Iceland is famous for many things these days, but food is not one of them. It is therefore all the more surprising in the land of waterfalls, glaciers, and volcanoes to find the wonderful Matur Og Drykkur in Reykjavík and partake of the delicious meals creating a fresh take on traditional Icelandic ingredients and dishes. Patrons are eternally thankful for the food prepared to perfection and served by an affable staff in atmospheric surroundings. As in other Nordic countries, a wry sense of humour comes in handy when interacting with the staffmembers, who establish a good mood with their friendly service.
Matur Og Drykkur, which means simply Food and Drinks in Icelandic, is located in a former fish-processing factory, an apt location in a country where fishing was the most important economic activity for centuries and remains one to this day. Various details related to the fishing industry become evident in the building’s construction as diners take in the setting as well as the homemade crowberry drinks made from berries native to Iceland. Among the many appealing options for lunch and dinner are soups, meats, and fish, foremost among the latter the very Instagrammable cod’s head served on a plate looking face up at the person about to consume it.
The restaurant is located inside the Saga Museum, one of the most unusual in a city with many museums. Unlike the extensive collections of the National Gallery Of Iceland, the Einar Jonsson Sculpture Museum, and the world-famous Phallological Museum, the Saga Museum showcases Iceland’s historical books, The Sagas, through a series of dioramas representing various stories from them. Owner Ernst Backman used members of his own family as models for casting the extremely lifelike, soft-skinned figures found in the exhibits (and the man in the entrance area watching the video showing the making of the figures is also uncannily human).
A series of interesting pictures on the wall in the entrance area depicts the building as it was in its time as a fish-processing factory. A walk through the Saga Museum’s displays is the perfect pre-dinner activity.
Back in Matur Og Drykkur, the feeling of camaraderie only grows more convivial as the night goes on, as if everyone there is sharing a special experience. And they are. For those who wish to dive head first into Icelandic cuisine, there is a set menu of traditional Icelandic foods served with a contemporary twist, certain to please sophisticated modern palates. Like everyone else at the spacious tables, vegetarians are well catered for.
Matur Og Drykkur and Saga Museum are located at the start of the wharf in the revitalised Grandi area, which has become one of Reykjavík’s hippest districts. There is enough to do in Grandi alone to fill a day’s worth of sightseeing. Right next to the restaurant and museum is Aurora Reykjavík, also known as the Northern Lights Center. Further along is the Maritime Museum, a delightful food hall, the studio of Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, and the Omnom Chocolate factory, where the daily tours are very popular.
By Robert La Bua