Where can you find quality Mediterranean food in Iceland? What are the best restaurants in Reykjavík? If you want quality Icelandic products but combined with African flavours, look no further than the fine dining restaurant Sumac.
Personally, I'm a fan of spices and fruits, so anything containing mango, chillies, garlic, turmeric, nuts and dates is most likely going to appeal to me. I love the Icelandic lamb and fish, but I think those ingredients really shine when it's made a bit more exotic with foreign spices that tickle your tastebuds.
So when I entered Sumac last week and went for the 7 course Meze with a large group, I knew I'd be in for a treat!
Sumac restaurant is fairly new on the Reykjavík culinary scene, opening up in 2017, and the only fine dining Middle Eastern restaurant in Reykjavík. Sure, you can find some kebab shops around town, but if you want sophisticated but fun dining experience including some juicy olives, gorgeous hummus and baba ganoush and main dishes inspired by the North African coast, everything from Moroccan tagine to Lebanese wines, then Sumac is where you should head to.
The cuisine is not strictly Lebanese or Moroccan however, but fused together with Icelandic ingredients, led by the two chefs Þráinn Freyr Vigfússon and Hafsteinn Ólafsson (Icelandic chef of the year in 2017).
The restaurant is named after the fruit Sumac, that is dried and used as a spice with tangy, citrus flavour, commonly used in the restaurant's dishes. Other key ingredients include yoghurt sauces, pomegranate, almonds and harissa paste.
So you'll find some gorgeous Icelandic seafood, such as salmon served with kumquat, coriander and fennel (it's AMAZING!) or grilled wolffish skewers with barley, preserved lemon and garlic aioli. Or perhaps you want to try the lamb ribs, on a bed of lentils, grapes and almonds.
There are also some great vegetarian and vegan options, and when I went here to dine I was in a large group of an international crowd. There was a vegan, a vegetarian, a person that was lactose intolerant and another that was gluten free. I think it's a fantastic testament to how good the restaurant is that every single person was satisfied and in love with their dining options. And although I was thoroughly enjoying the harissa chicken wings, I looked with envy at my vegetarian friend that was having the stuffed, baked dates. I'll be coming back here to try the dishes I missed out on for sure!
The stylish environment is inspired by Beirut, Lebanon, formerly known as the Paris of the East. The colours are muted and the space is raw but paired with modern and elegant furniture, an open kitchen and a glass encased wine storage, where the temperature is controlled so you'll always be served your wine at the right temperature.
The lighting is warm, and the sofas are in light brown leather, complimenting the reddish brown wooden floor. The design is by known interior designer Hálfdan Pedersen, who has done the interior design for some of Reykjavík's best restaurants and bars, including Michelin star restaurant Dill and the lively disco nightclub Pablo Discobar.
Here it's the food and the cocktails that really pop with colour. And the cocktails are well worth a mention! The wine list includes exciting wines from Lebanon that go well with your dining experience, but this is also one of the best places in town to come for a cocktail or three. The wine list you can find online, but their cocktails vary frequently, so they don't have their cocktail list online - you'll have to just trust me on this!
If you need suggestions, there is the classic Sumac cocktail, and the Arak Sour is not to be missed.
Definitely a local favourite, and after bringing my group of friends and colleagues there, one of them said "I've been to Reykjavík a few times, but this is the first time I think of Reykjavík as a culinary destination."
The Meze includes 7 dishes to share, and will set you back 8,500 ISK. For an additional 5,400 ISK you'll get 4 glasses of wine that are paired with your meal.
Individual plates are also available, small dishes for less than 1500 ISK, vegetarian dishes around 2000 ISK and meat and fish dishes between 3-4000 ISK. All dessert options are 1800 ISK.
Sumac is located at Reykjavík's main shopping street, Laugavegur 28. Reservations in advance are recommended.