There was time (and budget) for one nice meal in Reykjavik and after much deliberation with myself, ended up here. It was on my list of places and had also been recommended by the driver of the airport pickup. I wanted somewhere to try puffin and minke whale and the options were actually quite limited for somewhere that had both of these in reasonable form and other dishes to complete the meal. Besides Grillmarkadurinn, Fishmarkadurinn (their sister restaurant) was an option but all of the mains seemed like quite standard fish dishes at a high price, and Tapas Barinn or Smakkbarinn but their other dishes weren't overly appealing. Matarkjallarinn was very closely at the top but had puffin (and goose) but no whale, and Matur og Drykkur was the other frontrunner with a very interesting local menu (sheep dung smoked trout and cod's head) with an even better value lunch menu but had no puffin or whale.
After a lost walk around the corner, we finally found the entrance into the courtyard and restaurant. There is definite mood lighting with the downstairs area being busy but nicer looking, upstairs more private, and the open bar in front of the flaming fires of the grill. We were upstairs in a dark quiet corner and there was a little bit of neglect at the start that was balanced out by several welfare checks during the meal.
I really wanted the minke whale steak and grilled puffin dishes to get the full force of their flavours, but my partner wanted to mini burgers to get reindeer also. Reindeer is deer/venison everywhere else. Hmmpf.
Warm simple rye bread was served with strong butter and slightly unusually tasting black salt. Delicious savoury start. My Thorsmork cocktail consisted of Black Death brennivin, bjork liqueur, blueberry juice and blueberries with large sprigs of thyme. The concoction was beautiful and slightly sweet and a wonderful showcase of the local alcohols.
- Minke whale, puffin & reindeer mini burgers (with pesto & horseradish mayo) 3790ISK - the deer tasted like mild meat, the puffin like mild beef, and the whale like extremely fishy tuna/beef. I didn't mind any of them but would've preferred the chance the try the puffin and whale in their full forms. The bread was dry and not the most exciting;
- Angelica lamb skewer from Halla at Ytri Fagridalur (with red onion & marinated in szechuan) 2190ISK - these heavily barbecued lamb chunks were quite chewy and not the best representation of the island's tender lamb quality. The flavour was of strong char although the onion did lighten it a bit;
- Grilled pork ribs from Geir Gunnar at Valla (with Grillmarket dressing, served with chili rice cakes, drizzled with honey) 3290ISK - this should be a main rather than a starter for the size. The pork ribs were beautifully soft and fell off the bone and flavoured with sweetness and lying on a bed of chilli salsa. The orange powdered rice cakes added a fine crunchy texture. Exceptional and reminiscent of those wonderous ribs at The Slanted Door (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/the-slanted-door-san-francisco-10-2011);
- Shellfish soup (Icelandic shrimps, mini scallops, lobster) 2790ISK - far from the mushy langoustines at Hali Country Hotel, these meat morsels were firm and full of flavour. The shrimps and scallops added more texture and flavour and the stock was a rich orange creation full of shellfish flavour;
- Horse tenderloin (with Grillmarket fries, panfried vegetables, mushroom glaze) 6790ISK - I wasn't overly wanting to eat horse again as I felt I was satisfied with the effort in Slovenia (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/gostilna-s-prenocisci-malovec-divaca-10-2012). But the other choices were beef and that's even less local. So I opted for the furry creatures and am glad I did. Far from the gamey strong version in Slovenia, this horse had a more delicate flavour like a strong-flavoured beef (not salty, not overly strong in itself) and more tender than the beef eye fillet. I suppose these horses stand around the farms a lot and don't do the same amount of work as in other countries with more favourable climate? Even more impressive were the ridiculous french fries with these fluffy heavily buttery crisp coatings and the Icelandic wasabi with its mildly hot but pure clean taste. The mushroom glaze and vegetables were additions but the stars were the other 3.
It was an excellent meal other than the lamb skewers. I'd happily go back and get the whale and puffin entrees to truly experience their flavours and the horse tenderloin. The pork ribs and shellfish soup were both outstanding too although less specific to Iceland so I suppose I'd have to forego those if necessary.