The Warmth of an Icelandic Cuppa

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I haven’t managed to write anything in quite a while. This is due to moving flat, being very busy at work, and also some cheeky city break holidays I have been on! Last week, I was lucky enough to spend five days road tripping around Iceland. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. For a country built solely from volcanic rock, it was strangely breathtaking in all its minimalism. Not a tree to be seen. Just small townships, small mountains with snow down to sea level, and loads and loads of Icelandic ponies. Iceland was also the coldest place I think I have ever been. With all the surroundings of a snowy mountain top, and all the wind of a wild New Zealand west coast, the elements made ‘Aurora Hunting’ all the more difficult. However, I am proud to say I am one of the lucky few who did experience the phenomenon, with my boyfriend capturing it on film. And yes, I did try Whale (not endangered I will point out!) and fermented shark (worst tasting thing considered ‘edible’ in the world I reckon).

Additional to the country’s vast beauty and wide open spaces (such a nice relief from the suffocating skyline of London!), it is the closest I have come to a New Zealand cafe culture, since leaving the motherland. The Icelandic sure love their cafes! From the establishments in the middle of nowhere serving traditional soups, cheese cakes and pastries, to the City Centre of Reykjavik – the country’s capital – a modern yet quaint city with themed cafes and eateries throughout!

One of my favourites was Litli Bondabaerinn, a tiny, organic cafe on Reykjavik’s high street. With very little seating, a vintage, ‘farm-like’ decor, 100% organic coffee and unhomogenised milk, I knew I was going to like this place straight away. Not only was the coffee delicious, but the girl who served us was so incredibly friendly, and was keen to spark conversations with us, find out about us and our travels – rather than seeing us as walking kronas (Icelandic currency).

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Litli Bondabaerinn had a great, environmentally-friendly ethos that I really admired, and I think this detailed focus on where the food comes from, its quality, how people and animals alike have been treated to get it etc, is a powerful, and morally satisfying, culture to have throughout all aspects of a cafe.

A second cafe that I really liked was the Laundromat Cafe. We went there for breakfast on our last day, and while it was pretty pricey, and our food came out luke warm, the theme and atmosphere of the cafe’s interior sold it for me. An obviously family-friendly place, it was heaving with all sorts from across the community spectrum – from young parents, to tourists, to corporate business folk.

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What was so intriguing about the cafe was its theme. As in the name, the establishment is a converted Laundromat. Well, actually it still is – the machines have been moved downstairs. With an almost ‘American Diner’ feel to it, the place was brightly coloured, it had a huge collection of photos showcasing Laundromat’s around the world, and the ‘island bar’ in the middle that served the drinks, along with slices, cakes and souvenirs, added to the open, transparent feeling of the whole place.

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I have to say, I am a sucker for themed cafes. I’m not talking 80’s, black and white or Under the Sea themes, just some sort of ‘cafe chorus.’ An idea which resonates throughout the whole cafe, one which your customers will remember and associate with your cafe alone – from your food, to the decor, right down to the bathroom furnishings.

Iceland was amazing. I would happily return, and sing its praises to anyone that will listen. Biggest highlight? Some would say the geyser – in which all geysers around the world derived their names – some would say the breathtaking Gulfoss Waterfalls – which featured in the Box Office hit, Prometheus. Me? I would say its the fact that all cafes in Reykjavik stay open until 1:00am, as they all turn into bars! An idea I am seriously considering bringing back with me to New Zealand.

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7 responses »

  1. Once again Kel a truly informative and really well written article . I love to read these so never mind the pressure of work its the blog that is most important. With your fantastic writing style I must say it does remind me a lot of your Father. Keep up the great work and really looking forward to the next edition .

  2. I think your dad must have had a freudian slip on the keyboard – I think he means Mother!!
    A very interesting blog as I do not know very much about Iceland and would never have thought that there was such a good cafe culture there. I really like the idea of providing paperback books to read (bottom photograph). The breastfeeding sign made me laugh because there was a huge hue and cry here some time ago about women breastfeeding in public.
    Keep up the good work!

    • Yea we were talking about that as well. They have had issues here in the UK with it too. I really liked the idea of providing books. Our local pub does the same and it gives such a nice vibe to the place. Would be happy to go alone, choose a book and sit there reading it over a nice pint 🙂

  3. Good to have such a detailed insight into a country I doubt I will ever visit. The cafes you fell in love with definitely seem to have a real community spirit about them rather than being just another business. I too love the idea of providing books. It would be comforting to think you could head off to a cafe on your own and spend a few hours immersing yourself in a book rather than being conspicuous to others for your lack of company…Normy No Mates no more!!! Have missed these blogs. Keep ’em coming!

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