FOOD TOUR IN REYKJAVIK
Are you looking for an adventure in Reykjavik?
Do you want to learn about Icelandic history and culture, but normal guides bore you?
Then the Reykjavik Food Tour is for you!
There are tours, and then there are tours...
Tours that offer you a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Tours that will stay with you forever. Tours that stray from the classic tour-bus-with-100-people narrative.
One of those tours is the Reykjavik Food tour. What makes it so special, you ask?
Why, the food, of course! From traditional soups to innovative, yet quintessentially Icelandic delicacies, the Reykjavik Food tour has it all!
So, for all you foodies, and for those of you who want to experience Iceland in a different way, I tried the Reykjavik Food tour, and I will tell you everything you need to know about it in this blog!
REYKJAVIK FOOD TOUR
When I think of culture, I think about food. Food is sustenance, memories, and art. Food is hanging out with friends or family. It is a flavor or a scent transporting you back to your childhood, when your mother would let you lick the spoon as she put the cake in the oven.
Food is so much more than just a means to stay alive. Its remarkable ability to connect people with each other, as well as with their tradition, is unlike anything else. And the Reykjavik Food tour is all about getting to know Iceland's traditions.
So, what is the Reykjavik Food tour?
Well, in my opinion, it is much more than a tour where you try different foods.
First of all, you will have the company of one of our awesome guides! Mine was the lovely Agnes Björt, A cheerful, friendly and fun person, you could easily believe she was born of sunshine!
Agnes, just like all our guides, is not only knowledgeable in the food department, but also in the history and culture of Iceland. Therefore, the Reykjavik Food tour is not only a culinary experience, but also a trip down Iceland's history, with famous landmarks being a key part of the tour.
The Reykjavik Food tour is also a small-group tour, which means that you will instantly make a few friends from all over the world! Besides, is there any better bonding experience than social eating?
Are you intrigued? I bet you are! Keep reading to find out what my experience with the Reykjavik Food tour was like!
THE ULTIMATE ICELANDIC FOOD EXPERIENCE
I have been in Iceland for quite a while now. As a food enthusiast, I try to eat out as often as possible, trying new restaurants, new dishes and new flavors. However, I also love to eat at home. There is nothing quite like homemade traditional food, especially if it was prepared by a grandma!
However, no matter the grandma's expertise or the cook's passion, there are just some places that take traditional food and turn it into an ode to the culinary arts. We have found all those places in Reykjavik, and we have put them all into a little package in the form of our Reykjavik Food tour!
So, what was my experience with the Reykjavik Food tour like? If I could sum it up in one word, it would be sensational. A truly unique affair, where you can indulge yourself to levels that Marie Antoinette herself would envy.
I am sure you are dying to know everything about all the mouthwatering dishes I tried. So, I’ll tell you all about it!
Keep reading to learn about my experience with the Reykjavik Food tour!
THE REYKJAVIK FOOD TOUR
Statue of Ingólfur Arnarson
On Wednesday afternoon, with an empty stomach and a cleansed palate, I made my way to Harpa. The concert hall in downtown Reykjavik serves as the group’s initial meeting point. Therefore, you have the chance to go a little earlier and explore this world-famous building, with its impressive facade designed by Olafur Eliasson.
Our guide, Agnes, gathered the group and off we went!
Before visiting the first restaurant on our list, Agnes took us to the statue of Iceland’s first settler, Ingólfur Arnarson. While telling us the story of iceland’s First settlers, and how Ingólfur named Reykjavik, she also revealed that he is, in fact, her grandfather, dating back 31 generations!
From there, we made our way to the first restaurant on our list.
It doesn't get more Icelandic than Íslenski Barinn, located in Ingólfstræti. Literally named The Icelandic Bar, this joint is for anyone looking to try some traditional Icelandic delicacies.
Walking in, I was greeted by the staff in a cozy, tavern-like space. Like its recipes, Íslenski Barinn looks like it has not changed throughout the decades.
The pub is a place of congregation for Icelanders of all ages. On one corner, you might see two old men who have been friends for years, and at the other, you might see a pair of 20somethings devouring reindeer burgers. I wouldn't be surprised if a viking popped up in the middle of the bar.
Once we took our seats around the table, we were served traditional Icelandic meat soup and a glass of ice-cold Ειnstök, a local beer.
The meat soup is made from lamb and vegetables. The bony broth was rich and savory, and the sweetness of the vegetables cut through the saltiness of the broth for the perfect balance. As for the lamb, I am not one to praise it usually, but this lamb was excellent. The meat melts in your mouth, and there is none of that strong lamb smell and taste.
The glass of the floral white ale Ειnstök complemented the meal perfectly. Mild and refreshing, it was the best start to our culinary journey around Reykjavik!
Next on our food tour was Ostabúðin, a cheese store and charcuterie in Skólavörðustígur. Agnes brought us a platter full of little bites of heaven, an excellent assortment of traditional Icelandic foods.
First, we tasted black gouda cheese. Unlike its name suggests, the cheese is not actually black, at least not anymore, According to Agnes, when Icelanders first began to produce it, they did not know how to use wax, and it ended up seeping through the cheese.
These days, though, you don't have to worry about that! You will enjoy the evolved version, which is a rather strong, yet delicious, gouda, with a hint of a bitter aftertaste.
Next was the gull ostur, or gold cheese. Made with white mold, this one is a softer cheese with strong taste. One of Iceland's best cheeses, it is reminiscent of brie.
The last cheese on the platter was a blue cheese, aged for six to twelve weeks. One for cheese lovers, this blue cheese is the strongest of the trio, with a particularly salty flavor.
The charcuterie was an excellent assortment of sheep, horse, and goose. The sheep was cured and seasoned with thyme, rosemary and anise. The anise cut through the meaty flavor, making for a delightful, sweet and savory little bite.
The horse, seasoned with thyme, rosemary and curry, was a little stronger. Perhaps the most exotic of all the dishes we tried during the food tour, this thin strip of horse meat just might be the highlight of your tour!
We concluded our visit to Ostabúðin with smoked Icelandic goose, paired with a raspberry champagne vinaigrette. The game-y, smokey flavor of the goose coupled with the sweet vinaigrette is the delicacy that kings dream of.
Before heading to our next restaurant, we made a quick stop at Hallgrímskirkja, the world-famous church in downtown Reykjavik. There, Agnes shared a bit more of Iceland's history with us, before we continued.
Next on our Reykjavik food tour was Cafe Loki in Lokastígur. With a bit of a view of Hallgrímskirkja, as well as a giant mural of events and gods in Norse mythology on one of the walls, Iceland's history and culture once again became the central topic of the conversation.
While Ostabúðin had the most exotic item on our menu, Cafe Loki had the strangest; a rye bread ice cream.
It sounds vile, I know. However, the chefs in Cafe Loki took this bread that envies the taste of a brick and turned it into a masterpiece. The ice cream was dense, due to the bread, which also added a little bit of chewiness in it. It was topped off with chocolate chips, as well as whipped cream and a caramelized rhubarb syrup.
A certain must-try, this ice cream will convert anyone into a foodie.
At the higher end of restaurants in our Reykjavik Food tour, we have Messinn in Lækjargata. As cozy as Íslenksi Barinn, but with an air of modernity and innovation, Messinn is a must-visit in downtown Reykjavik.
There we enjoyed two dishes, a fish stew and arctic char. The fish stew is an Icelandic staple, eaten for generations in this country. While its traditional form is more like a paste, cooked in an oven, Messinn's twist on this traditional dish was mind-blowing. Cooked an served in a skillet, the outside was crispy and perfectly browned, while the inside was soft and tender.
The lime gave it a sour kick, just enough to elevate it from a tasty dish to true culinary art. One of the most balanced dishes on our tour, the fish stew was also one of the most memorable.
While the fish stew was fresh and herby, the arctic char was sweet and savory. The honey and the almonds paired perfectly with the fillet, while the skin was crispy and just the right amount of fatty.
While most restaurants focus on flavor, Messinn clearly doesn't forget the texture. Texture is a big component of many international cuisines, one that the West usually forgets, but one that makes the difference between a good dish and an excellent dish. From the tender fillets to the crispy skin and crunchy cherry tomatoes, Messinn knows how to combine different textural elements for a little party on a dish!
BÆJARINS BEZTU PYLSUR
The popularity of the humble hot dog in Iceland has long baffled many tourists. No matter its origins and history, Icelandic people clearly love hot dogs, and you can find hot dogs stands virtually everywhere.
Perhaps the most famous hot dog stand is Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur in Tryggvagata. Maybe that is because, as the name suggests, it is the best hot dog in the country!
Everyone has eaten there. Even Bill Clinton has had some relations with that hot dog stand, and there is a photo of him enjoying this Icelandic favorite on their wall!
Agnes informed us that what makes this hot dog stand special is that their sausages are made of 75% lamb meat, which gives them their distinct flavor that made the stand so famous.
The sausage is cradled in a fluffy hot dog bun, and topped off with remoulade, ketchup, and a sweet type of mustard, as well as delightfully crunchy crunions and freshly chopped onion. Surprisingly, according to Agnes, the ketchup is mixed with apple sauce to make it sweeter. It's really no wonder; Icelandic people really do love their sweet food.
It doesn't get much simpler than a hot dog, but maybe that is where its charm comes from. Everyone, from kids to...well, apparently presidents, love it. This universal appeal is rare in the kitchen, but the hot dog truly deserves it.
Our tour couldn't conclude any other way but with dessert, of course! And what better place to have dessert than Apótek in Austurstræti?
Housed in a building from 1918 that used to house a pharmacy (hence its name) Apótek has retained the building's original architectural elements and has combined them with sleek, modern interior design.
The surroundings and atmosphere match the delicacies. With a wide selection of innovative pastries and sweets to choose from, our Reykjavik Food tour has chosen the Chocolate Rose as the best one. A mildly sweet chocolate mousse, made of high-quality cocoa, is married with a raspberry gel in its middle, as well as a delicious, tart passion fruit sorbet.
You can choose to have coffee or pick from their selection of teas to have along with your dessert. I could not go for anything else but a steaming cup of Earl Grey!
While this concluded our official tasting, Agnes had a little surprise for us. She gave each a bar of her favorite Icelandic chocolate with licorice called Eitt Sett, and left the group on the highest note possible!
WHAT ABOUT ALLERGIES AND DIETARY RESTRICTIONS?
As we become more conscious about what we put in our body and how we treat animals, as well as learning more about intolerances, it is natural for more and more people to have dietary restrictions. If you are one of them or if you have any allergies, don't worry! Our Reykjavik Food tour is for everyone, and that means we will accommodate you no matter what!
There are, of course, vegetarian options at every place. However, if you have any certain dietary restrictions, allergies or preferences, make sure you mention it while you book the tour! Once we know what you need, we will make sure you have an alternative dish to enjoy!
I personally dislike lamb, but as a true foodie, I had to try it and it was delicious. However, when I voiced my dislike, Agnes was quick to ask me if I wanted another dish as an alternative. So, you can rest assured that no matter what restrictions you have, we will accommodate you!
SOME TIPS FROM A LOCAL
I had the fortune to be blessed with a nice day, weather-wise (and, well, I did check the weather forecast). While I am sure that no matter what the weather is like, you will have an amazing time, if you want to be extra comfortable during the Reykjavik Food tour, you can check the weather forecast here!
Don't worry if you can't find a sunny day! You will spend most of your time inside, so the weather won't be a big issue. Besides, it never rains much in Reykjavik!
If you are coming any other time than summer, though, I would suggest to bring many layers with you! As you will be walking around the city a lot, you will want to keep warm. However, once you will be inside, you don't want to get too toasty! So, layers are always your best option.
I would also suggest that if you wake up pretty late, there is no need to have breakfast. You want to start this tour on an empty stomach, because by the end of it, you'll be bursting!
It would not hurt to be rested, as well. While by no means a difficult or tiring walk, you want to be able to enjoy it as much as possible!
And if you are still wondering whether this tour is for you, let me tell you that the answer is yes! Our Reykjavik Food tour is top-rated on TripAdvisor, and anyone can enjoy it. Even if you have a picky eater with you (whether it is a kid or a kid at heart), the variety of options means that it is unlikely they won't enjoy it as well.
My biggest recommendation? Don't be afraid to try new food. I avoid lamb like a cat avoids water, but it turns out what the Icelanders have been telling me is true; everything tastes better here!
SOME FINAL WORDS
Did you enjoy my review of our Reykjavik Food tour? Have you tried it yourself? Let me know about your experience in the comments! And, as always, don't forget to share with your fellow travelers!
I hope you have a great time on your trip to Iceland! And, if you decide to join our Reykjavik Food tour, I hope you enjoy the food as much as I did! Then come back here and tell me which one was your favorite!