Iceland’s capital Reykjavík is ethereal and enigmatic, combining extreme winters and endless summers. The sudden Icelandic food and culture boom worldwide (skyr yogurt, Brennivín schnapps) starts to make sense once you take in the breathtaking expanse of postcard-worthy vistas that surround the city.
In the heart of Reykjavík lies DILL, the white-hot restaurant from local chef and culinary icon Gunnar Karl Gíslason. It’s the first Icelandic restaurant awarded a Michelin star, and its upstairs craft beer bar, Mikkeller & Friends, is a destination in its own right.
“Every time you come through the doors here, it is like coming home to a friend,” Andreas Petersson, bartender, Mikkeller & Friends, says of his home base.
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Here, one of Gíslason’s own shares his ultimate dining and drinking guide to Reykjavík. Read on for this installment of Bartography, as told by Andreas Petersson.
“KEX is casual and cozy with that special atmosphere you only get at a hostel bar with travelers from all over the world,” says Petersson. “Go for a nice local brew and a burger.” Location.
Ölstofa Kormáks og Skjaldar
This one’s a mouthful for English speakers, but it’s charming, Petersson says. “If ‘Cheers’ would have been made in Iceland, this is the place where they would have filmed it. Grab a local beer from the bar and mingle.” Location.
Session Craft Bar
“Go here for the latest and best in craft beer,” Petersson says. “Session’s staff is extremely knowledgeable, and there’s an amazing assortment of beers. Whatever your taste, these guys will find something for you.” Location.
“This bar is a real hidden gem! Probably the best assortment of wine in the country and, because so few people know about it, you will always be able to find some peace and quiet.” Location.
Make a reservation for dinner at DILL as far in advance as you can — its 30 seats are a hot commodity, as is the five- or seven-course tasting menu featuring local produce and some of Chef’s favorite products, like Icelandic Provisions skyr. While you’re there, visit Petersson and his crew at the bar upstairs. “We see DILL and all their staff as family. We frequently discuss ideas and concepts for cocktails with the chefs and wine assortment with their wait staff,” Petersson says. “We all spend a lot of time together, even outside of the workplace. We all enjoy each other’s company and are able to influence each other every day with new ideas. By doing so, we are able to get better at what we do each and every day.” Location.
Skál at Hlemmur Mathöll
“MatBar features Nordic food with influence from Italy. It’s always buzzing and lively. The cod cheek on the bone is one of my favorite dishes here,” says Petersson. Location.
Le KocK in Ármúli
Street food is what it’s all about here; Petersson recommends Le KocK for its “no-fuss vibe” and highly recommends the burger for lunch. Location.
“I’ll give this to our friends at KEX Hostel. Great vibes at the bar downstairs with a mix of locals and tourists that no one else has!” Location.
“I have to say Vesturbær 107 because of its up-and-coming coffee shops and bars mixed with the everyday culture,” says Petersson. This area is approximately a 10-minute cab from KEX, or a 35-minute walk if you’re feeling adventurous. Location.