“I’m sorry but we’ve run out of sparkling wine. Would you be happy with champagne at the same price?” Surely this is just the most fabulous question you have ever heard? With that question my love for Sjavarkjallarin (the Seafood Cellar) in Reykjavik began.
Set in the basement of Reykjavik’s tourist information centre I was worried that the Seafood Cellar would be incredibly touristy however it actually attracts quite a few locals drawn by the restaurants reputation for excellent and innovative seafood. The Seafood Cellar is dark and brooding. Thick bluestone walls and low lighting allow you to forget that outside even at 10pm it is still light thanks to Iceland’s midnight sun.
Seafood cellar’s approach to seafood is contemporary utilising unexpected ingredients and demonstrating a Japanese influence in many dishes. This is evident even from the bread served before the meal which is a dense white baguette presented on a banana leaf with crushed wasabi peas to add kick.
The menu at the Seafood Cellar is unsurprisingly a seafood bonanza showcasing the produce of a country where fishing is by far the major industry. The quality of the seafood is clear from the simple amuse bouche of a wooden spoon filled with tiny slivers of smoked salmon unadorned except for a sprig of dill. To really appreciate the seafood on offer the obvious choice for entree is the sushi plate. Sushi is always beautiful to look at but the Seafood Cellar takes the presentation one step further so their sushi plate is a work of art in itself. Blush pink squares of tuna nigri on top of perfect spheres of plump rice sit alongside delicate folds of flounder topped with roe. Even the accompanying soya sauce is served with panache through syringes that arrive with the sushi plate. The serving size is very generous and you would struggle to finish this as an entree alone and so MTV boyfriend and I are happy that we elected to share the sushi plate.
Every seafood dish we try is impeccable. The tuna and yemen is a lesson in culinary cross pollination. Plump, fresh tuna is grilled with mirin and doused with blackberries, miso and tandoori. This disparate group of seasonings somehow complement each other so that each flavour is distinct and vibrant.
A sample of the monkfish coke joke served as part of a sample platter of four fish dishes
The monkfish “coke joke” is a bizarre name for an inspired dish . A generous fillet of firm, white monkfish is served on an artichoke puree laced with truffle oil and topped with crisp soft shell crab.
The desserts on offer at Seafood Cellar are more prosaic offering standards such as creme brulee and chocolate souffle although the chefs are unable to resist twisting the flavours slightly. The souffle is served trembling in its ramekin with a quenelle of strawberry sorbet and a pat of pink strawberry foam.
After serving us Veuve Clicquot all night at the equivalent of £5 a glass in place of sparkling wine Seafood Cellar only needed to do a reasonable job of the food and I would still have been quite a fan. However the superb fresh seafood and creative use of flavours cemented my love affair with the Seafood Cellar.
Details: Aoalstraeti, 2, Reykjavik, Iceland (Ph +354 511 1212)
Damage: Pricey (about £100 for two including drinks)
If you liked this you might like to read about a cheaper and less glamorous option in Reykjavik: hot dogs! As for seafood in London in my view it is hard to go past the classic destination of J Sheekey.