Sunday, 22 December 2013

Where to eat out in Reykjavik, Iceland - Gluten Free

Iceland's Blue Lagoon
I'm not about to start writing a travel blog but when I said I was going to Iceland it was met with a few puzzled looks and comments like "Isn't it just cold and dark?". We went this December and with an average temperature of about -9 and around 4 hours of daylight it's certainly both of those! It's also an incredible country with some fantastic places to visit. Highlights such as the Blue Lagoon, Gullfoss waterfall, friendly natives and some extremely good food made this a memorable trip. A little online research suggested it wasn't going to be impossible to eat gluten free so off we went to explore. I really didn't struggle at all, as always I printed some gluten free translation cards, armed myself with cereal bars and emailed the hotel in advance (Hotel Klettur) but I ate with relative ease. With a population of circa 330,000 they're the only people in the world speaking Icelandic, so most have learnt that it's very helpful to be able to speak English. Of all the places I've visited the Icelanders certainly came across as the most knowledgeable in gluten free terms. I hate seeing coeliacs put off travelling so I hope you all find this useful.

Tapas Barinn

We found Tapas Barinn for our first night meal and it set the bar high for the rest of our trip. Stood outside in the freezing cold, we couldn't really tell if there was anyone in there but we walked down the steps into what turned out to be a lively, bustling but cosy restaurant with a great atmosphere. I told the waitress I was gluten free and she just told us to pick whatever we wanted and she would check it was gluten free or ask the chef to make it gluten free. We were off to a great start. Fusion food can be terrible when done badly, a mishmash of flavours, but what Tapas Barinn did brilliantly was use fantastic Icelandic produce in some creative Spanish-style dishes. Some of the highlights were a beautiful Serrano ham served with melon and horseradish, a combination I would never have thought of, that worked well. Scallops served skewered with salty bacon, dates and a sweet chilli glaze were an absolute winner. The pan fried salt fish with sweet potato once again showcased some of the fantastic fish they have in Iceland. It was served drizzled with a punchy pesto. Finally the Icelandic foal, one of the more unusual choices and served medium rare with a chorizo sauce, was tender and succulent.
Bacon wrapped scallops with dates and a sweet chilli glaze
Pan Fried Salt Fish with sweet potato and pesto
Lobster tails with garlic
Fillet of Icelandic foal with chorizo sauce
Kitchen Eldhus

Chicken Tikka
For most coeliacs curry is a safe option and often a last resort. Kitchen Eldhus in Reykjavik certainly shouldn't be a last resort; it's Nepalese style curries are packed with flavour. When we arrived it was the chef who seated us at our table and after a quick mention of being gluten free he assured us that everything except the breads and samosas were suitable. He even said if we'd given him a call earlier he could have done gluten free breads - worth remembering if you're going to pay this place a visit. Iceland isn't cheap for eating out and the curries here ranged from around £12 - £20. The dish of the night was a smoked lamb starter, beautifully marinated meat with a hint of smoke served with crispy flaked rice, giving the dish some great texture. The chef took real pride in explaining that some of the dishes contain a mix of more than 20 spices and there was a real depth of flavour in everything. A chicken tikka starter was again well balanced and the succulent meat came out sizzling. A Nepalese lamb curry and a creamy paneer curry were equally delicious.
Rice and curries at Kitchen Eldhus
 Sakebarinn / Sushi barinn

With access to such an array of fresh fish, sushi is a must in Reykjavik. Sakebarinn is the larger restaurant with Sushi Barinn a small take away place next door - both are run by the same team. We ate at Sakebarinn, a stylish, modern sushi restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere. As became the norm in Iceland, our server was untroubled by requests for gluten free and just checked with the chefs after I ordered. They also provided gluten free soy sauce which meant I didn't need to buy a full bottle from the local supermarket. We ordered a chef's combination plate which was everything you would expect from good sushi, beautiful fresh produce with clean flavours. We also tried to be a bit adventurous but the grilled reindeer skewers were marinated in advance so couldn't be adapted, instead we settled for the succulent beef ones instead. There's all the usual array of sushi but the menu is also peppered with some of Iceland's more unusual delicacies. We tried some of the horse sushi, a little tough but very flavoursome!
Chef's combination plate
Grilled beef skewers
The Sea Baron (Saegreifinn)

Plenty of fresh seafood to choose from
We were running out of time but we had both read a lot about the Sea Baron so we managed to work in a quick stop for lunch on our last day. We accidentally went through the back door and were beckoned in by a gentleman stood by the kitchen door... The same man also appeared to be sat down in a chair in the restaurant... Then we realised he was in fact the Sea Baron and the man sat down was just a life-sized replica! We were taken through the kitchen and shown to a large refrigerator. The refrigerator contained all manner of seafood on skewers. We went for a skewer of scallops and a potato one as we were really only there to try it out. I mentioned I was gluten free and they said they would do it without the sauce they paste on as this contained gluten. The Sea Baron is also famous for it's lobster soups although I didn't check these were suitable for coeliacs. We parked ourselves on a couple of barrels on a long table. The scallops were certainly a good size and tasty and it was clearly a popular place as it filled up quickly. It's very no frills but if you want some fantastic fresh seafood then look no further!
Scallop and potato skewers
Iceland really is an amazing place to visit and personally I found it a very accommodating place to eat out on a gluten free diet.

5 comments:

  1. Well this whole list just made me extremely hungry, and it's all gluten free!

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  2. Really useful for upcoming visit - thank you!

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  3. I'm off to Iceland in two weeks...thanks for posting this! Very helpful!

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