Reykjavik Roasters, Kárastígur

A pot of coffee for two (La Cascada from Colombia, made through the Kalita Wave), roasted and served at Reykjavik Roasters, KárastígurJust north of the famous Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik, the junction between Frakkastígur and Kárastígur forms a small, open square, roughly triangular in shape. A three-storey white building stands at its broad, southern end, home (since 2008) to the original Reykjavik Roasters, which occupies the ground floor. For almost 10 years, this neat little café was also the roastery, but in January 2018, roasting moved to a dedicated roastery in Auðbrekka in Kópavogur, freeing up much-needed space for seating.

These days, the original Reykjavik Roasters is a bustling café, by far the busiest of the three we visited in Reykjavik. There’s the usual Reykjavik Roasters offering, with a concise espresso-based menu, daily batch brew and a choice of single-origins on pour-over, with either an AeroPress for one or Kalita Wave for one/two. There’s tea, hot chocolate, a small range of cakes and pastries, plus equally concise breakfast and lunch menus. And plenty of coffee and coffee kit for sale!

Seating is at a premium, with as many takeaway orders as there are customers sitting in. Since Amanda and I were staying just a few minutes’ walk away, we became semi-regular visitors, popping in twice for breakfast and once for lunch.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The original Reykjavik Roasters on Kárastígur, just down the hill from Hallgrimskirkja.
  • The main entrance is on the right, which is the Kárastígur side.
  • There's another door on the left, which is on Frakkastígur (which runs up to the church).
  • However, this one is exit only, so it's around to the other side we go.
  • Let's go in.
  • This is the view from just inside the door (just after closing, which is why no-one's here!).
  • This is the view from the other side, where you can see the seating at the front.
  • There's this table to the left of the door, which probably has...
  • ... the best view in the house (unless someone is sitting on the windowsill!).
  • There's another table in the window on the other side of the water station.
  • There's one more table just to the right of the door (which you can just see in this shot).
  • The counter, meanwhile, is in the middle at the back, directly ahead of you as you enter.
  • The counter viewed head on.
  • There's more seating on the left-hand side (seen here from by the second door).
  • This side only has one window at the front, where you'll find a coffee table...
  • ... and these lovely chairs.
  • This matching sofa is on the other side, along with a lovely coffee table...
  • ... where there's another table by the side window.
  • That's it for the front part, but there's more. Do you see the opening in the back wall?
  • To get there, you have to go around behind the counter, which is a first for me!
  • At the back, a long, thin corridor-like space leads to the toilet at the far end on the left.
  • There's a pair of chairs (with a very small coffee table) down here on the left.
  • Reykjavik Roasters has some lovely chairs by the way.
  • Taking of which, there's another pair of lovely chairs (with a larger coffee table) opposite...
  • ... on the right-hand side. As well as looking good, the chairs are very comfortable.
  • Finally, there's this sofa right at the back (although it is right by the toilet door).
  • Nice lamp.
  • Reykjavik Roasters has an extensive set of retail shelves on the back wall...
  • ... to the right of the counter. There's plenty of coffee-making equipment...
  • ... and the usual retail bags of coffee, where there's a wide range of single-origins on sale.
  • To business. The counter is the focal point of Reykjavik Roasters.
  • You order on the right...
  • ... where you'll find the cakes and pastries in a display case on the end of the counter.
  • The food and drink menus are on the wall behind/above the counter...
  • ... with an English version on the counter itself.
  • Espresso, meanwhile, comes from this Synesso espresso machine to the left...
  • ... while at the far end of the counter (where you collect your order) is the batch brew.
  • Usually there's just a single flask, but sometimes, like on this occasion, there were two.
  • Amanda and I visited three times, the first for breakfast on our first full day.
  • I had the oatmeal porridge (a common theme), which came with a pot of jam on top.
  • And underneath, my porridge, in a neat, glass bowl.
  • I paired this with a cortado, made with the house espresso, the Mariano.
  • Amanda had sourdough toast with jam and cheese (another common theme)...
  • ... which she paired with a flat white, also made with the Mariano. We returned...
  • ... a few days later for lunch, planning to have soup, but had porridge (and toast) instead.
  • We paired this with a Kalita Wave for two, served in this neat, red coffee pot.
  • We'd decided to work our way through the single-origins. This was the La Cascada...
  • ... from the Hulia region of Colombia, with more information on the back of the card.
  • Our coffee in the cup, with a plant in the background for artist merit.
  • Our coffee in more detail. Our final visit was two days later...
  • ... when we went back for breakfast. This time we both had porridge...
  • ... and shared an order of sourdough toast, cheese and jam.
  • My porridge in detail, this time served in a large cup, along with some diced apple.
  • Amanda had a pour-over for one, this time trying the Las Mercedes from Colombia.
  • I, meanwhile, had a flat white, made with the house espresso, the Mariano...
  • ... a single-origin from Brazil. I'll leave you with a picture of my latte art.
Photo Carousel by v4.6

Reykjavik Roasters stands at the top of the square, neatly sandwiched between Frakkastígur (to the left when looking at the café) and Kárastígurand (right). The building dates to 1929 and once housed a double store, which explains the two doors, one each on the front corners, with three large windows between them. Solitary windows down either side help make the front of Reykjavik Roasters a bright, open space, despite its bustle.

If you want to sit outside, there’s a solitary bench between the first and second windows, although no-one will mind if you take your coffee to the other side of the square which has plenty of spots where you can perch. Alternatively, head inside through the right-hand door (the left-hand door, which opens onto Frakkastígur, is exit only at the moment), where you can try to find an unoccupied seat.

Reykjavik Roasters is unusual in that it is T-shaped, with the doors at either end of the top of the T. The counter is in the middle, opposite the middle window, with the downstroke of the T behind it, where there’s more seating. To reach it, you have to go around behind the counter, normally the sole preserve of the baristas.

The main space is long and thin, with the seating around the edges. There’s a table in the window overlooking Kárastígurand immediately to your right when you enter, and another in the first window on your left overlooking the square, where the windowsill has been pressed into service as additional seating. The same applies to the second window, where the table is an upcycled sewing machine stand, with an old dresser acting as a water/takeaway station between the two windows.

Beyond this, a large opening in what used to be the party wall between the two stores leads to the smaller Frakkastígur side. This only has one window at the front, where you’ll find a pair of armchairs. Opposite this, against the back wall (where the roaster used to be) is a matching sofa, while there’s another table by the window overlooking Frakkastígur.

Back on the Kárastígurand side, retail shelves occupy the first part of the back wall, then comes the counter, pretty much in the middle of the shop, where you order and collect your coffee/food. Behind the counter, the downstroke of the T stretches out ahead of you, with a pair of armchairs on the left, a more formal set of comfy chairs on the right, and, at the far end, a sofa, which occupies the back wall next to the toilet. In contrast to the bright front section, the lighting here can best be described as subdued, offering a real contrast in seating.

Amanda and I visited three times, twice for breakfast at the start and end of our trip, and once in the middle for lunch. On all three occasions we had a combination of oatmeal porridge and sourdough toast with jam and cheese, although we had intended to have soup for lunch. However, the staff were out of soup that day, so we fell back on porridge! Both porridge (rich and creamy) and toast (tasty and crunchy) were excellent, while the jam (mixed berry) was awesome.

Our coffee was slightly more varied, with a combination of cortados and flat whites made with the Mariano, the house espresso from Brazil, along with a pair of single-origin pour-overs. In the cortado, the Mariano was fruity, coming strongly through the milk, while the flat white was richer and creamier.

For our pour-overs, we tried two different Colombian single-origins. The La Cascada was my favourite, a lovely, sweet, delicate and fruity coffee, while Amanda, always more discerning than me, got cacao nibs and blueberry, although she preferred the El Volcan which we had at Brautarholt. Our final pour-over was the Las Mercedes, a rich, smooth, full-bodied coffee with tasting notes of dark honey and lime.

KÁRASTÍGUR 1 • 101 REYKJAVIK • ICELAND +354 517 5535
Monday 08:30 – 17:00 Roaster Reykjavik Roasters (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:30 – 17:00 Seating Tables, Armchairs, Sofa; Bench (outside)
Wednesday 08:30 – 17:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 08:30 – 17:00 Service Counter
Friday 08:30 – 17:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 09:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 17:00 Power No
Chain Local Visits 23rd, 27th, 29th July 2021

You can see what fellow blogger Bex made of Kárastígur in her Reykjavik coffee guide, while you can also check out what Amanda and I made of the second Reykjavik Roasters on Brautarholt and the third Reykjavik Roasters inside the Ásmundarsalur art gallery.

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