Iceland Mag

7 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Food & Drink

A taste of two worlds in Vatnsmýrin moorland

By Sara McMahon

  • The chef. Chef Sveinn Kjartansson runs a new bistro located in the Nordic house in Vatnsmýrin moorland. Photo/Valli

Aalto Bistro is a new restaurant located in Vatnsmýri moorland, just a stone’s throw from the National University. The restaurant is run and owned by Sveinn Kjartansson, a well-known chef in Iceland, and the food is described as New-Scandinavian cuisine with a Mediterranean twist.


The entrance to the restaurant is somewhat unusual, via the Nordic House cultural centre’s lobby. The culture house is an organic modernist building designed in 1968 by acclaimed Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, hence the restaurant’s name. The building features most of Aalto’s signature traits and is the only building in Iceland designed by an internationally acclaimed architect.

Sveinn had long been fond of the unique building so when the opportunity to open a restaurant there presented itself, he was quick off the mark.  
“I have been in love with the building ever since I was a young boy and the location is brilliant; it’s right in the city centre yet in the country side and is surrounded by wild birdlife. I’m also a big fan of Aalto’s work so this was an opportunity I simply couldn’t resist,” Sveinn explains.

And he is right; The décor is quite unlike anything you would find in any other restaurant in Reykjavík, this is mostly due to Aalto’s sleek and modern design (the architect also designed most of the furniture and gave special treatments to the interior surfaces), and the view over Vatnsmýrin moorland is quite spectacular.

The chef also runs a small bistro-styled restaurant named Borðstofan located in Hannesarholt Cultural Centre on Grundarstígur 10, down-town Reykjavík. Asked whether he’ll have time to oversee and cook in both restaurants, he replies: “Of course. It won’t be a problem. I live right in the middle between the two restaurants and I have my bike to dash between locations.”

Aalto Bistro is located in the Nordic House on Sturlugata 5 and is open for lunch, tea and dinner. 

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