Matur og Drykkur in Reykjavik Preserves Old Icelandic Recipes and Gives Them Modern Twists

It's not fine dining but it's definitely the kind of environment that will rock your cuisine-inquisitive appetite for particular Icelandic fare. That said, the old salt fish factory built in the 1920s sitting by the harbor of Reykjavik is the location of Matur og Drykkur where it shares space with the Saga Museum. Apropos to its casual neighborhood, the setting inside the restaurant is informal furnished with dark panels and wooden tables. Upon entry, the chefs' open kitchen table counter draws particular attention. It is where the chefs finalize the plates before being passed on to the designated tables.

Matur og Drykkur, which means food and drink, was named after Helga Sigurðardóttir's Icelandic cookbook. The aim of the restaurant is to ennoble the traditional Icelandic cuisine and be more creative with some added innovative twists to the dishes. Chef Gísli Matthías Auðunsson, who owns and runs the restaurant along with his other partners, Albert Munoz, and sisters, Elma, Inga, and Ágústa Backman, want the Icelanders to be proud of their culinary traditions. Icelandic cuisine is overshadowed by some of its nordic neighbors but it is very interesting plus it holds a lot of possibility to insert some creativity in it. 

The restaurant has a vibrant and hospitable atmosphere with a mingling of mixed clientele of locals and international gourmands, an immediate reflection of what is in store behind every dish prepared by the chefs. Consistently Icelandic in roots with the help of historians, writers and farmers who helped the restaurant take out age-old recipes, some of which were almost forgotten, and recreated with a twist of innovation to have that approachable character to every kind of palate. It is Chef Gísli's motivation to preserve and promote his gastronomic culture, and in addition, to support the local farmers' production and wild foraging of ingredients. It was a highly courageous project that saw its success over the years from its conception in 2015 to different accolades and recognition including the Michelin guide, and being one of the best restaurants both in Iceland and its capital, Reykjavik.

The most iconic of their dishes and perhaps the most talked-about is the cod's head, cooked according to a traditional 19th century recipe which involves braising in chicken stock and glazing with berries. The cheeks and tongue are the tastiest and softest parts that are eaten in the dish. Perhaps to a foreign point of view, it can be a reluctant choice for its peculiarity but it had received positive reviews.

The menu is seasonal and changes frequently but there are the Icelandic mainstays like the fish skin chips, fish soup with green apples and raisins, cod's head, skyr and twisted doughnuts. Apart from the singular choices at the menu, there is also a six-course tasting menu at roughly €100 (14,900 Kr) of dishes inspired by traditional Icelandic cuisine. It can be paired with wine at about €72 (10,900 Kr) mostly originating from France, Italy and Spain. Finger food are around €13 (1,990 Kr), appetizers at around €15 (2,290 Kr), main courses are between €26 to €40 (3,990 Kr to 5,990 Kr), and desserts at €13 (1,890 Kr).

Cod’s head, photo from the website of Matur og Drykkur

Matur og Drykkur

Address: Grandagarður 2, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Tel: +354 5718877
Opening hours: Thursdays to Sundays, 18:00 to 23:00