on August 12, 2013
It is a fact oft repeated but eating out in Iceland is expensive. There are, however, a number of relatively inexpensive lunch options in downtown Reykjavik, among them the popular Svarta Kaffi (I assume the name translates as 'black coffee'). It's worth noting that reviews are mixed, some love it, some hate it; the truth is somewhere in between and dependent I believe on what you order. The cafe is well known for it's 'soup in a bread bun' special and on a cold April day that's what my partner and I both had, but they do some baguettes and a few hot dishes too. The location is good, a first floor joint on the main drag, and an A-board outside points out the place. The cafe is small and while the staff don't chase you out after eating, they are good at getting customers into empty places that might not seem visible at first glance. This place is Croatian run and has been going over 20 years; all the staff speak impeccable English and are friendly and attentive. I should stress that this place doesn't serve the best soup in Iceland; it probably doesn't even serve close to the best in Reykjavik, but it's OK and it's filling. Soup served in a crusty bread bowl is not an Icelandic speciality but for many it's a novelty and it is clearly the most popular dish on the menu. There are two types available each day, one of them always being a vegetarian option. I chose the mushroom soup, my partner chose the Mexican chicken soup with even had a few broken up tortilla chips scattered on the surface. The mildly spicy Mexican soup was the better of the two, the mushroom one could easily have been from a tin though to be fair it did contain a sufficient serving of meaty mushrooms. The bread bowls are really quite hefty and I imagine the bread is make a little differently in order to make sure it can safely hold the soup without getting soggy too quickly which means that while the the dish sounds like it will be a great option for filling up, you may not want to eat all of the bread. There was really more than enough for me: this was partly because the bread is so dense and filling. The cafe is fully licensed for alcohol and there are soft drinks, hot and cold, available too but the staff also come round with jugs of iced water which is free of charge and do not push you to order paid for drinks. As far as hot beverages are concerned, this place has a great range of speciality teas. The soup in a bowl comes in at around 1550 ISK which is not the cheapest lunch in town but it's not the most expensive by a long way and for the location it's not bad. As the soup is ready to serve you won't be waiting long so this is a good option for anyone who doesn't want to linger too long over lunch. Tables by the window are great for watching life pass by outside but generally this is a comfortable little place and is certainly cosy and welcoming on a cold day. Svarta Kaffi is open daily: 11.00 am-1.00 am Sunday to Thursday and until 3.00 am on Friday and Saturday. From mid evening it operates as a bar only.
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