Review: The Icelandic Bar, Reykjavik

I enjoyed lunch at The Icelandic Bar on my second day in Reykjavik. The name doesn’t get any more self explanatory, come here if you are looking to taste traditional Icelandic fare and sample many of Iceland’s microbrews. The bar actually has a colourful history that they explain on their menu and website here…

“The 22nd of January 2009 was a day to remember, the police used teargas to disperse protesters in Austurvöllur. For the first time since 1949. And this was the time and place when the idea of the Icelandic Bar came to life. On that fateful night in January the barkeeper was waiting on people sitting outside the restaurant watching the protest when the police took action. He watched as thousands of people ran from the gas, some taking refuge inside the restaurant before returning to the protests and to beating on pots and pans, still with tears in their eyes. When the dust settled, he realized for the first time the true meaning of the phrase “sea of people.” They closed late and the staff talked all night.  There was an understanding of how the nation was changing. No one cared for the banks, everyone was nostalgic, wanted things the way they were. Visiting grandma and getting comforting hot cocoa and scrumptious cream cakes. When people worked with their hands and produced something tangible. The crops didn´t fail but the illusion of greatness did. But it turned out to be a good thing, there is something to be said about the old days. We hope you catch a glimpse of those days as you sip your coffee or munch on some tried and true Icelandic delicacies.

Sarah and I were just looking for a light lunch rather than a full tasting of their wild and diverse menu as we still had plenty of walking to do and were cognoscente of the fact that we had a feast to tackle at dinner time. We ordered a few local beers which were fantastic (I particularly enjoyed the cloudy wheat beer) as well as a few plates. Highlights included the vegetarian option, Heilsubaelio which featured warm barley, coconut milk and fennel. We also enjoyed two dishes served in little mason jars: an interesting lobster dish and a fantastic muddling of cheese and berries. Iceland is famous for its lamb and smoked delicacies so I am glad I ordered their smoked lamb carpaccio which was adorned with dollops of apple sauce, beet and hazelnut crunch. We finished our meal with a shot of the countries famous spirit, Brennivin, referred to affectionately by locals as “Black Death.” It is a fermented potato mash and caraway liquor.

This beverage is traditionally chased with hakari, which consists of putrefied shark flesh. We said “thanks so much” to that offer but made it clear that we do not eat endangered animals (or anything putrefied for that matter). The Iceland Bar was my first encounter with the mortality of your meal. On our whale watching boat with Elding we had been advised that over 70% of the people who eat whale in Iceland are tourists. So, basically the food is being served as a unique culinary experience for tourists. I want to strongly discourage anyone from eating foods in Iceland (or anywhere in the world for that matter) that come from unethical sources and that are considered endangered. Shark fin soup and bear paw in China for example. In Iceland this includes whale and shark. If you are looking for a taste of the exotic and have an adventurous palate I suggest ordering salted cod, smoked puffin or the grilled reindeer burger. Just be sure to think about what you are going to eat and how it effects the natural wonders of your destination. If you want to “experience” a shark or whale best visit the Natural History Museum or hop on a tour boat to enjoy them in their most glorious state, alive.

We enjoyed:

Egils Applesin Limonadi

Baldi Lager

Einstok White Ale




smoked lamb carpaccio, apple jam, blueberries, beetroot, hazelnut crumble

Icelandic Cheese Jar

crouton, grapes, blueberry jam

Humatt Jar

garlic roasted lobster, raisins, almonds, lobster foam, dill, mashed potatoes


barley from drangshlio, root vegetables, pickled fennel, salad, coconut milk

Eilif Hamingja

rhubarb cake with whipped cream

Tags: ,

Leave a reply


  1. The sharks around Iceland are not and have never been endangered. Neither the whales for that matter. Iceland has the best fishing control in the world and it is based on science not greed as in so many country’s.

      1. Thank you for your response Hope you have a wonderful time in Iceland. Regarding the article you pointed out, there is no scientific data whatsoever in this article to support its claims. However you should be able to contact the Icelandic fishing administration and get all the information about the status of all the whale species around Iceland and Greenland.

        I´m not saying that a lot of species of whales are endangered around the world but around Iceland they aren’t. This is all a delicate ecosystem that has to be balanced. Whales eat a lot and humans fish a lot. If whales are not balanced relatively to fishing the system could collapse and then there would be no cod, haddock or whatever fish species you fancy on your plate.

        This is a major mass hysteria that has been brewing for years now. I think it would be better use of everyone’s time to look closer at the rape that takes place in the mediterranian waters and the sea around E.U. country´s. The waters are dying and and on the verge of collapse so hard that it might take decades to recover if ever.

        I’m just saying, It is not all like it seems in the media and on Greenpeace web sites. Study the data and do not cling to unsupported claims just because so many people do. That is not very becoming of the thinking man.

        Just a thought….