Funky Bhangra – the unique culinary experience taking Reykjavik by storm
By Philip Denvir
At Funky Bhangra, Visitors and residents of Iceland’s capital can experience a mouthwatering menu fusing Indian and Nordic ingredients.
Funky Bhangra is the realisation of a dream of the entrepreneur and former TV chef, Yesmine Olsson, and her husband Arngrinur Fannar. They wanted to develop Indian food with a Scandinavian twist. “I think so many people are looking to surprise their taste buds and are looking for new flavours. Our goal is for people to experience many different flavours in one bite with loads of texture that is crunchy and fresh like Scandinavian herbs and pickles against the smooth, vibrant and pungent Indian aromas,” Yesmine explains.
“We hope our food will taste so good that people want to start dancing. That is the idea behind the name and our slogan ‘Funky Bhangra’. Bhangra is in my opinion the happiest, most energetic and colourful dance in the world. “Funky” means that we break all the rules as we are not traditional but a fusion of cultures and flavours.”
Located in downtown Reykjavik, Funky Bhangra’s stylish home, designed by Yesmine herself, is in a historic former post office and gaol; the Posthus food hall. Here diners can enjoy numerous taste sensations including, for example, Icelandic lamb with traditional Swedish lingonberry jam marinated overnight in Indian spices. For those with a sweet tooth, perhaps the most intriguing dish combines a Nordic favourite of salty white chocolate caramel with traditional Indian chutneys and spices.
Gourmands can also indulge in a range of Funky Bhangra’s signature marriage of Indian and Scandinavian ingredients catering for carnivores, vegetarians, vegans and even purists of Indian cuisine. The two restauranteurs are especially proud of their kitchen’s extensive use of fresh, seasonal and locally sourced ingredients and their multicultural contributors and staff.
“I think this exciting new thinking of combinations is what makes us interesting, and when you connect it with the story behind, I think it tastes even better,” says Yesmine adding: “We are lucky to work with a wonderful international team who are always consulted and whose creative contributions are welcome.”
Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Sweden, Yesmine has led a self- confessed nomadic life before settling in Iceland. Her travels have taken her on a learning path to India, London and New York, including a Michelin starred restaurant. Yesmine is an award-winning author, TV presenter and choreographer.
“I was the first foreigner to have my own show on Icelandic TV, introducing how to cook this amazing flavour for my home people. One of the TV shows was shown on the Finnish channel in Sweden. I then did the Bollywood youth show which was a mix of what I considered the best dances out of the Bollywood movies on stage in a mix with my own recipes cooked and served as a fancy dinner event in Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall, “ she says. All of this resulted in the creatively cross-kitchen cuisine that is Funky Bhangra and the creation of the company’s logo, a Bengal tiger joined with the Icelandic ram.
Yesmine explains: “Our logo has great meaning, being the mix of more than one world. The creature we made is a new animal, a mix between a Bengal tiger and an Icelandic ram. Representing everyone who came from many places, which I think is most people, which then brings us new beautiful creations and flavours to the table.”
Bringing the Bhangra
Funky Bhangra also supplies food services for special events and parties. One exciting recent event was catering for the Gourmet Club four-day mountaineering trip. The hikers were delivered pre-prepared food boxes that only involved warming up.
However, the restauranteurs have high hopes for further future developments and expansions to offer their special kind of fusion cuisine to more foodies and share Yesmine’s love of the holistic dining and entertainment experience. “We are hoping to develop our chocolates and spice blends to put them in beautiful boxes so that they can be shared with the rest of the world. We are also looking at creating a second place with focus on hosting events and serving our new take on party foods for celebrations. That is what we did until we opened the first restaurant, and, with a little bit of showbiz added, that has been very successful,” Yesmine says and rounds off: “Finally, the dream is to maybe expand back home to Sweden but only the future will tell. Bring on the Bhangra!”.
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Receive our monthly newsletter by email