A couple of weeks ago, EPI and I decided to go out for dinner to celebrate our wedding anniversary. After brief deliberation we decided on Tapas barinn, since we’d heard good things about it lately. I mention that because, well, we tried it when it first opened around 2002 or thereabouts, and were decidedly underwhelmed. If memory serves we ordered some kind of tapas taster menu, and thought it was pretty scant and basically not much like tapas at all – at least not the kind of tapas we’d experienced on our trips to Spain in the past.
BUT like I said, we’d heard good things about it lately, so decided to give it another go [in other words, we hadn’t gone there since that first time, excepting one time when we went there after the theatah with a group of people we were with and just had a drink and maybe one tapas serving].
We’d been told the current tapas taster menu was amazing. However, that recommendation came with an aside: namely that we should make sure to ask them to bring us the food slowly. Otherwise they’d just be bombarding us with tapas dishes and we wouldn’t have time to just sit there and enjoy.
We thought that sounded like a stellar idea, so when we ordered the taster menu of seven or so tapas dishes, we specifically asked the waitress to bring it to us slowly. “No problem,” was the reply.
It started out reasonably well. She brought us a basket of bread with hummus and tapenade, plus a glass of sparkling wine that was included. EPI ordered some red wine, which she brought before we were even halfway through our first drink.
Which sort of set the pace for the rest of the evening.
After a reasonable length of time, the waitress showed up again, bearing two plates of tapas per person: bacon-wrapped scallops and dates, and toasted baguette with foie gras atop some kind of sweet chutney.
YT: Um, we asked to have the food brought to us in succession. We don’t want the dishes to come all at once.
WAITRESS: Oh, yeah, I know. It’s just these first two that come at the same time. The others will come slowly.
Fair enough. We’re good people, prepared to cut a working girl some slack. And I’ll readily admit that both of those were pretty darn tasty, even though I would soon start to feel like that foie gras goose myself.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Next our waitress brought linguistine [wee Icelandic lobsters] grilled with garlic, which was also pretty tasty, although the linguistine was a little on the mealy side. Like the kind you get in Bónus, as opposed to the stuff you buy from a quality fishmonger.
But hey, we were still cool.
Next the waitress returned bearing three servings of tapas apiece.
Three. Servings. Of tapas. For each of us. Six plates of tapas manouvered into the small space on the table in front of us.
That’s when I gave her that look. That look that says: Excuse me, but which part of BRING THE FOOD SLOW don’t you understand?
YT: We asked to have our food brought slowly.
WAITRESS: Yeah, well, I can’t bring it any slower than this. It would stop the whole kitchen. We can’t stop the kitchen for just one table.
OOOH. ~~ OOOH.
Dear readers, this is Icelandic service culture in a nutshell. In Icelandic service culture, THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS WRONG. In fact? THE CUSTOMER CAN SUCK SAUSAGES because WE CAN’T STOP THE KITCHEN FOR JUST ONE TABLE.
I’m not even going to get INTO all the things that I could get into, like how other restaurants in this city that offer most excellent tasting menus can time the succession of their servings without the entire freaking restaurant spinning off its axis.
Or how the people at Tapas barinn could have, maybe, just told us that we’d be stopping the whole freaking kitchen with our insane demands, for instance after the part where we asked to have our food brought SLOWLY and before the waitress said “Sure, no problem.”
Or how one of those three tapas dishes consisted of a baked potato [!?!] that on top of everything else was inedible. And how one of the others consisted of duck breast that tasted like it had been boiled for 12 hours, then slapped on a plate with orange sauce. Or how just about every one of those tapas dishes was garnished with a bit of salad, that was all the same [lettuce leaves, diced bell peppers, dressing].
Instead we called the manager over. And we were not happy campers. We told him we had specifically asked to have our servings paced. He responded with the remark that if they did that for every single table, we would have to wait for an hour for each dish.
That may have been the point where I mentioned that I was writing a restaurant review. Which may have been the point where he said he’d give us complementary dessert. Which was probably when I told him we didn’t want his dessert because it was already included in the freaking taster menu that they were so intent on shoving down our throats.
EPI, who is usually the calm one in these situations, had smoke coming out of his ears and was ready to get up and walk out. I made him stay because I wanted dessert. Which, I might add, was excellent, and had nothing in common with anything Spanish – French chocolate cake with whipped cream and strawberries.
Once that was down the old hatch, we got up and left, with little love lost. It wasn’t until we got home that I realized that the manager had actually taken 20% off our bill, probably as a conciliatory measure, although he made no mention of it. So they get a point for that … and 2.5 stars for their food. As for an enjoyable night out … I think we’ll spend a few more crowns next time and go somewhere where they really know their game.