The Grillmarket by Björn Árnason

What are the best fine dining restaurants in Reykjavík? See the top places to go out and eat in Reykjavík.

Reykjavík is brimming with great food. There are numerous fine dining restaurants to be found in the city, with renowned chefs priding themselves on using fresh, Icelandic ingredients. Icelandic cuisine focuses on seafood, lamb and of course the Icelandic dairy product ‘skyr’.

Following are some of the best fine dining restaurants in Reykjavík.

Grillmarkaðurinn (The Grillmarket)

The Grillmarket has been around since the summer of 2011 and has earned its place as one of the most popular restaurants in Reykjavík, both among locals and foreigners. Tucked behind shops right in the middle of downtown Reykjavík but unseen from the bustling Austurstræti, the second you walk in you feel like you’ve stumbled onto a hidden secret. The décor is made up of natural elements such as lava, fish scales, column basalt and wood and feels somewhat raw but highly sophisticated at the same time. Predominant colours are gold, brown and black. There’s an open kitchen where you can see the chefs work their magic.

The Grillmarket by Björn Árnason

The restaurant is both open for lunch and dinner. If you only feel like going for a drink, then their bar is quite popular too. It's a perfect place for a business lunch but also the perfect place for a romantic meal.

I highly recommend taking the ‘taster’ menu – and the accompanying wine menu. The taster menu consists of 8 dishes and is a perfect blend of different dishes. Last time I went I got crispy squid, fresh duck salad, perfectly cooked minke whale (it’s easy to overcook whale steak), melt-in-your-mouth pork ribs that fall off the bone, salmon as soft as velvet, juicy t-bone lamb with thick and crispy potatoes, t-bone steak with grilled vegetables and delicious dessert to finish it off. And there’s a different type of wine to go with every dish. Just thinking about it makes me want to go again! My favourite waiter is an elderly man called Óli that puts the dot over the i. He is attentive, funny and extremely friendly.

The hamburgers on offer are also worth checking out: Minke whale, reindeer and lobster burgers!

The food tends to be served on flat stones, keeping with the natural theme of the restaurant. Even the starter bread is fantastic (filled with raisins and accompanied with homemade butter with black sea salt). All in all, if you want to go out for a fancy meal in downtown Reykjavík, you won’t be disappointed with the Grillmarket.

The Grillmarket by Björn Árnason

Snaps (Schnapps)

Snaps is a bistro and a bar and became the ‘it’ place in Reykjavík from the moment it opened. 

The menu is a mix of French, Danish and Icelandic cuisine and is rather small. The ingredients are Icelandic but the dishes are French (such as bouillabaisse) and you also have the option of ordering Danish smörrebröd.

Snaps

The service is efficient, friendly and informal and it’s the perfect place to go out with friends, on a first date or with your family. The food is very tasty and has a ‘no bullshit’ approach – the portions are large and there’s no pretentiousness.

It is like a French bistro with big windows where you can watch the passersby, patchwork quilt hangs in one window, other walls are covered with old newspapers and plants fill the rest of the place. There is no music, just the friendly chattering atmosphere. I especially recommend the Moules mariniére and the Crème Brûlée – as well as any of the smörrebröd (Danish open sandwich). 

Snaps - Moules marinière

Sjávargrillið (The Seafood Grill)

Sjávargrillið feels like you’re inside a homely alpine cabin with a fine dining luxury twist. The restaurant has an Icelandic design with its thick driftwood logs, old wooden skis on the walls, old hobs, pots, pans, wooden wine racks and candles lighting up beautiful but simple glass jars. On the outdoors veranda there are wooden benches and fairy lights in the trees. A hipster touch is the bow-ties on the green, velvet sofa.

Sjavargrillid interior

The food is divine. The slow-cooked salmon with the spiced bread melts in your mouth, the langoustine salad with its big langoustine makes you wish you went for the langoustine (lobster) menu (that I will be doing next time!) and last time I went the fish of the day was spotted catfish with cous cous, date and lobster sauce and broccoli. Delicious. The crème brûlée is one of the best I’ve ever had, served with ice-cream and sorbet on the side and fresh strawberries. The fish of the day during lunch time is always exceptional, and reasonably priced too.

Sjavargrillid dish

Tapasbarinn (The Tapas Bar)

Tapasbarinn has been running for the past 13 years and is always as popular. The food is obviously Spanish and the décor is matching: Spanish cellar, whitewashed walls, dark wood, colourful tiles on floor, stained glass lanterns, large chunks of hanging meats and latin music. The perfect place to go with a group of friends for some kind of a celebration and have some cocktails or sangria with your meal.

Tapasbarinn has long been known for making very interesting mixes of food from Icelandic ingredients and mixing it with traditional Spanish tapas.

The most popular menu for foreigners is The Icelandic Gourmet Feast, whereas the most popular menu for locals is The Journey Into the Unknown. Both of them are priced equally and include a pre-drink plus 7-8 tapas dishes.

Tapasbarinn

The Icelandic Feast starts with a shot of Brennivín and includes puffin with blueberry & brennivín sauce, sea-trout, langoustine (tip: dip the bread from your breadbasket into the langoustine juice & lemon!), blue ling, lamb, minke whale with malt sauce and skyr mousse.

The Journey into the Unknown is a mix of whatever the chef decides but is always a mix of seafood, meat and poultry unless otherwise requested. You can expect dishes such as baconwrapped scallops and dates (best idea ever), wrapped tuna in Serrano ham, blue ling with chorizo, oxtails (amazing) or beef loin with beetroot, mushrooms and foie gras!

And if you really want to spoil yourself, why not get a mix of all of the desserts? Go on, spoil yourself, you won’t regret it.

Tapasbarinn

Sushi Samba

SushisambaIf you want a fusion of Japanese and South-American cuisine, be sure to check out Sushi Samba. Hipster decorations, entrance filled with flower pots, handmade dolls from the Amazon hanging down from the ceiling, lights within birdcages and incredibly good looking staff, this is where you go to have an exciting Icelandic sushi experience.

I recommend the 8 course menu, either the sushi mix, the samba mix or the sushisamba mix. And of course you can get an accompanying wine list. Expect to drink your soup from an expresso cup and to be served a lobster ‘cigar’ in an ashtray.