With only one full day to spend in Iceland on our way to the UK, my traveling companion and I did some research before we arrived in Reykjavik as far as where we wanted to eat dinner. We’d been told by several friends, who had traveled there independently of each other in the last couple of years that quote, ‘One does not go to Iceland for the food’.
Given this warning we were doubly determined to prove this them all wrong and find a really nice place to eat. We started to look at travel sites and read reviews. The parameters were: it needed to be fairly central and within walking distance to our hotel, it should be casual, it should reasonably-priced and it should offer at least a few ‘traditional’ Icelandic dishes.
After doing an afternoon of online research I found Sjavarbarinn. It looked interesting on-line but in reality sadly proved to be a bit of a bust.
The food we had was barely above the quality of an indifferent school cafeteria. Like other reviewers here I believe most of the contents of the warmed over buffet were ‘past their prime’ shall we say. My fish stew, a white fish kind of flaked into mashed potato, was fine – it wasn’t very interesting or hot – but it was edible. The fishcakes my companion ordered were truly revolting though. The only way I can describe their particular nastiness is to say that they tasted how a cheap washing soap powder smells – a revolting combination of rancid, cheesy-sweetness. Horrible.
My second choice of restaurant had been Icelandic Fish and Chips – just about everyone says it’s good and it’s inexpensive by Icelandic standards. I’m so mad we didn’t go because when we walked past it (after our disappointing dinner) it looked, warm, inviting and was well attended with customers. We staggered home, went to bed and were on a flight out of Reykjavik just after dawn the next day.
It would be churlish to let one bad meal experience sour the entire visit. Reykjavik is a cool and really interesting place with lots to see and do. But Combined with an equally vile-tasting chicken ‘pizza’ consumed on our transfer out of Keflavik airport on our return connection home – Sjavarbarinn did leave a rather nasty taste in our mouths as a parting memory of the nation’s cuisine.
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