Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mat Bar

Trendy Tapas Bar in Icelandic Style


May contain traces of advertisement.*

Mat Bar presents Icelandic cooking in a very modern style, internationally influenced mainly by the cuisine of Asia. For me this is very exciting and fascinating! Technically speaking, this is "fusion cuisine", i.e. a mix of various food cultures and a combination of traditional local ingredients and ingredients from other parts of the world. This Icelandic tapas bar offers mainly small dishes, but a big variety of them.

Unfortunately I had to fly back to Germany, before we had the opportunity to visit Mat Bar. So my husband, who was still in Iceland for hiking, had to go alone to this restaurant at the end of his trip. I would have liked so much to accompany him to Mat Bar. But I missed it. What a pity!



As recommended by the host, my husband ordered "Matbarsmáltið", the Matbar Meal, for 6.940 ISK (55 €, 65 $).

This meal is served only for dinner (not before 5 p.m.). It consists of 7 different courses, which variate according to the season, since always only the freshest ingredients are being used. (By the way, it's also possible to order a vegetarian variation of the meal or one with fish, but without meat.) For each course, when it is served, it is explained in detail, what you get.

Here the composition of courses my husband got, when he was invited in June:

The first two courses were served together.

As first course he got lumpfish roe with whipped ricotta, fermented chilli sauce and chives. This came together with traditionally Icelandic flatbread. My husband is not really a roe enthusiast. But this one, with hot chili sauce, he loved. And also the flatbread, which looke a bit burnt, was delicious, just due to the roasted spots.


The second course were grilled lambhearts with XO sauce (a spicy Asian sauce, which is based on dried seafood and dried ham), strained buttermilk and raspberry juice.


Course no. 3 was Þorskkinnar, a cod cheek with lemon kosho and pickled red onions, toasted breadcrumbs and sorrel.


This was followed by balsamic glazed red beets, celeriac and horseradish puree, grated chilli walnuts and spanish chervil.


The fifth and sixth course were the main dishes:

On one plate there was a big piece of lamb belly served with red onion and fennel coleslaw and (what you can see in the front of the picture) honeymustard seeds.


On the other plate there was grilled kale with preserved lemons, pickled chilli, pumpkin seeds and dulse.


For dessert almond granita (kind of a semi-frozen lemonade, similar to a sorbet) was served together with Icelandic strawberries, caramellized white chocolate, habanero and a sweet balsamic dressing.


"I did it! I'm completely full!" - that was the last message my husband sent me on this evening from Mat Bar. He sounded satisfied and totally impressed. We have to visit Mat Bar once again together, was his conclusion.

Now I myself would like to say something, too. I'm Ursula's husband. I was absolutely blown away by the meal in Mat Bar. Each course was such a great combination of various worlds of taste. The basis was always something originally Icelandic, which was then combined with a completely different taste. Roe with chilli sauce, lambhearts with fruity raspberry juice, and so on. And within seven courses, one experience of taste was followed by the next. After each of the first courses the waiter asked me, whether it was okay, and I could only praise the food enthusiastically. Later I had a smile over the entire face, so that there was no need to ask again. My enthusiasm was so obvious!


Overview:

Little snacks like smoked almonds with dried olives or grilled flatbread with kale pesto cost about 900 ISK (approx. 7 €, 8.50 $). Vegetable dishes are around 1.500 ISK (approx. 12 €, 14 $) (e.g. grilled kale or grilled kale, grilled aspargus or braised fennel). The price of a seafood dish (e.g. lumpfish roe or grilled squid) is around 1.850 ISK (approx. 15 €, 17 $) in average. You can get the catch of the day for 2.850 ISK (approx. 23 €, 27 $). Meat dishes cost around 2.400 ISK (about 19 €, 22.50 $). And last but not least, the great Matbar Meal takes 6.940 ISK (55 €, 65 $) for its seven courses.

Mat Bar opens Tuesday to Saturday from 15.00 to 24.00. The kitchen closes on workdays at 22.00, on weekends at 23.00.

It's recommended to reserve a table, since Mat Bar is often well-attended.



* Legal note: 

Formally this article can be graded as advertisement, since we had been invited for the meal. Anyhow, we have chosen only restaurants, which we had heard good things about and which we estimated as interesting. Accordingly we're really delighted, and if we fall into words of praise, these are meant honestly.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Krauma

Bathing and dining next to a giant hot spring


May contain traces of advertisement.*

The hot spring Deildartunguhver is located in Reykholtsdalur valley in West Iceland, nearly 100 km north of Reykjavík, hence an hour and a half drive from Iceland's capital. Deildartunguhver is Europe's most powerful hot spring. Per second it pumps 180 l of boiling hot water out of the earth. This could fill about 72 bathtubs per minute. In fact it is enough to provide Borganes, Akranes and the surrounding area with hot water.


The greenhouses nearby are also heated with hot water from Deildartunguhver.


You can buy in self-service tomatoes grown in the greenhouses from a stand just in front of the hot spring. (We took this photo in autumn 2016. In the background you can already see the construction works for the spa and restaurant.)


In November 2017 a geothermal bath & spa and an adjacent restaurant opened here, only 70 or 80 m away from the hot spring. It's named "Krauma", which means "simmering", "bubbling" or "boiling" - and this name fits as well to the geothermal water in the hot spring and in the spa as to the pots and pans in the restaurant's kitchen.


From both, spa and restaurant, you have an amazing view on the giant hot spring and the green houses.


The spa is newly build, and its design is simply great. The circular pools are of shiny black stone. The whole building is black with large glass fronts and a grass roof. So it integrates itself perfectly into the landscape. My husband got a very warm welcome, when he arrived after a long day, on which he had been hiking to Esja, Reykjavík's local mountain. In that situation a bath in such a spa is really delightful and enjoyable! (I myself had already been travelled back to Germany, unfortuantely. So my husband had to visit Krauma alone, and I missed it.)


The spa offers five hot tubs of different temperatures. The hottest is at about 42 or 43 °C (108 to 109 °F), a temperature, which is hard to stand for a long time. The coolest hot tub is at about 37 to 39 °C (99 to 102 °F). Additionally there is a cold tub of approximately 7 °C (45 °F) to cool down and get blood circulation moving.


The view out of the hot tub directly down to the valley and the giant hot spring is spectacular. You can even hear the bubbling.


The spa has two steambathes and a relaxation room with fireplace and soft music, where you can lie or sit and enjoy the beautiful view through large windows.


Totally relaxed after bathing, my husband could enter the restaurant.

Krauma Restaurant is focussed in Icelandic cuisine with the freshest ingredients from local production. The tomatoes come from the greenhouses just next to the hot spring. Other vegetables come from surrounding farms. The salmon is got from Borganes, the next harbour village only 35 km away.

As starter my husband took the specialty of the house: "Súpa Krauma" - "Tómat- og paprikusalsa og steinseljuolía", soup with tomatoes, sweet peppers and parsley oil. The soup was delicate and pleasantly hot and spicy. The soup was served with fresh bread and butter.


For the main course the cook recommended "pönnusteiktur lax með grænkáli, tómatum og lauk" (pan-fried salmon with kale, tomatoes and onion) from the menu - with a small deviation: Kale was run out and replace by broccoli. Obviously freshness is more important than sticking to the menu. And actually my husband did not miss the kale at all. The broccoli was very tasty, like the whole meal.


A good, fresh dinner, appealingly served, in a nobly designed restaurant with a fantastic view on a giant hot spring - and all of this after a relaxing bath - that was a great experience.



Overview:

The entrance for the spa costs 3.800 ISK (about 30 €, 35.50 $) for adults, half of it for teenagers between 13 and 16 years. Children up to 12 years are free.

The adjacent Krauma Restaurant offers for lunch a range from a small Krauma soup for 1.600 ISK (approx. 12.80 €, 15 $) via salad, burger, steak sandwich and so on up to grilled lamb for 3.800 ISK (approx. 30 €, 35.50 $). For dinner you can get appetizers for 2.460 ISK (approx. 20 €, 23 $) in average, and main courses for 3.200 ISK (approx. 25.50 €, 30 $) in average. For dessert you can choose between carrot cake, strawberries & basil and fruit salad, all of them nobly refined and served with ice cream or sorbet. Each dessert costs at lunch time 1.490 ISK (approx. 12 €, 14 $) and in the evening 1.600 ISK (approx. 12.80 €, 15 $).

In June, spa and restaurant both were quite empty. It's their first season, hence it's not yet very popular. Currently it's still kind of a secret tip. But I'm sure, this will change soon. It seems obious to combine a tour to Reykholt and Hraunfossar with a bath in this spa and a good meal at such an amazing location.



* Legal note: 

Formally this article can be graded as advertisement, since we had been invited for the meal. Anyhow, we have chosen only restaurants, which we had heard good things about and which we estimated as interesting. Accordingly we're really delighted, and if we fall into words of praise, these are meant honestly.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sjávarbarinn

The Ocean Bar and its TV Cook


May contain traces of advertisement.*

"Sjávarbarinn" literally means "the ocean bar". It's located in the harbour area Grandi. And, of course, it's focus is on fish and seafood.

From the outside inconspicuously, I had passed it some times, not guessing, that it's really interesting. But I had already noticed the pictures of many different fishes in the window.


In the inside you find a wall covered with pretty framed pictures of various fishes and behind the counter some beautiful food photos. However, "Sjávarbarinn" does not look like a posh resstaurant, but more like a diner and a take-away. And in fact, that's what it is. Icelanders working in the harbour area come to here for lunch. And you can buy to-go. But this does not tell anything about the quality of the food.


The restaurant is a family business. It is run by chef Magnús Ingi Magnússon and his wife Analisa Montecello. You can order á la carte. But many guests choose the buffet. This was also Analisa's recommendation, and so chose the buffet, too.

The dinner buffet was rich and inviting. All the fish comes freshly from the harbour. It's bought straight out of the nets. The fishing peers are only a few hundred meters away. Most of the buffet is cooked in traditional style. It's often like that, what Icelanders are familar with at home. This authentic kitchen is a reason for the popularity among the locals. There are also groups of tourists coming to Sjávarbarinn. Magnús told us proudly, that often tourist, which had visited his restaurant at the beginning of their trip, come back at the end to have once again the buffet - because of its high quality and affordable price.

As cold dishes the buffet offered various salads (e.g. colesalad, mixed salad and celery salad with apple), diverse marinated fish and pickled herrings. Furthermore bread with liver pâté, bread crumbed meat snacks, etc. and a very special, typically Icelandic fish snack. I'll come back to it shortly.

There was herb baguette and - again typically Icelandic - "rugbrauð", the slightly sweetish, sticky, dark rye bread. Magnús told us, that in some parts of Iceland it's baked within the hot earth. Here in Reykjavík, of course, not. Here he bakes it for 12 hours at low heat in the oven. Yes, we know!


The warm dishes included the "catch of the day", curry fish, the typically Icelandic "plokkfiskur" (mashed fish and potatoes) and "fiskibollur" (fish cake). If you want to have something different from fish: The buffet included also lamb stew. As side dishes you could get potatoes and vegetables.


Magnús, the cook, told us, that his local customers really can't take a joke regarding "plokkfiskur" and "fiskibollur": Icelanders want to get this traditional food just in the way grandma cooked it. Changes are not accepted. Hence they get it just in traditional style.


So we got a big variety of dishes, and we tried to try a bit of nearly everything. The food was really good, and we were really full in the end!


What we've not yet mentioned, is our personal culinary highlight: The seafood soup. It was served as starter of the the buffet. And it was really great! Hot, a bit spicy, maybe a touch of Asia.


Definitely one of the best soups we've ever tasted!


A highlight of another kind was to meet the cook. Whe we came to the restaurant, I wasn't aware that I "know" the cook. More precisely, I know Magns cookbooks. A few years ago I had found "Eldhúsið okkar - íslensku hversdagskræsingarnar" ("Our kitchen - Icelandic home cooking"), and I really love this cookbook with its traditional, down-to-earth recipes.


You can get his book in Sjávarbarinn. Magnús Ingi kindly gave us one of the English copies for free - and in addition his DVD "Eldhús Meistaranna". Magnús Ingi is not only a cook and a cookbook author. But he's also a famous TV cook in Iceland. In his show accompanied other chefs and presented their work in various famous restaurants in Iceland.

Quelle: Eldhús Meistaranna

Of course, in the show and on DVD he also presented his own restaurant "Sjávarbarinn". And he explains, how he produces the Icelandic fish snack, which was part of the buffet and I already mentioned above:

While filleting fishes, the skin is carefully detached, pulled up and cut into thin stripes. These stripes are covered with flour and fried in hot fat. Let them cool down and dry, before they are served as small tasty snack.

Quelle: Eldhús Meistaranna

When you come to Sjávarbarinn, you definitely must try this typically Icelandic fish snack in the buffet!


For me visiting Sjávarbarinn and meeting Magnús Ingi was an absolute personal highlight. My favorite topic is Icelandic cooking - grounded, substantally and suitable for every day. And that's exactly what I found here and what Magnús Ingi lives for.

I was simply happy! 



Overview:

"Sjávarbarinn" offers down-to-earth Icelandic cuisine, high-quality fresh fish and - for local conditions - affordable prices.

The (smaller) lunch buffet, which also contains typical dishes like plokkfiskur and fiskibollurcosts 2.290 ISK (approx. 18 €, 21 $) per person. The dinner buffet including soup, salads and rye bread is 3.900 ISK (approx. 31 €, 36 $). You can get just the seafood soup for 1.690 ISK (approx. 13.50 €, 15.75 $).

The "Seafood Gourmet Menu" costs 6.300 ISK (about 50 €, 59 $), but it includes in addition to the normal dinner buffet 120 g of Norway lobster tails in garlic butter and a copy of Magnús Ingi's cookbook.

"Sjávarbarinn" opens every day from 11.00 to 22.00.


* Legal note: 

Formally this article can be graded as advertisement, since we had been invited for the meal. Anyhow, we have chosen only restaurants, which we had heard good things about and which we estimated as interesting. Accordingly we're really delighted, and if we fall into words of praise, these are meant honestly.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Kattakaffihúsið

The Cat Café in Reykjavík


May contain traces of advertisement.*

The idea of a cat café has its origin in Asia. Cat lovers, who don't have the possibility to own their own cats, have here the opportunity to relax with coffee and cake in cozy atmosphere and in company with cats. Good for the soul! And sometimes a homeless cat is put up and find someone, who adopts it.

The world-wide first cat café opened in 1998 in Taiwan. Many others followed, mainly in Japan. Since 2012 there are cat cafés in some European cities, too.

In autumn 2017 the Icelandic hygiene law was changed. Now pets are allowed in restaurants in Iceland. On March 1st, 2018 the first cat café opened in Iceland, the "Kattakaffihúsið" in Reykjavík. It's located in Bergstaðastræti 10a, in the heart of the city not far from Hallgrimskirkja and Laugavegur.


There are always at least three cats living in Kattakaffihúsið. During our visit we got to know two of them, Felix and Nebba. The guests are a colorful mix. Many locals, some tourists taking photos, many families with small children, mainly women of different age, with and without children.


On the wall, the large painting of a cat is by Helga Björnsson, one of the Iceland's most famous designers - who coincidentally is the mother of one of the café's owners. Besides this pretty painting she also designed cat pillows and cat cards, which you can find and buy in the café.


There are only two simple rules how to deal with the cats: Don’t pick the cats up and don’t wake them up when they are sleeping. And whenever a cat feels overstrained, it can move back through a cat flap.

Felix was sleeping on his chair in the middle of all the hustle and bustle. From time to time he opened his eyes, took a look around and laid down again.


Nebba, the second cat, is already 10 years old. I guess, her favorite place is on the counter.


We were in Kattakaffihúsið on Iceland's national holiday. Unfortunately it started to rain cats and dogs. Hence we fled into the café. But many other people did do the same. Hence it was completely full and we had to wait for a few minutes, to get a seat. A seat next to Felix.


First we got hot drinks to warm ourselves, a cup of coffee for my husband and a hot chocolate for me.


From the cakes we chose Snickers torte as recommended by the host. The cake comes like most of the café's range form "17 Sortir", a confectionary located in the former storage area of the harbour quarter Grandi. The sweet pastries, cakes, tortes and cupcakes of "17 Sortir" were often blinking at me, when I came along.


All that remains for me is to say: Meow! Or how Islanders say: Mjá!



Overview:

Kattakaffihúsið offers coffee and other hot and cool drinks, various pies, cakes and pastries and vegan sandwiches.

One piece of Snickers torte costs 990 ISK (about 7.90 €, 9.25 $). You can get a muffin for 595 ISK, a chocolate brownie for 600 ISK (about 4.80 €, 5.50 $), eine banana bread, a portion of chocolate cookies and a piece of lemon cake each for 690 ISK (about 5.50 €, 6.50 $). The vegan sandwich costs 990 ISK (about 7.90 €, 9.25 $) and a filled sourdough roll 1.200 ISK (about 9.60 €, 11 $).

A cup of filter coffee or tea is 400 ISK (about 3.20 €, 3.75 $), an espresso 500 ISK (about 4 €, 4.50 $) and a hot chocolate 590 ISK (about 4.70 €, 5.50 $).

Kattakaffihúsið opens every day from 10.00 to 18.00.



* Legal note: 

Formally this article can be graded as advertisement, since we had been invited for the meal. Anyhow, we have chosen only restaurants, which we had heard good things about and which we estimated as interesting. Accordingly we're really delighted, and if we fall into words of praise, these are meant honestly.


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Hannesarholt

Culinary and cultural center of the special kind


May contain traces of advertisement.*

You have to know, that this house in Grundarstígur 10 in the herat of Reykjavík hosts a restaurant. Otherwise you would probably pass by without noticing it. Only an inconspicuous signboard indicates, that there is a café. But I did know about Hannesarholt, when I came by there for the first time in spring 2017. I had seen so many tempting food photos on Instagram and also photos of different cultural events.


"Matur, menning, fundir og ráðstefnur í sögufrægu húsi", in English "food, culture, meetings and conferences in a historical building", that's the focus of "Hannesarholt". So let's start with food!

We had been invited on Saturday evening. The welcome was warm, we were escorted to our table and gota welcoming glass of sparkling wine.


As appetizer we selected "Rauðrófuskífur með valhnetum, piparrótakremi, balsamíc edíki og geitaosti", i.e. beetroot carpaccio with dill, walnuts, horseradish cream, balsamic vinegar and goat cheese. In all seriousness - the taste was simply brilliant and I've never eaten beetroot of such delicious kind!


As main course I chose "Pönnusteiktur silungur með pikkluðum eplum og lauk, tómatconfit, brokkálsmælki, sætum kartöflum og spínatfroðu". That's pan fried trout with pickled apples and onion, confit tomatoes, broccolini, sweet potatoes and spinach foam. Very tasty. Looking at intense green color of the spinach foam alone made me get happy!


My husband ordered tofu. This is something what can't excite him. In general, he is not interested in vegan food at all. But he wanted to give it a try. And it was a success.

The meal was named "Vegan marinerað tof með blaðsalati, strengjabaunum, blómskáli, brókkálssmælki, sætum kartöflum og pistasíuhnetum" - marinated tofu with Romaine salad, string beans, broccolini, sweet potatoes and pistasios. Delicious, intense in color and taste - a feal delight! I was very impressed by the sweet potato - in one piece, fairly large, outside and inside as soft as butter, cooked to perfection. That's the way I really love sweet potatoes!


After a shared starter and a main course for each we felt full. However, we wanted to give the desserts a try. Hence we got "heimagerður banana- og berjaís", home made banana and berry ice cream 


and a bit of "bökuð ostakaka með hindberjaþaki", baked cheesecake with raspberry coating. The cheescake was still warm, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. The coating consisted of dried pieces of raspberries and cold berry sauce. This was my personal highlight of the evening. I love this cake.


Our dinner was accompanied by piano music. In the adjacent room an elderly gentlement played the piano. I don't understand much of music. I recognized "Que sera, sera" and some other pieces of music. I guess I've never dined in such a classy ambiance.


From our table we had a good view into the kitchen, where a little girl, maybe the cook's daughter, was eagerly trying to help. When the kitchen door was close, we could admire the classic door glasses. Beautiful!


In general, the restaurant was lovely decorated in classic design. I felt really comfortable.


After our meal the owner Ragnheiður Jónsdóttir guided us through her house. Everything is placed under the motto: "A place to remember our roots."

Actually the house is a historical location:

"Hannesarholt" was built in 1915 for Hannes Hafstein (1861 - 1922) and his family. Hannes Hafstein was the first prime minister of Iceland (1904 - 1909, 1912 - 1914). He stood up for the self-administration of Iceland, and he also did much for women's rights in Iceland. Furthermore he was a writer and lyricist popular in Iceland.


After a devasting fire in Reykjavík, Hannes Hafstein advocated a ban of the construnction of new wooden houses within the city. "Hannesarholt" itself became one of the first houses in Reykjavík build of concrete. Here he lived since the early death of his wife Ragnheiður (1871 - 1913) together with his 7 children, his mother and his mother-in-law.

Bust of Regnheiður Hafstein


Even today the house offers space for children to play in the attic. 


The present owner Ragnheiður bought the house to preserve this part of Icelandic history and to remind Icelanders of their roots. When Hannes Hafstein was born, most people in Iceland still lived in traditional turf houses. Reykjavík was a village with less than 7.000 inhabitants (today about 200.000).

Hannesarholt is a non-profit organization and a meeting place for many different people. Artists of various styles exhibit their works changing regularly. Musicians perform here, discussions are organized and so on.

What looks like an inconspicuous green hill next to the house, is in fact a concert and event hall. One week before our visit, Svavar Knútur appeared here, hier aufgetreten, the Icelandic troubadour we could see and here last autumn in Dresden. Quite a pity that we missed him here! 


Overview:

The dinner menu is short, but fine. When we were there, it provided three appertizers (smoked trout, beetroot carpaccio and vegan hummus). As main course we could select between cod, trout tofu and lamb. For dessert they offer cheesecake and home made ice cream. 

The appertizers cost in average about 1800 ISK (14.50 €, 17 $). Main courses are about 3.850 ISK (31 €, 36 $) and dessert about 1.640 ISK (13 €, 15 $). As we noticed, all the other guests around us ordered appetizer, main course an dessert. For such a full dinner you have to pay nearly 60 € resp. 70 $ - plus drinks. But you get really good and delicious food in a very special atmosphere at a historical location.



* Legal note: 

Formally this article can be graded as advertisement, since we had been invited for the meal. Anyhow, we have chosen only restaurants, which we had heard good things about and which we estimated as interesting. Accordingly we're really delighted, and if we fall into words of praise, these are meant honestly.