Being Iceland’s “Capital of the North” and the second most important city, Akureyri receives a big chunk of Iceland’s visitors after its capital, Reykjavik. It’s a great base for exploring the country’s numerous natural wonders and thrilling activities like whale watching. However, little picturesque towns in the proximity offer whale watching for a much more personal experience with smaller groups. That means easier interaction with the tour guide and Icelandic breakfast cinnamon buns and hot chocolate on the boat at a more affordable price. The tiny fishing town of Hjalteyri, with a population of 43, is just about 20 minutes away from the city and the whale watching adventure with North Sailing plus dining at its only restaurant is a whole kind of experience.
Upon arrival at Hjalteyri, the first thing that hits you is the village’s tranquility and minuscule size. However, it has played a fundamental role in the island’s history as it had been one of the major fishing ports of the northern region. It has started to attract visitors for its whale watching on board a refurbished traditional oak boat along the calm seas of Eyjafjörður, Iceland’s longest fjord. It is an area that a lot of whales and other marine animals favor as their habitat and North Sailing attests that 90% of the time, you can spot whales while on the 2.5 hour tour.
Across the office kiosk of the whale watching tour is the only restaurant of the town, Eyri. It is housed in a typical Icelandic black wooden building fronting the shoreline and a terrace with tables to enjoy the sun on warm days. Originally built in the early 2000 as a coffee house, the place was bought by Nik Peros, a chef and his business partner Vikar Mar.
Nik Peros is already a proprietor of a restaurant and a guesthouse in the fishing village Þórshöfn on the Langanes peninsula of Iceland. He bought the place in Hjalteyri to fulfill his dream of having a small place that’s not far from Akureyri where guests can visit and sample his kitchen. Initially, on Eyri’s first summer season, Vikar started working with Nik as part of the dining room staff. He’s a local who runs a farm that has been passed to him after generations and he has invaluable knowledge about the area and its gastronomic history. After a whole summer of working together, Nik decided to take in Vikar as a business partner and the two of them divided their responsibilities between the kitchen and the dining area.
Nik believes in the importance of the genuineness of food. “I believe in using real food. We do not buy frozen mass products from large corporations. I do however buy some finished products from farms that are independently owned from this local area. I believe that food is an experience and it needs to be treated as such,” explains Nik. He also believes in treating his staff as partners because one person cannot do it alone. He has worked in a lot of countries, most especially in the arctic regions including the Svarlbard archipelago in Norway.
The menu has interesting fish, meat and vegetable options for appetizers (€14 to €18), main courses (€26 to €56), cake at around €10, and kids’ menu at around €10. There is also a 3-course dinner menu that can be composed from the selection at around €50 with an additional €14 is choosing venison. The platter of local specialties is a must-try, which is a variety of bite-sized meat and fish nibbles from local suppliers including Hákarl, the fermented shark. Accompanying the dishes are wines from different wine regions selected by Vikar who is a great wine enthusiast.
Address: Hjalteyrarvegur, 604 Hjalteyri, Iceland
Tel: +354 888 9604
Opening Times: 10:00 to 22:00 (Spring and Summer)