From Iceland – Food Review: The Greenhouse


Hveragerði is a strange town, occupying an odd space in the hearts of millennials and gen-Xers. The town, located just 40 minutes from Reykjavík, once had Iceland’s only theme park. It wasn’t much. There were a few rides, but nothing impressive. The reason this was doable in 80s Iceland is because it was inside a huge, colorful warehouse that protected guests from ever-changing weather conditions. Not only that, but there was a shop called Eden next to the theme park. Here you can play arcade games and buy ice cream. There were rumors that there were monkeys in Eden, but if so, they had been there for a short time and we never saw them. Later, they were replaced by a mechanical monkey that spoke if you gave it some change. His name was Bobo. And that was silly. We loved him.

Fire and bankruptcy

But all good things must end. The theme park went bankrupt in the 90s and Eden burned down in 2011 after a series of failed building ventures.
Hveragerði was about to become another tragic Icelandic town with a colorful past. But its proximity to the city has kept it relevant. Artists, writers, and others began moving to the city due to low housing costs and nature. Slowly, tourists discovered this once-famous town and, more importantly, the beautiful geothermal area surrounding it, which has one of Iceland’s best hot rivers just a short walk away. It has been clear for years now that Hveragerði has serious potential as a tourist destination.

fresh oxygen

Things have improved in recent years. And the new addition of Gróðurhúsið (the Greenhouse) to the community has brought a serious facelift by providing the town with the oxygen it needs to become a bustling little outpost in the countryside.

Together with my namesake, the former editor of the Reykjavík Grapevine and a well-known historian and novelist, Valur Gunnarsson (we’ll use our surnames to keep things simple), I decided to visit Gróðurhúsið, try the food and examine the new future of Hvergerði.

Fantastic interior design

The house follows the popular idea of ​​a food hall but has also adapted its activity to meet the needs of tourism. It is a hotel as well as a market that offers some of the best design brands in Iceland. Although the house doesn’t look like much from the outside, the interior design is simply outstanding. And there’s a good reason for that. Hálfdán Pedersen is an interior designer and decorator responsible for the entire interior of the house, which is both elegant and rustic. This is by far the best designed food hall in Iceland and greatly enhances the experience.

And then there is the food

But Mr. Gunnarsson and I were there for the food. Gróðurhúsið cleverly offers five restaurants, and the foodhall managers have organized them well, ticking off most of the dining options you might fancy.

Wok activated

Gretisson: The “Peanut Dream” was not as impressive as one might expect. There were rice noodles, chicken, mushrooms, spinach, cashews, satay sauce and peanuts. It could have done with more seasoning to make it more memorable. The dish had no real character but is more than enough if you want a good meal between destinations if you are traveling or just hungry. The portion was generous.

Gunnarsson: For my part, I often dream of peanuts, but I found this dish a bit light on the peanuts and heavy on the wok. It’s decent on its own, but not all peanut dreams come true.

Tacovagninn:

Gretisson: Tacovagninn’s tacos are following the Asian-South American fusion trend and doing it solidly. It’s a hearty bite to grab and it’s inventive enough to brighten your day if you’re up for fancy tacos. The cauliflower taco was exceptional and the only downside was that we wanted more.

Gunnarsson: It’s obviously a local favorite, as there was a queue. The best bet seems to be a selection of different tacos. Overall they weren’t bad, but maybe the secret weapon here is the nachos.

Hipster:

Gunnarsson: Hipstur is the Greenhouse fine dining restaurant. The fish was excellent and possibly the most Icelandic element here, if that’s your thing. More importantly, they have beer.

Gretisson: Hipstur is hands down the fanciest restaurant in the Greenhouse and offers the best possible level of cuisine you can find in Iceland. We decided to try the fish of the day, which turned out to be my favorite: ling. The dish was served with cauliflower, grilled onions and cherry tomatoes and was refreshing and multi-layered in taste. The freshness of the dish was amazing. The only thought we had was how amazing it is to have access to such food on the road, while traveling down South.

PUNK:

Gunnarsson: The surprise of the day was PÜNK. You think you know chicken and fries, but this manages to be different. Just the right amount of spice and the fries are halfway between crisps and fries. The sauces are good too.

Gretisson: I must admit that I didn’t expect much from PÜNK. Not because it’s bad, but because of the fierce competition in the food court. But they surprised in a very pleasant way with a bit of an old school dish executed the right way. The dish was the signature PÜNK, which includes two boneless chicken thighs, coleslaw, fries and homemade PÜNK sauce. The chicken was perfectly cooked and the fries reminded me in some ways of the 80’s when everyone was experimenting with french fries in different shapes. It was an honest dish that didn’t try to be anything other than what it was. I was impressed.

Yuzu:

Gunnarsson: A safe choice, but could do with more spice. Maybe ask for extra sauce.

Gretisson: It’s hard to add anything more to what we’ve already said about Yuzu. They are at least one of the two best burger restaurants in Iceland and offer burgers with a South Korean/Japanese twist. We had the very popular and famous Yuzu dish of fried chicken in kimchi and Yuzu hot sauce with a touch of cilantro. The burger was good, the bun was well done, if slightly dry, but nothing to worry about. The chicken was spot on and the whole experience was as solid as it gets when it comes to a burger. That said, it needed a bit more of a boost in the spice department.

Globally

The overall food court experience is that it is exceptional in so many ways. The Icelanders were very enthusiastic about the place, and finally, we have one more reason to visit the marvelous Hveragerði, which also has one of the most beautiful swimming pools in the country. Our prediction is simple, and perhaps not difficult; this could be Iceland’s hottest destination this summer (and in years to come), for travelers and Icelanders alike.


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