We’d caught wind of some dynamite lobster soup down by the docks. It got added to the to-do list the previous evening, which was basically like setting up direct deposit: money in the bank. But a long day lay before us. And despite the sunny view from our Airbnb, the temperature in Reykjavik had dropped overnight. Snow was on its way. Coffee was necessary.
Reykjavik Roasters was just up the hill. Simple and understated, the cafe is arranged in a squat T shape, with entrances at either end. Between the two doors are a smattering of sundry chairs and a few small tables. In the middle is the bar, with a tiny lounge-ish area tucked behind it. We sat in the window, on a piece of furniture somewhere between a couch and a loveseat. Next to us, a record player. From it emanated familiar songs by David Bowie and Michael Jackson and Pink Floyd, all performed by Icelandic artists. It was quite surreal, sitting there charting our course with these familiar melodies sang in an unfamiliar tongue. As the crow flies, the soup was only a kilometer and a half away.
This was our one full day in Reykjavik before venturing out into the wilds. We packed in as much as could. We visited Hallgrímskirkja, the expressionist-style cathedral in the middle of the city. (There were water leaks all over the place.) We saw a cat straight up murder a bird right in front of us. (Dude had crazy eyes.) We noted the seemingly never ending supply of tricked out, excursion-ready vintage 4x4s. (There were so damn many and they were all gorgeous.) We went into nearly every puffin shop that dared cross our path. (They all have exactly the same touristy knickknacks.) We walked along the seashore and took pictures of other tourists in front of the Sólfarið. (It’s a fancy skeleton-looking boat statue.) And we stopped to gaze at the light reflecting and refracting off the many facets of the Harpa Concert Hall. (It’s seriously mesmerizing.)
After six hours and a little more than eight kilometers, it was finally time for soup.
Sægreifinn, maker and purveyor of the self-proclaimed “World’s Best Lobster Soup,” sits just down the water from Harpa. It’s nestled in amongst a series of three elongated teal buildings, oriented perpendicular to the water. Each contains a mix of restaurants, stores, and artisan workshops. Sægreifinn has a small, semi-enclosed patio on one side. The weather being what it was, no one was out there.
Inside, sea-faring paraphernalia adorns the walls—netting, a taxidermied seal, photos of vessels and crews. Mirroring the arrangement of buildings outside, three long wooden tables run lengthwise, one side anchored to the wall, the other pointed toward the sea. The seats are all blue plastic barrels with cushions on top. Altogether, it looks a bit like if Quinn from Jaws didn’t get his legs bitten off and subsequently eaten by that squallus, and instead returned to shore and opened up a seafood joint, but didn’t let Brody’s wife or anyone else help him decorate it. All of which is to say: it's charming in an extremely earnest fashion.
The menu is small. In fact, it's really only two items: the lobster soup and grilled fish on a spear. The type of fish depends on what was caught that day. Beers are equally limited. Gull seemed to be the best deal, coming in a 16-ounce can instead of a 12-ounce bottle. We got two soups and two Gulls. On the side was enough bread to feed a family of five.
The soup really was delicious. Was it the best in the world? I don’t know about that. Damn good, though. It was thinner than I was expecting, much thinner than the bisques I’m used to Stateside. But after a full day pounding the pavement out in the cold, it was downright divine. And the flavors, while familiar, were foreign and fresh in a way that was uniquely memorable.
Gull turned out to be a fantastic choice. On its own, it’s nothing spectacular. But it was bright enough to cut through the richness of the soup, and clean enough not to distract from it. It was ice cold, too, which drove us back to the warmth of the bowl again and again. And because the chill reminded us of what was waiting outside, we lingered at our table longer than we would have otherwise, polishing off the last of all that bread and recounting everything we’d seen.