I wrote this week about the insane cost of doing anything in Iceland, from drinking a beer to p**sing it back out. But what if you want to go to a restaurant? What if you want Icelandic food, cooked by an Icelander in Iceland?
When I visit just about any city, I start my recommendation search with Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. This modus operandi, which has worked brilliantly for me many times over, directed us to 3 Frakkar (‘Three Jackets’). Here, me and Mrs Nosey ate a starter of smoked puffin, which was really very good. Puffin looks like grouse, feels like gravadlax, and tastes of fish, but the smoke offsets that and produces and wonderfully complex, almost carpaccio-type dish, that melts on the tooth and inspires with a indescribable fishy, meaty, wood chip mix. The puffin comes with a mustard sauce that complements the bird perfectly. Mrs Nosey followed this with a gratinated plokkfiskur, which was a hash of fish and potato topped wth cheese and grilled, and served with rúgbrauð. I went for the Rjómasoonir reyktir thorskstrimlar, which was a smoked fillet of cod cooked in a creamy, mustardy sauce. Both dishes were very good.
Reyktur lundi (smoked puffin breast) with a mustard sauce
Plokkfiskur (Icelandic fish hash) done the 3 Frakkar way, which includes a béchamel sauce, curry flavouring and a cheese gratin
Rjómasoonir reyktir thorskstrimlar (smoked cod in a creamy sauce)
We followed up with Skyr brûlée, which is obviously an Icelandic take on the classic creme brûlée. To be honest, the Skyr version of brûlée has its merits as a richer variant of the original, and it may take a tangy fruit base like rhubarb more readily than the English gastropub classic.
The service at 3 Frakkar was rapid and friendly – you can eat a three course meal here in about an hour.
So, what’s the deal on the cost? In the end, me and my plus one ate and drank at 3 Frakkur for ISK 19,790 (£145). Checking the Guide finds you the one-star Dill with a tasting menu for two ringing in at 27,800 ISK (£200) before wine. So the prices are high, but if you compare them to other one-star restaurants in the UK, then the percentage differential is not actually that much. Fischer’s at Baslow Hall in the Peak District, for instance, is £170 for two on the tasting menu. It seems, therefore, that fine dining in Iceland is priced reasonably well, but it is the hotdogs and KFC that make you wince in fiscal pain.
In the recipe provided here, we are going to tackle plokkfiskur, but serve it traditionally, without the gratin and curry, but with the rúgbrauð brought a little more front and centre. Plokkfiskur has its origins in the most noble of food principles – using up leftovers. When we bought fish in Iceland (from Fiskbú∂in at Sundlaudavegi 12), the cuts were all presented as whole sides, so it might not be unusual for an Icelandic family to end up with leftover cooked fish. In the UK, we buy in much smaller cuts; so in the NoseyKitchen, we had to do the whole shebang from scratch. Plokkfiskur can be bland if not seasoned up the wazoo, which might be why 3 Frakkar add curry. If I was going to do this dish again, I may follow 3 Frakkar. The recipe here is different to that one I did in Reykjavik, and benefits from the bit more research.
3 Frakkar (‘Three Jackets’) can be found at 14 Baldursgata, 101 Reykjavík. We visited on 14 August 2017 for dinner.
- 2 large cod fillets, skinned, boned and cut into chunks
- 250ml milk
- 3 bay leaves
- 8 Maris Piper potatoes
- 100g butter
- 1 large onion, chopped roughly
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- Salt and pepper
- 8 slices of rúgbrauð
- Chopped chives or parsley to garnish
Peel and halve the potatoes. Place in a pan and cover with water for 15 mins. Refresh the water and bring to the boil. Simmer the potatoes for about 20 mins until cooked (a paring knife is easily pushed into the largest piece of potato). Drain and crush a little in the pan (we are not looking for a pureé here).
Now cook the fish. Put it in a pan with the milk and bay leaves, season well and cook gently for 5 mins until it flakes nicely. Drain the fish, reserving the milk
Melt the butter in a frying pan and lightly sauté the onion in it until translucent but not coloured.
Add the flour to the onions and cook for 1 minute. Pour some of the milk stir until thickened. Add a bit more milk to loosen the mixture a little.
Add the potatoes and mix. Add milk as needed until you have something that is just stiffer than 'slop' consistency. for the Brits, I can say it is somewhere between the consistency of a curry and a potato salad.
Add the fish, and gently fold that in.
Season liberally to taste (you will need a lot of black pepper).
Serve the plokkfiskur with buttered rúgbrauð. Sprinkle with the herbs to add colour.
Many Icelanders like to make a hollow in the top of their plokkfiskur and allow a knob of butter to melt into it. I certainly like it this way. Leeks are sometimes added with the potatoes. Leeks can be used as a garnish too. If you use whole, smaller potatoes, like Jersey Royals or new potatoes, cook them whole with the skins on. To make the 3 Frakkar version, add 1–2 tbsp curry powder to the onions after the flour and cook in for a further minute. Make the dish as normal and place in a gratin dish. Cover with grated cheese (50:50 Gruyere and Emmental) and grill it until just golden. Don’t use cheddar because cheddar does not grill well (it splits).