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Shalimar Pakistani Cuisine (Iceland)

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Address: Austurstræti 4, 101 Reykjavík, Island ‎

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      12.06.2013 21:40
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      Friendly staff and great food at this northerly curryhouse

      When Himself came back from Reykjavik in 2002 he boasted of having eaten at the world's most northerly curry-house. In 2013 looking at the restaurant listings for the Icelandic capital for our forthcoming trip I found no less than five Indian restaurants; which was the most northerly now? We'd intended to plot them all on a map and make sure we visited the most northerly of them but somehow this didn't happen and we contented ourselves with a visit to Shalimar. Later, when looking at the restaurant's website, we saw a claim that this is the most northerly but I'm still unable to confirm that.

      This small but cosy restaurant is situated at the end of Austurstraeti in the very heart of Reykjavik. Austurstraeti is Reykjavik's main shopping street and I'd be very surprised if anyone staying in the city doesn't walk along it at some point; it is, therefore, unlikely that anyone would struggle to find Shalimar, however the delicious smells emanating from the restaurant will provide any additional help you might need to pinpoint the location.

      We didn't book in advance but we did make sure we arrived quite early in order to get a table: weekend nights get very busy in Reykjavik. Our luck was in and we were able to bag a table for two; while we were in the restaurant there was a steady stream of customers, many of whom appeared to be regulars judging from the greetings they received from the staff.

      Shalimar is a small place but they've crammed in lots of tables: as a result it feels quite cramped with the tables close together. There are a couple more tables on the upper floor, as well as the toilets. The ambience is cosy and friendly and they haven't overdone the Indian theme.

      All the staff we encountered spoke excellent English (it's virtually impossible to find an Icelander that doesn't) and the menu was also available in English. The food is described as 'Pakistani' and there's a fair sprinkling of Punjabi and North Indian dishes among a more general selection of generic curries. All mains come with rice; this is good news in a country where eating out is pricy for those not from northern Europe. Having seen some plates being taken to a nearby table we knew that the portions were generous so we skipped the starters and went straight to the main event. Shalimar offers fish, poultry, meat and vegetarian mains with a good range between mild and very hot and you can, of course, request any dish as you like it.

      I ordered the 'fish Punjabi karahi'; this hot and spicy dish was excellent. There was an abundance of mixed fish though the description had promised just haddock: there was salmon (some sizable pieces) and different kinds of white fish (some quite flaky, others more meaty). The fairly creamy appearance of the sauce belied the heat behind it. The flavours were rich and distinct and the garnish of shards of fresh root ginger and fresh coriander leaves made it even more vibrant.

      Himself was interested in a fish madras that was described (as was my choice) as 'medium hot' . Since the description referred to the spices being blended with cream, he asked if it could be made a bit hotter. A couple of minutes after he'd been presented with a very spicy meal our waiter enquired, with a beaming smile, whether it was hot enough: my dining partner was convinced he'd been taught a lesson. He loved his curry in spite of it being seriously hot. As with the other curry, the spices were excellently blended and even with the cream the sauce was not overly rich. The fish was haddock and there was plenty of it.

      Both curries were priced at ISK 3190 which at the time of writing converts to £17.08; it sounds expensive but for Iceland it's average. Drinks were not badly priced for a restaurant and only slightly more expensive than in a pub outside of happy hour. My mango lassi was a very fair £3.20(ish).

      If you fancy lunch rather than an evening meal there are very reasonably priced lunch specials starting at just less than £8 for a meat, vegetarian or kebab main course with salad and rice. The lunch choices change daily. There are also set meals available in the evening which seem to represent very good value but we had our eye on particular dishes so didn't take advantage of the offers.

      If you are looking for a spicy meal during your stay in Reykjavik, Shalimar is a very good choice. The food is well cooked and there is plenty of choice with a variety of price options. The staff are really friendly and when I was told my dish would be nut free, I had every confidence that it would be. If it wasn't so far away and so darned expensive to back, I'm certain I would go back there.

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