Sometimes you don’t choose a restaurant. It chooses you.
I wasn’t looking for restaurant recommendations as I scrolled up and down a forum about travelling to Iceland. I was looking for where I could eat puffin. But when the food gods decide to speak to you, you stop and listen.
Hidden away in one of the threads I was skimming over, some boastful poster had mentioned that anyone with any sense should visit the Hamburger Factory – “that’s where all the Icelandic people go”. Not convinced this was a genuine tip rather than self promotion but equally as concerned that I might get hungry while in Reykjavik, I jotted down the name and address.
Several weeks later, one lost lens cap poorer, and tired of the crowds filling the streets due to a public holiday, my travel companion and I decided to try out that restaurant recommendation. We fired up Google Maps and headed away from the noisey streets. As the sights got greyer and our feet got more tired we wondered if we hadn’t been lead on a wild puffin chase.
The Hamburger Factory (or Hamborgarafabrikkan if you want to sound Icelandic) is located on the ground floor of the tallest building* in Reykjavik just opposite the Höfdi, where Reagan and Gorbachev met in October 1986 for a summit that is said to have been the beginning of the end of the cold war. Opened in 2010 by two individuals, Simmi and Jói, the whole process was documented and became a hit reality TV series, known as “Simmi, Jói and the Hamburger Factory”.
“Gullfoss and Geysir are surely a must-see in Iceland but neither is something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at the Hamburger Factory.” – The Hamburger Factory Menu
Hamburgers at the Hamburger Factory are not your ordinary hamburger. They feature ingredients like Havarti spicy cheese and olive paste, have unusual names (e.g. The Big Bo, Fat Sigurjón, and Miss Reykjavik), and they come on square buns. They are the perfect hunger filling size and come with sides such as sweet potato fries. You can ditch the sesame seeds on top, replace white with spelt bread, or avoid the meat and go for Portobello mushroom instead all for no extra charge.
After a wait of almost 40 minutes, we finally had a table and could dig in. Like two people who hadn’t had food in a week, we devoured our burgers and ordered dessert. Next to us we watched a group arrive with several children who were all handed mini DVD players and headphones by the staff, to keep them entertained. While we waited for our Astronut’s Cake and Factory Skyr Cake a bell rang, an announcement was made, and a big cheer went up. In a state of confusion we watched as a largish number on the wall was increased by one.
“What was that about?” we asked the waitress.
“Someone was born in Iceland.”
I’m not sure how they adjust the number to account for the Icelandic individuals who die each week – I assume there is no announcement or cheer for that situation. But to the Icelandic individual who one day decided to recommend the Hamburger Factory on a forum – you are one of my favourites.
*correct at the time of publication
Address: Katrinartun 2, Turninn Höfðatorgi, Reykjavik 105, Iceland
Telephone: +35 (4) 575 7575
Opening Times: Thursday to Saturday, 11-11pm; Sunday to Wednesday, 11-10pm