In late August, my husband and I enjoyed a spectacular trip around Iceland on the Ring Road. Our focus in planning the trip was Iceland's natural beauty and with the exception of the ubiquitous gas station hot dogs hadn't heard much about food. What a pleasant surprise to enjoy a number of outstanding meals in small villages tucked away in the countryside. For anyone planning a similar trip, following are some of the highlights we encountered:
Pakkhus, overlooking the harbor in Hofn. The restaurant is located in an old fish processing factory. Downstairs is a bar area (where you can wait until a table opens up), upstairs is the dining room. It was busy when we arrived around 7, but only had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. We shared smoked trout two ways as an appetizer and then for mains had the langoustine and the fish of the day which was ling in a cream sauce. Hofn is the langoustine capital of Iceland and they did not disappoint! Much sweeter and smaller than the east coast lobster we are used to in North America. The ling was also very nice - sauce was used sparingly and it was served with small local potatoes and a salad.
In the eastern fjords we spent a night in a little village called Seydisfjordur where we had dinner at Nord Austur Sushi Bar. We made a reservation earlier in the day and the restaurant did get busy while we were there. Excellent sushi, very fresh. The California rolls are made with langoustine. Can't beat that!
In Lake Myvatn we visited Vogafjos for a late lunch after a long day of activities. This place might not be for everyone as you can look right into the cowshed from the restaurant, but didn't bother us. The menu is prepared using ingredients from the farm, including their own cheese. We shared a hearty goulash soup and a burger. Both were excellent.
As we made our way across northern Iceland we stopped for a night in Hvammstangi. Driving up the coast from Hvammstangi on a dirt road you reach Geitafell restaurant after about 30km. Known for their fresh seafood. We shared the seafood soup which was full of salmon, ling, tiny prawns, mussels, etc and more langoustine soaked in garlic butter. All came with house made bread and a green salad. Worth the drive for the food and the views.
Next we headed out along the Snesfellesnes Peninsula and spent a night in Grundafjordur where we had dinner at Bjargarsteinn Mathus. We did not have reservations so we did not sit in the main dining room which looks out on the ocean, but managed to snag a small table in the lounge which was very cozy and had the added benefit of being open to the kitchen so we got to chat with the chef a bit who told us about the history of the building, his decision to open a restaurant in Grundafjordur and where he gets his fish. Dishes focus on whatever is the fresh catch of the day. We shared mussels to start (harvested that morning) and then two fish mains, salmon and ling. Portions were very big and I couldn't finish it all. Another truly lovely spot.
We were really impressed with the quality of the ingredients and the cooking at all of these places. It seemed to me that the owners and chefs were very dedicated to putting out high quality offerings that really showcase their local ingredients. Iceland is expensive in general so dining out can cause a bit of sticker shock at first, but there is no tax or tip added on and in the end we felt all of the meals we had were of such high quality they were well worth the price.
If you are travelling the Ring Road make sure to check out some of these spots!