It’s no secret that my happy place is red meat, red wine and chocolate cake or that I love great design. So imagine my surprise to find a new happy place in Reykjavik on my first night in the city. Having done a bit of research prior to the trip and consulting with the hotel concierge, I thought The Grill Market (Grillmarkaõurinn) would be a good introduction to the Icelandic food scene once I arrived. The Grill Market is popular spot with locals and visitors so with a week’s notice, I was able to get a reservation for 6 p.m. on a winter Friday night. The time was perfect as I originally thought I might get out on a Northern Lights tour which generally leave at 8 p.m. As the Northern Lights tours were canceled, I had all the time to enjoy my meal (and I would enjoy every single bite).
Inside the Grill Market
The restaurant is centrally located inside the courtyard off of the main pedestrian street (diagonal from the 10-11 convenience store), it is a distinctively red building that I noticed earlier on my photo walk of the area. As I entered, I was directed to hang my coat on the racks inside the doors before I was asked if I wanted to sit at the kitchen counter or at a table. As a solo diner, having a choice is always welcomed – I chose the table to give me a bit more room and observe the restaurant in motion. Seated in the corner of the upstairs dining room, I faced the open kitchen and was in the middle of both sides of the room. My table also had full view of the spiral staircase to the bar/lounge and dining room below. The contemporary warm wood and lighting design was very cool – this was a modern (trendy) restaurant with pockets of cozy, intimate spaces, created with Icelandic materials and inspiration. The music soundtrack was a mix of modern with 50’s music and a splash of Christmas songs – the eclectic nature kept you guessing and also singing too.
The Grill Market Experience
The dinner menu has a plethora of options that it was hard to limit myself to an entree and dessert. My server was a young friendly girl who returned to the table with my wine accompanied by a large bottle of water and the joy that was the bread plate. The warm bread loaf was presented on a wooden tray with soft Icelandic whipped butter and an interesting black salt in the corner. This was my introduction to black lava (volcano) salt. The restaurant’s signature salt (available for purchase) was only one of many highlights of my dinner at The Grill Market. The fact that they work with local farmers to deliver the freshest of ingredients was a bonus – truly farm to table which I love.
While I should have paced myself and not consumed the entire loaf of bread, I justified the gluttony by the fact that I hadn’t eaten all day (and there are no calories on vacation) and the fact that the warm bread, whipped butter and black lava salt were just amazing and it was a sin to waste food (years of Catholic school). Luckily, the pacing of the food was perfect so that I (and hopefully my stomach) could forget that I ate all of that bread.
For my entree, I ordered the Beef Tenderloin which came with their signature curly fries and a mushroom au jus. I substituted the grilled vegetables with sweet corn on the cob (a great call!).
Food Happiness looks like this:
The food was even better than it looked and it looked damn good. The presentation was perfect! The flavors of the filet were perfect. I rarely used the au jus and chose to sprinkle a bit of the black lava salt just because. The corn on the cob were perfect little portions easy to rub butter and salt on and eat without fuss.Sadly, I did leave a bit of the filet in order to allow a spot of room in my stomach for the dessert. I was too far into the menu not to get dessert.
The warm chocolate tart with passion fruit and vanilla ice cream rolled in crunchies was presented in it’s own gift box. A+ for presentation!
As far as the cost? I place it in line with any U.S. Steakhouse once you figure in tax and tip – my meals in the U.S. (with wine) are generally above $100. My GrillMarket dinner cost $85 – cost be damned when the food tastes this good.
The Grill Market was such a fantastic way to start my Iceland visit on a high note, now if only the rest of the visit surprises me and treats me as well.