ÓX, the newest foodie hotspot in Reykjavik

The food scene in Iceland, especially Reykjavik, has literally exploded in the last eight to ten years. Since moving back to Reykjavik in 2008, I´ve first-handedly watched this little village of a city turn itself around from economic meltdown and exploit the infamous Eyjafjallajökull to its touristic benefit. We´ve turned the crises of other exploding volcanoes, incredible football victory in the European Championship, and more recently, the World Cup, into international fame, since all publicity is good publicity.

ÓX, the smallest restaurant in Reykjavik with only 11 seats

All corners of Iceland are explored now, all year round, meaning hotels are full in January and no more secret hotpots in the middle of nowhere are left untouched. While this comes with a small price to pay for us locals, I don´t know if I´d give it up for all the good tourism has done for us. Roads, historical buildings, deserted farms and countryside hotels are being fixed and built up at such a rate that our employment rates are virtually non-existent. With that comes a lot of employees from Europe and elsewhere, and every little piece of this puzzle is helping the culinary scene in Reykjavik grow up into a delicious food fare.

little bits of flavour explosion

ÓX is the newest addition, and already calling its own name to fame by being the smallest restaurant in Reykjavík. The publicity there is a bit special – the website gives no address, and even though you can now find a puddle of hot water big enough for two in the middle of a field off an unnamed road with a GPS point on google maps, ÓX isn´t findable. It´s a speakeasy kind of place, a back door secret entry through its sister restaurant, which guests only get directions to once they´ve booked one of the 11 seats for dinner.

Hafsteinn serving me from the chef´s table

There´s only one seating per night, starting at 19:00, open three nights a week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday), and you book a seat much like you´d book a ticket for the theatre. You enter the space, alone or plus one or two or ten, and become dazzled with the food, chefs, and cosy space over the next 3+ hours. There’s one price per person, 12-13 courses with drink pairings, for a little over €200, with vegetarian friendly and non-alcoholic pairings as an option.

the craft housebrew, amber rye beer, made in collaboration with @ladybrewery

I finally got to dine at ÓX two and a half months after its opening, and it´s not worth waiting that long. If every Icelander tried to eat at this restaurant, it would take 203 years for everyone to get a reservation with a capacity of only 1,716 guests per year. Rumors have it they may start opening Wednesday nights too, but why wait to wind up your senses and start your journey at ÓX? As the website explains, its time to “set foot on a mountain of senses, dive into an ocean of discovery; Iceland is your playground, consume your exploration.”

Sumac Grill + Drinks

There´s a new restaurant in town, and its officially opened as of today. Its in downtown Reykjavik, in the middle of everything 101, on Laugavegur 28, where the old Bunk Bar and hostel was. The entire interior has been torn apart and redone, designed by non other than Halfdán Petersen, the designer of the oh-so-popular Kex hostel and Iceland´s first Michelin star restaurant Dill. A selection of plates and pots are individually hand made by potter and ceramic artist Hanna Gréta in Hafnafjörður, such that no two are stained the same way or have the same pattern.


Sumac Grill + Drinks, bar side

The owner and master mind behind the concept and menu is Þráinn Freyr Vigfússon, arguably Iceland´s best chef (okay, I´m a little biased), and has competed, placed, and won in enough cooking competitions and shows around the world that he´s definitely one of the world´s top chefs. The head chef is his friend and prized chef Hafsteinn Ólafsson, and a few other industry-recognized names fill the bar and wait staff. Me, myself, and I, are the hostess and rose and tree keeper.


sumac infused gin and ginger beer in a copper cup

The menu is inspired by Moroccan and Lebanese cuisine, using influences, flavours and spices from the Mediterranean coast and middle east – not only in the food, but also in cocktails and deserts. Sumac, popularly used in Turkish cuisine, is a deep red, sun-dried berry, giving a little spicy kick and citrus hint to their signature cocktail, Sumac, and their made-from-scratch yogurt ice cream which tastes like roses.


cauliflower, baby potatoes and salmon in their various clay plates and steel pans

The best sellers (so far) are definitely the grilled cauliflower head and za´atar flat bread with hummus and almond red pepper dip. The can´t miss items include the Berber chicken liver mousse, grilled octopus legs, and 100% vegan pistachio ice cream with chick-pea meringue. My personal favourites are the kumquat salmon drizzled with fennel froth, the crispy baby potatoes with Icelandic chorizo sausage, the pork belly tagine (actually cooked and served in a Moroccan clay tagine pot), and the Hilo cocktail, topped off with an organic Icelandic red-rose petal.


Sumac Grill + Drinks, kitchen side

Find Sumac on facebook, follow them on instagram @sumacgrilldrinks, or feel free to leave their first review on trip advisor. The official website (including the menu and wine list) can be found at Sumac.is, where you can make a dinner reservation. Otherwise just give us a call, +354 537 9900! I may even answer the phone personally 😉


House Drinks in Reykjavik

My blogs are typically about the places I visit but when I’m in Reykjavik I have to be a little more creative since I don’t really consider myself a tourist here. After being inspired by chef friends and Bocuse d’or, I thought it’d be fun to write about cuisine in Iceland, but there are a lot more qualified food critics out there, as well as tons of articles on Icelandic dining. Instead, I chose to do a little bar hopping, tasting some of the signature, house-specialty drinks those same restaurants or bars offer.

The rating scale we came up with was a likert-like letter scale from K to V. K stood for Kryptonite, V for VaVaVoom, and between the two extremes, Funky, Dousie, Quirky, Perky and Stupendous. The rating order is still not 100% certain, and for a while I was sure Kryptonite should be the best rating since I thought it meant explosively great; for those like me who don’t know what it is, its actually a fictitious element (the only one in the comic world) that can overcome Superman.

Annika and the Pole Vault

1. Bjarni Fel

Bartender: Annika

Drink: Pole Vault

Ingredients: Raspberry rum, apple schnapps, fizzy lemonade and grenadine.

Verdict: Kryptonite

Their other house specialty drink is called Bench Press (whiskey, triple sec, orange liqueur, martini bianco, lemon and coke) and both are 1700kr. Id say stick to beer, both because its a sports bar and because Annika says she’s never drank it and rarely makes them.

2. Ensku Barinn/ The English Pub

Jói and Steven Segal

Bartender: Joi

Drink: Steven Segal

Ingredients: Rum, Passoa, Strawberry Liquor, Pineapple and Cranberry Juice, Grenadine

Verdict: Perky

Jói explained the bar doesn´t have a house specialty per se, but he (as the manager and award winning fastest bartender) makes up his own house drink. This particular drink was inspired by a customer who asked for a strawberry cocktail, probably because of the sunny Sunday afternoon enjoyedsitting outside on the patio. He also mentioned it changes from day to day, so this drink didn´t even have a name until after he made it. Extra points for coming up with a great name.


Bjarki on the Floor by Oddur

3. The Dubliner

Bartender: Oddur

Drink: Bjarki on the Floor

Ingredients: Orange juice, vodka, peach schnapps, banana schnapps, brown sugar, grenadine, lime juice, and sprite

Verdict: Funky

picking the right orange juice

Halfway through mixing this cocktail, Oddur realized he didnt have orange juice, so actually went out and bought some just to make this house specialty, known to knock guys named Bjarki down to the floor and a big favourite among the female staff at Dubliner.


Marija making the perfect mojito

4. Thorvaldsen

Bartender: Marija

Drink: Thorvaldsens Mojito

Ingredients: Rum, Raspberry Rum, mint, blueberries, strawberries, brown sugar, and sprite.

Verdict: VaVaVoom

We spent about an hour at Marija´s bar, keeping her from closing, picking her brain about the perfect way to mix a mojito. We also got a geography lesson, talked about all the specialty alcohols available from all over the world, and discussed salsa and tango dancing (which happens to pair very well with Mojitos on Thursday nights at Thorvaldsen)

all the citrus goodness getting mixed in

5. Radisson (Saga & 1919)

Bartender: Kris

Drink: Sour Mix

Ingredients: Orange bitter, grapefruit soda, tequila, vodka, triple sec, malibu, lime, orange, and lemon

Verdict: Stupendous

The bar and lounge at this downtown hotel doesn’t have a specific house drink, but Kris makes specialty drinks according to the tastes of his customers. His usual question is “do you like sweet or sour?”, and whips up an appropriate concoction according to their answer. This sour mix was his personal favourite. At Radisson Hotel Saga, the bartender Erol makes a drink called Delek, winner of the Finlandia cup a couple years ago, and is a mix of vodka, strawberries and soda. Also delicious.

Heiða drizzling the melted chocolate


6. Hotel Reykjavik

Bartender: Heida

Drink: Forest Martini

Ingredients: Vodka, Cocoa liquor, cream, strawberries, topped with warm melted chocolate.

Verdict: well, its more like a desert in a martini glass, and definitely the first martini I´ve ever had to eat… so I would say quirky. Also a little deadly, since its only a 6 oz drink and 3 of those ounces are untasteable vodka shots.


7. Fish Market

David and his Volcano

Bartender: David

Drink: Volcano

Ingredients: Absolut vodka pear, crushed berries, butterscotch vanilla schnapps, passion fruit puree, pineapple juice, vanilla flavor, grenadine, and edible lava rocks

Verdict: VaVaVoom.

an assortment of passionate drinks

The theme of his bar was definitely passion, as he made two more passion fruit drinks called Chili Passion and Passion Caiprinhia. Those were thought up by the owner Águst, and the chili one was really spicy. Just before I left, he made me blind taste the drink he´ll be using at an upcoming bartending competition, and Im not sure what it was but it involved a lot of rhubarb and deliciousness. David explained at Fish Market they are always trying to make new drinks that challenge stereotypical taste profiles, and I would certainly agree they are accomplishing this goal with all their exotic fruits and creative toppings.

The best part about writing this article wasn’t actually the great drinks, but the accidental travel experience I felt like I got from chatting to all the bartenders. Only a couple were Icelandic, and the others represented Hungary, Ireland, Panama, Turkey and Serbia. I feel like I heard a lot of great stories and made some new friends, so hopefully one day I can invite them all for a drink made specially by me 🙂

Oh, and also, if you’re a bartender in Reykjavik reading this article and have a great drink I should try, I know an aspiring drink critic, so be in touch…