Ok, enough whingeing: here comes a restaurant review.
EPI and I went out for dinner on Friday night with a couple of friends to Vín og skel [Wine and Shell – NB not the oil company] on Laugavegur. I’d been curious about the place for a while, having heard good things about it. In fact, I’d wanted to try it in its previous location, a bit further up on Laugavegur, tucked away down an alleyway and inside a little courtyard that was supposed to serve as an idyllic sheltered place in summer, where we could all pretend we were on continental Europe, sitting outside and freezing our butts off. But that’s another story.
Vín og skel specializes in wine and shellfish, as the name suggests, and has a really easygoing bistro feel, with the specials written in chalk on a blackboard and so on. We were tucked away in a corner in the back, which was very cosy, and in general the ambiance was delightful. Also delightful was the service … our waiter, who I believe is the owner of the restaurant, had the sort of easygoing charm I associate more with the US or Canada than with Niceland, where the wait staff tends to be either uptight, aloof, rude, or sometimes all three.
It started off extremely well. We ordered vino [they have a good wine list there and even had my favourite white, Gewürztraminer, although not by my favourite producer, but nevermind] and the execution of the wine service was flawless. The waiter also brought an ice bucket to our table, which is not standard here in Niceland [and indeed debatable whether it is necessary in the land of ice – although inside a geothermally-heated restaurant it probably is]. I ordered something called a Fjöruferð [‘excursion to the shore’] which turned out to be a three-course menu of scallops as an appetizer, monkfish as a main course, and the house chocolate cake for dessert. I asked to substitute the cake for crème brûlée, which was not an issue. [Add a point for flexibility and all-round charm.]
Next we were brought a basket of bread with possibly the most excellent tapenade I’ve ever tasted, and soon afterwards came our appetizers, which were delicious. By this time I was ecstatic. Everything had run absolutely smoothly and I couldn’t fault a thing. – Alas, it was not to last. Our appetizers were taken away, and we waited for at least 30 minutes – if not more – for our main courses. Finally they arrived, and sadly were less than satisfactory. My monkfish was tasty enough, but it was way overcooked [an absolute sin where fish is concerned], and consequently tough like an old piece of leather. EPI had ordered a ‘fish trio’ – salmon, spotted catfish and tuna … and it arrived cold. Also, his fish trio shared the same sauce, which seemed rather substandard and contrasted sharply with our previous experience at Grillið, where the three fishes all had their own sauce. Our friends both reported the same dissatisfaction with their food – it was merely average, or thereabouts.
By this time the service had also fallen rather severely from grace, as EPI waited for five or ten minutes for a new set of cutlery [we’d all had ours taken away after the appetizers, but a waitress had brought new cutlery for us all, except EPI] and eventually we actually had to fetch the girl to bring it [did I mention his food was already cold?]. My friend L. had also ordered more red wine and that took forever to arrive, meaning she ate a large portion of her main course without it [unforgivable].
Seeing as the main course is, well, sort of the main course, this put a rather large damper on the experience. Meanwhile, the dessert was just fine – my crème brûlée was satisfying and EPI’s chocolate cake was very good.
I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt and think that they were having an off day with the overcooked and cold fish, but don’t quote me on it. However, the service was utterly charming, so that carries some clout. Dinner for me and EPI, with a bottle of wine, came to ISK 17.960 [USD 265/EUR 173] and I now see on closer inspection of the bill that we were charged with a coffee we didn’t order. Just goes to show you should always check your bill at the table.
All in all, three out of five for the food, and subtract half a point for charging us for something we didn’t order.
Afterwards we wandered into a few pubs/clubs and wound up at Næsti bar, which is the only place in Reykjavík where you don’t have to shout to be heard [i.e. they don’t play deafening music to make people drink more]. It’s also where all the theatah people hang out, and sure enough, there was dreamy Gael Garcia Bernal hob-knobbing with the locals [he’s in Reykjavík doing a play, if you remember], while all the Nicelanders were trying really hard to act like they didn’t see him. Hilarious. However, that is probably why famous people like coming here – because everyone goes out of their way not to see them.
Right now it looks lovely out there. There’s no wind to speak of, and the sky is mostly brilliant blue with a handful of scattered white clouds. Temps according to Yahoo are 0°C [32F] so not too terribly cold. Sunup today 8.02, sundown scheduled for 7.14 pm.