Icelandic Fish and Chips Organic Bistro
Tryggvagötu 8 / 101 Reykjavik
Food in Iceland lacks a definite diversity. With little arable land, and short growing seasons, there is a definite lack of vegetables. Greenhouses powered by geothermal energy provide the majority of the fresh local produce, and the rest is imported. However, what they lack in vegetables, they make up for in abundance with fish. Their coastal waters are some of the richest in the world, and makes up 70% of their exports – this is an island where fish and fishing mean a lot.
While there are an abundance of fresh fish, that doesn’t guarantee a great meal. Transforming that ingredient into something tasty lies in the hands of the chef. At Icelandic Fish and Chips, they have it figured out.
Across from the harbour in Reykjavik, Icelandic Fish and Chips bills itself as an organic bistro. Their menu is basic – they offer 3-4 fish of the day, whatever was caught that morning, and some basic sides like salad, fries, onion rings, and baked goods. Prices are very reasonable – fish falls between 1000 ISK and 1300 ISK – comparatively cheap relative to other restaurants in Reykjavik.
The interior is clean, and basic. Order at the counter, you’re given a number, and your order is brought out to you. Service is friendly and helpful. The place is run by some quality people.
The emphasis is on fresh and healthy. Fresh means that only fish caught that day is served. Organic produce from local greenhouses. Healthy means batter is made from spelt and barley. Fries are oven baked, not fried.
In two separate occasions, there were only three kinds of fish available. Cod, Wolf fish, and Ling Cod, on one day, and Haddock, Ling Cod, and Halibut the other. For a second, let’s ignore the fact that several of these fish are endangered, and over fished. Conservation is a highly sensitive subject in Iceland, very tightly integrated with economics. It’s a complicated issue, one i don’t have enough space to cover here.
When it comes to fish and chips, we start with the fish. Each of the available fish have different texture and flavour – some are sweet and flaky, others are more mild and meaty. It’s a matter of preference which one is the best – i preferred their Haddock over all others. Ling Cod was a close second.
The fish itself is perfectly cooked. Always tender, moist, and flavourful. The batter is amazing – the spelt and barley are inherently light, yet crispy and structured. Clearly it was cooked in clean oil, at a perfect temperature. This is the best fish batter i’ve ever had. Combined with the freshness of the fish, I can comfortably say this was the best fried fish I’ve ever had.
One thing that they do pair with their fish and chips are a variety of Skyr-based dipping sauces. Skyr is an Icelandic yogurt like substance – texture like strained yogurt, with a great flavour, but actually a soft cheese (like cheese curds). Low and fat and high in vitamins, it’s a tasty Icelandic signature item. They use Skyr combied with a variety of ingredients to make Skyr-based mayo dipping sauces. We tried Tartar, and roasted peppers and chilli.
My personal preference is without the Skyr sauce. While they taste ok (a bit too sweet for my liking), they hide the delicate flavour and sweetness of the fish and batter. My suggestion is to go without.
The sides, which i usually find forgettable, are actually a valuable accompaniment to the meal. The oven fries, which are just soft potato wedges, are the only real miss for me. Under seasoned and lacking in the crispy and soft texture i like in my potatoes. A disappointment.
The salads are extremely fresh, lightly dressed, but very tasty. Tasty, simple combinations – some of the best produce we had on the Island.
But the best side of all is the onion rings. Using the same great batter as the fish, they take perfect cuts of onion, coat them in batter and sea salt, and fry them to perfection. They are fully cooked and sweet on the inside, yet retain their structure. They are crisp, light, and salty on the outside. These onions rings are an amazing tribute to the ingredients and technique they utilize at Icelandic Fish and Chips. Absolutely fantastic.
In a country with little ingredient diversity, Icelandic Fish and Chips manages to have a slightly different take on a traditional ingredient. Fresh, modern, skilled, they utilize the best fish that Iceland has to offer, and prepare it in a way that brings you back for more. While I typically prefer to try new places, I came back to this establishment multiple times because they were offering me something I couldn’t get at home. If you find yourself in Reykjavik looking for an affordable meal, this is the one place you can’t miss.