Opening hours: Daily from 11:30-22:00.

Micro Roast Te & Kaffi

Brewing coffee in Reykjavík's Food Hall Hlemmur

Photo by Zoe Sarsanedas.

Te og Kaffi is a local coffee chain that needed no introduction to the locals. They arguably make some of the best hot drinks in town, including coffee, hot chocolates and teas.

As I'm not a coffee drinker myself (I know, blasphemy!) then all I can really recommend is their chai latte and hot chocolate, as well as a range of cookies and cakes. For coffee drinkers however, you'd be interested to know they always have freshly roasted coffee as they roast their own beans, all their coffee is fair trade and seasonal and they like to experiment with their coffee beans that hail from various locations around the world.

Opening hours: Daily from 08:00-22:00.


Delicious Icelandic food at Skál! restaurant at Hlemmur Food Hall

Photo by Zoe Sarsanedas.

This is my personal favourite out of all the restaurants at Hlemmur Mathöll. Their dishes are simply to die for, even if it just includes cauliflower and some hot sauce. (How they make that cauliflower with spicy mayo taste so good is beyond me).

Here you can expect fine dining, in a food hall setting (and luckily leaning more towards food hall pricing). The renowned chef Gísli Matthías (founder of Matur & Drykkur and Slippurinn) is behind this new restaurant that was created especially for Hlemmur Mathöll.

The cuisine is experimental, but still with a focus on Icelandic ingredients & local traditions. Much of the products used in the cooking and seasoning are actually foraged in Iceland, mixed in with spices from hotter countries. You may for example see some charred Icelandic charr on the menu (pun intended), but also more exotic dishes such as ceviche with blood oranges and toasted garlic sourdough bread.

Last but not least their cocktails are fantastic. The extensive cocktail bar may include liquors made out of Icelandic birch as well as imported alcohol, but they also have cocktails and beer on tap, plus their daily kombucha.

Opening hours: Daily from 11:30-23:00.

La Poblana

Delicious taco at La Poblana from Hlemmur Mathöll

Photo from Hlemmur Mathöll instagram page.

This was a much needed Mexican cuisine to arrive on Reykjavík's food scene. Granted, there is another great Mexican place in town (El Santo), but in my opinion the more Mexican places in town, the better!

La Poblana is also the perfect place to just grab a burrito on the go, or get some tasty soft tortillas with chicken, beef or vegan fillings. The best bit is that they make all their hot sauces on the spot, so you have a variety of hot sauce to go with your burrito or taco. Here you'll get good quality fast Mexican food.

My only disappointment is that their menu isn't more extensive, I'm missing some fish tacos and more vegetables, plus maybe some enchiladas and quesadillas. It's understandable though as their kitchen has a very limited size. However, they do have some variation to their menu on specific days, and had an exciting festival menu during Dia de los Muertos (that I sadly missed).

Opening hours: Daily from 11:00-21:00.


Bacon wrapped Arctic Char at Kröst restaurant in Hlemmu Food Hall

Photo by Zoe Sarsanedas.

Kröst is another restaurant within Hlemmur Mathöll that was created specifically for the food hall. They specialise in grilled dishes (meat, fish and vegetable dishes) and fine French wines. They have a signature burger, the Kröstí burger which is one of the most popular choices on their menu - and in my personal opinion belongs on the list of Reykjavík's top 5 burgers.

They also have rotating weekly specials, so there's always something new to get excited about.

Previous ones include bacon wrapped fish, as well as succulent lamb ribs and skewers of marinated prawns. However, my absolute favourite are their incredible cheese and charcuterie platters, served with tasty crackers, olives and honey. Get a small one for two people, or a large one to share with a group of 4-5 people, along with some tasty prosecco or a glass of red.

Opening hours: Daily from 11:00-23:00.

Banh Mí

Vietnamese summer rolls at Banh Mí inside Hlemmur Mathöll

Photo from Hlemmur Mathöll instagram page.

When you're craving something simple, fresh and incredibly tasty, then you can't go wrong with Vietnamese food. And Banh Mí will sort you right out.

If you for some reason do not know what Banh Mí is, then I suggest you ask no questions and just go straight there (or to your nearest Banh Mí seller) and indulge in quite possibly the best sub/sandwich that exists in the world.

Here you'll get great Vietnamese fast food, besides the Banh Mí you can enjoy delicious summer shrimp rolls with nut sauce. The Banh Mí can be vegan or with BBQ pulled pork, with all the Sri Racha you require on the side. Their most recent addition is a tasty Phó, and there's nothing more perfect for those cold Icelandic winter days than a warm soup.

Opening hours: Daily from 11:00-22:00.

Jómfrúin Scandinavian Kitchen

Danish open sandwich, or smörrebröd, is available at Jómfrúin at Hlemmur Food Hall in Reykjavík

Photo by Zoe Sarsanedas.

Iceland's history is intertwined with Denmark's history, and a lot of traditional Icelandic dishes come from Danish cuisine. Therefore no Icelandic food hall would be complete without a venue selling Danish smørrebrød.

Jómfrúin does Danish open sandwiches, and has been doing so ever since 1996. In Iceland's ever changing restaurant scene this is a feat and makes it one of the city's oldest restaurants, meaning it stands the test of time. This is an Icelandic establishment, also situated in Lækjargata street in downtown Reykjavík where they have a much larger venue, and one that has been immensely popular ever since it first opened its doors.

If you're unfamiliar with the smørrebrød, then what you can expect are slices of bread, either white or rye bread, topped with multiple vegetables with either meat or fish, and sliced eggs being frequent. The presentation of each one is immaculate. Each bread is small, possible to eat in just 3-5 bites, so you'll need at least a couple to fill yourself up - it's sort of like the Scandinavian version of tapas. Make sure you get a glass of wine with it, or maybe even a shot of Aquavit if you're feeling brave.

Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday from 11:00-18:00. Friday to Saturday 11:00-21:00.

Rabbar Barinn

Rabbar Barinn at Hlemmur Food Hall in downtown Reykjavik

Photo by Arthur Lawrence.

Not only does Rabbar Barinn have the best name of all the food vendors in Hlemmur Mathöll (a pun that has to do with rhubarb, chatting and a bar that works perfectly in Icelandic but is unfortunately untranslatable into English), it's also the only food vendor to sell food products.

Here you can get organic, freshly grown local products such as potatoes, tomatoes, leek and carrots. You might even get some purple carrots. You're encouraged to bring your own containers, but no plastic is used on site.

Additionally they sell fresh basil plants, tomato products from Friðheimar (a greenhouse that's a bit of a hidden gem on Iceland's Golden Circle) and you may even get some fresh potted flowers here.

And if you don't have a kitchen to cook in yourself, then you can always grab one of their freshly made smoothies, flavourful soups or their incredible and enormous lobster & bacon sandwich with basil mayo - one of the bestsellers at Hlemmur.

Opening hours: Monday to Wednesday from 11:00-19:00. Thursday to Sunday 11:00-20:00.

What Makes Hlemmur Food Hall Exciting?

Banh Mí and SKÁL! are right next to each other at Hlemmur Food Hall in Reykjavík

Photo by Arthur Lawrence.

So besides all the glorious restaurants I've just described, then there are some other things worth mentioning that make Hlemmur Food Hall even more exciting.

Firstly, the fact that the place itself has started integrating within itself. That is to say, the restaurants have started collaborating on new dishes and products. Bread & Co for example makes the bread for the sandwiches that are made at Rabbar Barinn grocery shop, as well as sometimes some waffles for Ísleifur heppni ice cream shop.

And the other restaurants get some of their fresh vegetables from Rabbar Barinn.

Hlemmur Mathöll Food Hall is popular amongst locals in Reykjavík

Photo by Arthur Lawrence.

This small location makes everything very intimate, not only do the chefs collaborate one with another, but guests all share tables with one another, no matter from which shop they got their food.

Additionally, there are often some pop-up events that take place at the food hall making it even more appealing. At first when it opened, some locals were upset that there wasn't so much of a 'market' inside, only one grocery shop and everything else is mini restaurants. But the organisers listened to that and have been putting on various events, such as produce markets on the weekends in summertime where local fishermen or farmers sell their goods. There are often themed days such as 'Goat Wednesday'.

La Poblana is a Mexican restaurant in central Reykjavík

Photo by Diego Brava.

On top of this there are often some musicians performing, and certain restaurants celebrate certain events (such as La Poblana celebrating Día De Los Muertos and Banh Mí celebrating the independence day of Vietnam). Monday nights have been turned into board game nights and during Christmas there was a fantastic Christmas market with a themed gingerbread house competition for locals.

Delicious cocktail from SKÁL! at Hlemmur Mathöll Food Hall

Photo by Ragnar Egilsson.

And lastly, it's just a great place to go for a cocktail, a small bite to eat, a large dinner, on a date, with your family, for an informal meeting, on your own or with a group of friends, it suits almost every occasion!

So it's safe to say, Hlemmur Mathöll is the hottest place in town for all kinds of people, and all kinds of foodies.

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