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Hrönn, the chef at Kaffi Loki, shows us around her restaurant
“My name is Hrönn and I’m the chef at Kaffi Loki. I used to be a textile designer, but in 1990 I had the idea of opening a traditional Icelandic café with my husband and Kaffi Loki was born. It has now taken over my life ...”
Hrönn explains the origins of Icelandic cuisine:
“My name is Hrönn and I’m the chef at Kaffi Loki. I used to be a textile designer, but in 1990 I had the idea of opening a traditional Icelandic café with my husband and Kaffi Loki was born. It has now taken over my life!”
“Loki was one of the gods from Norse mythology and he was a tricky one. Sometimes he was very clever, but sometimes not so nice. Kaffi Loki is situated in Loki street in what’s called the neighbourhood of the gods. So, the street over is called Thor street and the one over from that is Odin’s street.
When we were planning this café, there was all kinds of new restaurants popping up in Reykjavik called Saporo and Nosatario and things like that, but none were Icelandic. We decided to do something very Icelandic. Simply, plain homemade food. We didn’t want to be like one of those chains where you can have everything.
"There are so many people who travel through their mouth and stomach."
Fish and lamb are the staples of Icelandic food. For many, many centuries the main challenge was keeping it so you could eat it, so a lot of Icelandic food consists of salted lamb and salted fish all kinds of smoked fish and all kinds of preserved food. These days we eat more fresh food, and at kaffi Loki we use a lot of fresh lamb. The lamb we use comes from the mountains and is very organic.
The other main characteristic of Icelandic food is rye flour, mainly because rye is just so much hardier than wheat. Therefore, all kinds of rye bread is very common, and we serve all kinds of rye loaves and flat bread in the restaurant.
Traditionally, people in Iceland didn’t eat much fruit or vegetables either. I think it was only in the 17th century that Icelanders started growing potatoes, so the diet was mostly just fish and lamb with a few turnips. Anything that was easy to grow in this harsh climate. Rhubarb is classically Icelandic for the same reason. As are all kinds of berries.
As Iceland has become more modernised, there is a lot of new trends in Icelandic food. That’s why a place like Kaffi Loki is important. It’s like we’re trying to preserve my mother’s way of cooking. I get to meet people from all over the world, and there are so many people who travel through their mouth and stomach. People like to taste new things and compare them to the food they have at home, so we always have people from all over the world stop by.
Most tourists like the food, except maybe the shark. Shark isn’t for everyone.”
Preparation time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 65 – 80 minutes
Lamb has been a staple of Icelandic cooking since the first settlers arrived on the island in 770AD. Prized for their milk and wool, sheep has always been the most common farm animal in Iceland is were once worth more alive than dead.
Kjötsúpa is traditional Icelandic meat soup and was a real life saver when food was scarce. Deceptively simple, old school recipes consist of lamb, potatoes, swede and carrots, thickened with oatmeal. Common around Reykjavik, more updated versions will often contain leeks, onions, dried herbs, pasta and even rice.