Carol takes a trip to the stylish and quirky 101 Reykjavik in Southsea and enjoys her brush with Nordic mystery.
Legend has it Iceland was named by some sly Vikings who, in a quest to keep it all to themselves, tried to hide the fact that their new settlement was actually a lush, green wonderland worthy of envy from the entire Nordic world.
Iceland is strikingly beautiful and quirky; where else could you find a country in which 62 per cent of the population believe in elves?
For a small immersion into the remarkable country’s food, design and language coupled with Southsea’s laid-back approach to life, look no further.
The décor concentrates on photographs of bearded men on a twig backdrops, tree branches are painted on walls and columns and the tree motif continues with a saying by the bar-cum-serving-area, ‘a twig is rarely better than the trunk.’
‘Just don’t expect us to speak any Icelandic,’ warn Chris and Lisa Whitear, the café owners, on their quirky, charming website. ‘We’re just a couple of Southseans/Southseaites who want what you want.’
The café is named after the vibrant, thriving 101 postcode in the centre of the Icelandic capital which harbours a plethora of independent shops, cafes and bars.
You’ll find many Icelandic touches and original wit on the menu including the Icelandic hotdog; Icelandic pancake (skonsur) and a warm cod salad.
Also at night the humorous owners offer a Tectonic Plate or two, though rather prosaically one of them is a sharing ploughman’s.
More familiar suspects lurk here such as omelettes, beans on toast, beetroot, apple and feta salad, four types of sandwiches and good British breakfasts. Prices are probably friendlier (around £4–£6) than in Iceland where the cost of living is high.
The drinks list is more Nordic with drinks including Aurora Borealis, Bjork and vodka offerings alongside Icelandic beers including Northern Lights.
A choice of soups include chorizo, vegetable or cod, all in a hollowed cob from a local bakery.
I had the cod which was mostly vegetables in a tomato based stock with rather over-cooked shards of cod while the substantial loaf was served on fashionable slate.
The motto seems to be ‘come here hungry’ so the soup was a meal in itself.
Although ordered as two courses, the cod, pea, spring onion and potato salad came at the same time as the mountainous cob.
Again the serving was vast and the cod was a great improvement in this dish. The peas added a lovely layer of sweetness and the spring onions provided a tangy crunch, unfortunately the grainy mustard potato coating overwhelmed the dish. A less-is-more principle should be the kitchen’s motto alongside a better quality of mustard.
Desserts include pancakes, cakes at the counter and ice creams. Coffees of all kinds and teas including Portsmouth Tea, are staples here.
101 Reykjavik is a fun, casual place with a new twist – who would have thought of combining Iceland with Portsmouth, reasonably successfully and with heart?
The staff are exceptionally pleasant, although if you want to know what a dish contains it’s hard to get it out of them. Maybe it’s just the Viking way, keeping things close to their chest, but the word’s out.
My bill came to £13.50 including sparkling water.
101 Reykjavik, 1 Kent Road, Southsea.
Call: 07752 287118
(out of 5)
Breakfast: 9am–12pm. Lunch: 12pm–5pm, dinner: 5pm–9pm (café closes at 5 pm on Sundays). Open all week.
Disabled access: fine
How to get there: Kent Road and Castle Street meet at Southsea Terrace and Western Parade. On-street parking is available.