Looking for a restaurant with some tasty food and refreshing drinks outside of the busy Reykjavík city centre? Check out the lively Von Mathús gastropub if you're heading through Hafnarfjörður!
If you're staying in Hafnarfjörður and looking for good food and a fun atmosphere, then there's no need to travel all the way to Reykjavík in search of a restaurant since you can simply head to the gastropub Von Mathús in the centre of Hafnarfjörður. Or if you are staying in Reykjavík and want to explore somewhere new, then hop on a bus or sit down behind the steering wheel of a rental car and head towards the 'Town in the Lava'.
I love good food and try to seek out good places to eat when I travel, so if you're anything like me then I recommend reading up on Iceland's best cuisine.
I'd read good things about Von Mathús and therefore made the short journey from downtown Reykjavík, where I live, to Hafnarfjörður. It's just a 30 minute ride on a bus (bus no. 1 from Hlemmur takes you to Strandgata, where Von Mathús is located). Even though you're staying in central Reykjavík then Hafnarfjörður is worth a visit. This suburb town of Reykjavík is really pretty and has a lot to offer, such as a Viking Festival, elf trails and gorgeous surroundings.
I'd booked a table for me and my boyfriend late on a cold, winter Friday evening and I was getting a little grumpy on the way (I get grumpy when I'm hungry). My sour mood vanished when I entered the open but cosy and homely restaurant.
The restaurant is run by a really friendly young couple, Kristjana and Einar, and has only been open since late 2015. Einar is a chef and has been working at some of Iceland's finest restaurants such as Grillið and Kol, as well as the Michelin star restaurant Dabbous in London. Kristjana, who's originally from Hafnarfjörður, manages the place and happened to be our waiter for the night so we got to chat a lot with her about the restaurant.
The space is open and casual, with marine decorations, such as a large compass from a boat, life buoys and sailor suits. It's a gastropub with some great music being played and often a fun crowd going out mainly for drinks. They've got a small but fun selection of cocktails that are worth checking out, although I just opted for a glass of red.
I apologise in advance for the poor quality of the photos of the food, the downside of being inside a cosy but rather dim lit restaurant is that my pictures never turn out that well.
We decided to go for a 3 course menu, both starting with the beetroot cured salmon, which they cure themselves. The description of the dish mentions pine nuts, fennel, rosemary and beetroots. You can really taste each flavour, each ingredient gets to shine on its own without any added flavours. The pine nuts were used for a pine nut butter that was super delicious and my favourite flavour of the dish. Really nice and fresh combination of flavours.
We had both the cod and the ox cheek for our main dishes.
There were very distinct flavours in the fish dishes, and you can easily tell they have very fresh ingredients, prepared in interesting ways. With the cod came kohlrabi, salsify, noisette and celery. A very beautiful and tasty dish, although I preferred the ox cheek.
Although Von Mathús focuses more on seafood, the ox cheek has become a signature dish. The meat falls apart when you touch it, (not surprising since it's been slow cooked for 12 hours!), and the small bits of crispy bacon and perfectly cooked potatoes makes it a favourite for regulars. The pickled shallots and red wine glaze just make the whole combination heavenly. I could not get enough of this dish and will return to Von Mathús to have it again (and to sample their cocktail menu with it!) It also looks divine!
There were only two dessert options on the menu, although just the rice crème brûlée is included in the 3 course set menu. But we asked if we could have one each and Kristjana was happy to oblige, so we got to taste both.
Out of the two desserts I found the rice crème brûlée a much more interesting option, as it included a bit of horseradish. It's accompanied by almonds and sour sea buckthorn sorbet which gives it a fresh taste. I'm not much of a sweet tooth and prefer lighter desserts, so this one was right up my street.
The cinnamon apple puff pastry with caramel sauce and homemade hazelnut parfait is a more traditional dessert, and is a local crowdpleaser, and my boyfriend's preferred choice. This is a monster of a dessert, reminiscent of an ice cream apple burger!
There are both vegan and vegetarian options available on request and vegan dishes are appearing on the menu shortly.
All in all, Von Mathús is a fun gastropub with a small but very reasonably priced menu that consists of great options of fish, meat and vegetarian dishes. Accompanying the dishes are earthy selections of trimmings, such as kohlrabi, salsify, celery, cabbage and parsnips where each flavour gets to stand in the spotlight. Also worth checking out are their weekend brunches, on Saturdays and Sundays between 11:30 and 2pm. Note that the restaurant is closed on Mondays.
Von Mathús is situated at Strandgata 75, 220 Hafnarfjörður.