Iceland Mag

8 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Food & Drink

Kapers: A serene bistro in one of Reykjavík's most beautiful buildings

By Magnús Sveinn Helgason

  • Safnahúsið museum The menu, décor, and the building that houses Kapers all contribute to a refreshingly serene Scandinavian atmosphere, which can offer a much-needed refuge from the hustle and bustle of Laugavegur. Photo/GVA

Located in the Culture House, one of the more beautiful and imposing buildings in downtown Reykjavík, Kapers is a Scandinavian bistro that offers a relaxed and simple menu. The brunch menu features an Icelandic twist with pan-fried Icelandic hot dogs (instead of breakfast sausages) with sweet fried onion, remulade, and whipped skyr. The regular dinner menu has more of a Scandinavian twist, including traditional Danish open sandwiches (smørrebrød), a Kapers burger, which includes slow-cooked neck of pork, and a fish of the day.

The menu, décor, and the building that houses Kapers all contribute to a refreshingly serene Scandinavian atmosphere, which can offer a much-needed refuge from the hustle and bustle of Laugavegur and the new Dunkin Donuts. The two establishments, both among the most recent additions to the restaurant and café selection in downtown Reykjavík, offer an interesting counterpoint to one another.

Kapers, bistro

Cosy The bistro's decor is charmingly Scandinavian. Photo/Kapers

 

Of course, most of us occasionally crave mass-produced, sugarcoated and deep-fried American pastries, served in a loud café with windows that stretch from floor to ceiling, allowing us to gawk at the throngs of people. But then there are times when a glazed doughnut won’t give you the serenity you can get from eating handmade smørrebrød with smoked salmon served in the Scandinavian calm of the Culture House, with its deep-set small windows.

Danish Romanticism

A large part of the charm of Kapers is the locale—the building itself. Built in 1906-1908, it was designed by the Danish architect Johannes Magdahl Nielsen in the spirit of Danish national Romanticism.  Long considered one of the most beautiful buildings of Reykjavík, it has a rich history that is intimately tied up with the preservation of Iceland’s cultural heritage. It was built to house the National Library and the National Archives, although the National Museum and the Museum of Natural History were also located in the building when it was opened to the public in 1909. Prior to this, the museums had all been housed on the top floor of Alþingishúsið, the House of Parliament by Austurvöllur square. It also housed the Icelandic manuscript collection.

As the various museums grew in size, they moved out of the buliding, and when the National Library and the National Archives finally moved the last of their operations out in 1998, it was rededicated to house various exhibitions relating to Icelandic culture and history. Currently, it is presenting the exhibition “Points of View”, which is a whimsical journey through the Icelandic past and present. Items from the collections of the various museums that have been located in the house, as well as modern works of art, are arranged to create an interesting picture of Icelandic history and culture.

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