Gluten Free Reykjavik

Reykjavik

Reykjavik

I spent a fantastic few days in Reykjavik this winter and didn’t have any problems finding lots of gluten free things to eat 🙂

The hotel we were staying at provided breakfast but it consisted, as I had predicted, of bread, ham and cheese slices, corn flakes and muesli so nothing that I would be able to have. Luckily, I had come well prepared with a bag of my favourite gluten free, organic corn flakes so each morning I would pour my own bowl of cereal with the milk provided.

Delicious Icelandic yoghurt

Delicious Icelandic yoghurt

I’ve been finding lunch the most difficult of the day’s meals when I’m not at home. At home I usually opt for sushi, sushi and more sushi, a homemade gluten free sandwich, yogurt with rice cakes, crisp breads,  fruit or some sort of combination of these things. This is more difficult when travelling because the kind of place I would have gone for lunch in pre-coeliac days was a sandwich/ soup kind of place and this is rarely going to cater for me nowadays. I’m a huge fan of looking around foreign supermarkets to discover what kind of weird and wonderful treats they have lurking on their shelves and in their freezers so a local supermarket is usually the best place for me to pick up something gluten free for lunch. In Reykjavik they have Bonus, a cheap and cheerful supermarket, which can be found in the city centre and has everything you would expect to find in a supermarket. The supermarket’s logo is a fairly demented looking pig but don’t let that put you off…it’s got a good selection of stuff and it’s pretty cheap too…kind of the Iceland of Iceland (but a bit better). Since I don’t speak any Icelandic (ég tala ekki íslensku), reading food labels was pretty much out of the question other than those which also had them in English but even then it can often be difficult to be certain that something is gluten free. As a result of this I tend to stick to naturally gluten free foods and wherever you travel to, the local supermarket or market should have something. Yogurt, fruit and rice cakes are usually a good place to start as long as you’re not too starving. Iceland produces a yogurt called Skyr, widely available in a variety of flavours, but I stuck to the natural stuff and it is probably the most delicious cultured dairy product I have ever tasted.

For gluten free alternatives I found a couple of  specialist, organic food stores that sell a variety of gluten free products similar to what you would find in these types of stores in the UK. They sell pasta, cereal, bread, cakes and biscuits. These stores were pretty expensive, even for gluten free foods, but were interesting for a look and could be helpful if you are itching for a bar or chocolate or a packet of crisps and can’t be sure what is hiding in regular Icelandic candy.

Gluten free foods in a Reykjavik health store

Gluten free foods in a Reykjavik health store

I found quite a few restaurants in Reykjavik (suitable for lunch or dinner) where the gluten free of us have plenty of delicious treats to choose from:

Indian Mango is an Indian restaurant, which can be found very near to the impressive church, Hallgrímskirkja. All of the main courses are gluten free and you can choose to have your dish mild, medium or hot! Each table gets a bowl of rice with their meal but any further sides are extra. Main meals cost between 2000-4000 ISK (£10-20) so a bit pricey but very tasty with a good selection of unique dishes to choose from and interesting plates and silverware! Having the freedom to choose any of the main meals (and for once to be able to try my boyfriend’s meal) was a huge draw for me. SADLY INDIAN MANGO IS NOW CLOSED 🙁

Sushibarinn is one of a number of sushi bars that Reykjavik has to offer. Situated on one of the main shopping streets, Laugavegi, it’s in the centre of everything and definitely worth a try. It’s generally a take-out place but they have a few tables for anyone who would prefer to eat in. Their menu has lots of choice with sushi combos, nigiri, large and small rolls, inside out rolls and sashimi. Nigiri is my favourite and they have the usual salmon, tuna and shrimp as well as a few more adventurous varieties like mink whale and horse. Prices are fair and the fish is freshly made as you wait…mmmmm, sushi 🙂

Ánaestu grösum is a vegetarian, cafeteria style restaurant which serves food by the size of plate and number of options you want. The resturant offers around 9 hot and 9 cold choices from a variety of different salady dishes to more filling beany, veggy dishes. A small plate with 2 choices and rice or salad will cost you 1100 ISK (£5.50) and a large plate with 3 choices and rice or salad is 1700 ISK (£8) At first the waitress wasn’t too sure what was and wasn’t gluten free but once I explained that I was Coeliac and had to be certain that nothing I ate had any gluten in it she asked her colleague and then telephoned the head chef to double check. I was told that all of the dishes but two were gluten free. The food was good but not great. The hot chickpea, tomato and courgette dish was pretty tasty but the potato cakes were nothing to write home about.  I could have made something very similar at home without much effort but needless to say another gluten free option is never to be dismissed.

Santa Maria is a Mexican restaurant, which can again be found on Laugavegi, where there are a large number of eating and drinking places. I didn’t eat here personally as we ran out of nights but I went in to ask what kind of gluten free options they had available as their menu looked pretty tasty. On asking the waiter which of their menu items were gluten free he immediately answered that they had 4 things which were or could be made gluten free. This kind of response always fills me with much more confidence that the ‘ummm, well’  that I sometimes get as it makes it seem as though they have dealt with this before or at least know what they are talking about. The mexican salad, nachos and enchilladas are gluten free. From what I saw the portions looked pretty substantial and cost around 1000-1500 (£5-8) for a main meal.

Fresh mink whale and lemon sole

Fresh mink whale and lemon sole

Saegreifinn Sea Baron can be found on Geirsgata 8, next to the water and less than a 10 minute walk from the main shopping streets. A simple restaurant with a few wooden tables and benches, this is the place to go for some simple grilled fish. You choose your skewer of fresh fish and they grill it for you. Since all the fish is fresh, the choice of fish may be dependent on what was caught that day. When we went they had halibut, shrimp, lemon sole, monkfish, scallop and mink whale to choose from. Each skewer is 1200-1800 ISK (£6-9) and is wonderfully fresh and mouth wateringly scrumptious. The fish is grilled with a few onions and served with lemon. As a side they have skewers of potatoes and peppers for grilling alongside the fish or bread and butter for any gluten loving companions you may be dining with. The lemon sole was melt in your mouth delicious and perfect with a little lemon and black pepper. The mink whale was meaty and steak-like but also very tender and full of flavour. We had a fantastic and unique meal here….it gave us a nice taste of Icelandic cuisine and was well worth the fair price.

If you want to try asking for something gluten free in Icelandic then you can say glúten ókeypis.

Have you travelled to Reykjavik? Where and what did you eat?

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Comments

  • Fatima joshi

    Sep 14th, 2010

    Yes i must admit as an indian thats travelled quiet a bit globally and lived much of my life in india, dinning gluten free @Indian Mango(indianmango.is) was a real treat.Amazing quality of Indian Cuisine we ate. they have tandoori Artic char very tasty, Also tasty was the Icelandic Guillemot(a bird) i ate on my second visit ,it did have a gamey taste to it which i quiet liked. My mate a vegetarian also enjoyed his Gluten /Lactose free main courses. They even had Indian Kingfisher Beer.Nice lovely attentive service. They do make a great Masala Chai as well. Iwas told the chefs are from the finest luxury hotels in India and they ship in their own spices from India, they even have a real Charcoal (thank God not electric)tandoori oven shipped from India.

  • Thank you for your postings. I will be travelling to Iceland in March and started to worry about eating gluten-free when I realized I would not be able to read the labels written in Islandic. Now I feel secure knowing there are some safe places.

    Will I be all right travelling alone in Iceland if I speak only American English?

  • You will definitely be alright travelling alone to Iceland. Pretty much everyone there speaks English, especially in hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars and stores so I’m sure you will have a great time.

    I actually bought a sweater there which says I don’t speak Icelandic, in Icelandic. ‘eg tala ekki islensku’.

  • A great place to visit is the Northern Light Inn in Grindavik near the Blue Lagoon. Kristiana owns it, and she has accommodated my gluten free diet many times. I speak only English and she understands me perfectly!

  • As one of our guides said “Icelandic people need to learn another language or they can’t communicate with the world”. Everyone speaks English and everyone was extremely friendly and accommodating.

  • If someone in Iceland (Reykjavik) could help me pick a good celiac hotel breakfast, I would really appreciate. One that has eggs/meat/fruit that aren’t touching bread (and even a gluten free bread or cracker would be much appreciated, although I’ll buy some at the health food store if not)? Since breakfasts are most often included with the hotel, this is my number one priority in picking a hotel.

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