Iceland Laekjarbrekka Restaurant
Phone: +354 551 4430
Fax: +354 552 8684
It was a cold and dreary night...
Seriously, it was. We began the day early and enjoyed every minute of the Golden Circle Tour. Iceland in April is not frigid, but there was no hint of summer in the air. The famous Gullfass Falls were frozen into amazing shapes and the Þingvellir or "Parliament Plains" were white underfoot from the frozen ground.
The day warmed as we toured the countryside, We decided to get dropped off in downtown Reykjavik to see a little of the city before heading back to the hotel. It was a brilliant idea.
The sun kept us warm as we explored the shop windows and crafters community workshop/studio galleries that lined the main street.
Then the sun began to recede and it started getting colder. It was time to find somewhere warm to enjoy dinner. We are based in New York and travel all over doing research for Chiff.com, so when we go to a country with local cuisine, we want to sample it.
Local residents recommend Laekjarbrekka
We stopped in a local grocery and asked the cashier where she would go for a truly Icelandic meal. We were given one of those, "Crazy tourist..." looks.
We explained what we were looking for and the fun began. A young man and an older woman joined the discussion along with two customers waiting for their groceries to be packed up. With much incomprehensible Icelandic dialog mixed with a few English questions aimed at us, the committee finally agreed.
We were looking for Laekjarbrekka. It was a bit more expensive than some other places, but worth the small extra amount to experience a wonderful Icelandic meal.
We popped in, hoping that our trekking outfits would be acceptable in what seemed a very jacket and tie dining room. An additional chill went down our spines when the smiling host asked if we had reservations. The inviting warmth and delicious smells were just beyond our grasp... reservations? Um, no.
We explained how we had come to their door and found that the committee recommendation was well founded. The frost began to leave us as we were warmly welcomed and told that they would find a table for us and make sure that we enjoyed a wonderful Icelandic meal. We gave up our parkas, sweaters, scarves, hats and gloves to explore the two floors that make up this charming eatery.
A new spin on traditional Icelandic food
Laekjarbrekka features warm but
elegant surroundings on two floors.
It makes sense that the food served at Laekjarbrekka reflects the food traditions of Iceland. The restaurant is an effort by locals to preserve history. Lovingly restored, the 150 year old residence and bake shop are supported by the profits from the restaurant.
You are, literally, a guest in someone's home as you dine here. When the menus appeared and we noticed that we were one pair of reading glasses short the maître d appeared with a selection of glasses for us to use during dinner! That has never happened in any restaurant - before or since. We were impressed.
The service is paced for the maximum enjoyment of each dish. For Americans, used to being rushed through a meal to make room for the next guest, it may seem slow. If you enjoy the pace of a nice Parisian restaurant or fine dining in Tuscany, you will feel right at home with the spacing between dishes here.
If anything, the kitchen outdid the front staff in providing perfection. It began when Ágúst Már, Chef de cuisine, sent special "fish cheeks" to begin our exploration of local delicacies. The cheeks are apparently the best part of any fish and the North Atlantic cod is one of the best. Sautéed in fresh butter and lightly seasoned, we became instant converts to Icelandic cuisine. Even if you don't like fish, try this dish if you get a chance.
The menu has a few gems to get you started. They offer the traditional fermented shark (Hákarl) with or without brennivin, birch glazed whale, puffin with blueberry chutney and wind dried fish with crunchy Icelandic seaweed. The fermented shark is definitely an acquired taste. Small nibbles followed by the sharp taste of the Icelandic brennivin were fine. The menu is not always the same. If you see the carpaccio of lamb, try it... you'll like it.
We enjoyed the traditional Icelandic feast.
The hot smoked puffin was served with parsnip purée, pickled pearl onions, malt glaze and seaweed crisp. The puffin had a slightly gamy taste perfectly matched to the malt glaze. The
slow cooked salmon was a table favorite with the skyr dill sauce. Pan fried fillet of lamb was melt in the mouth delicious and the thyme sauce with the potatoes was a
very good match.
No Icelandic traditional meal is complete without skyr, the traditional dairy dish. Not quite the same as yogurt but along the same lines, skyr is eaten at breakfast, as a snack throughout the day and often as a dessert. Our Icelandic feast desserts included skyrmousse, a white chocolate and lime ganache and blueberry sorbet.
We enjoyed a sampler of all the choices and would have a difficult time picking a favorite. We included selected wines with the meal and a sparkling wine with dessert. Including wines the entire meal was about 15,500 kr (75£/100€/$120) per person.
Finish and digest
After your European paced dinner, stroll upstairs to the intimate cognac room to enjoy an after dinner digestif. Sip slowly as you relax in the comfortable chairs arranged to let everyone enjoy the fireplace and the Icelandic hospitality. The one drawback to this experience is that you don't live around the corner and can't come back as often as you'd like. The next time you're in Iceland, stop in and discover Lækjarbrekka for yourself.
Laekjarbrekka Restaurant & Icelandic cuisine around the Web:
Cured breast of puffin with orange and vanilla syrup with thanks to Ágúst Már, Chef de cuisine -- a special recipe from our visit to Laekjarbrekka Restaurant.
Icelandic Cuisine - A good wiki article about what people eat in Iceland and how the traditional foods came to be such a big part of Icelandic culture.
Icelandic gourmet fares - The cooking frog blog with some nice pictures and a review of Icelandic cuisine.
Laekjarbrekka: Restaurant Reviews - Trip Advisor provides a good selection of reviews of Laekjarbrekka Restaurant from regular diners who have eaten there.
Skyr.is - All you ever wanted to know about skyr including how it's made and some great recipe ideas.