Published June 2, 2006
Ah, Hótel Holt. A fancy hotel with an even fancier restaurant and home to what must be the fanciest art gallery this side of Fancyland. This reviewer has fond childhood memories of running up his grandparents’ credit card bills by ordering cheese sandwiches from the Holt’s gourmet kitchen at all kinds of inconvenient times, crawling all over the expensive leather furniture and being told not to touch the Cuban cigars and to stop poking the antique books.
Coming back for a meal recently, and on decidedly better behaviour, the experience was more sober and refined. As soon as you enter the gallery, which is basically the interior of the restaurant/lobby, you are greeted by a large collection of paintings by all the greats of Icelandic art. It is sometimes said to be the most valuable single collection in Iceland, and looking around for a moment it’s not hard to believe. As an added bonus, the walls in the cognac room are lined with shelves of ancient-looking books, the only one we could see a date on said 1738, and it clearly wasn’t the oldest.
We were suitably impressed, then, before the meal even began. Having been told that an inexperienced person might accidentally request a 100,000 ISK bottle of wine, we left the selection to our waiter, and he brought us back… eh, something good. Probably French. You can tell we were out of our element here. Underlining that fact was our waiter for the evening: Jeeves, Jr. This was someone who took his job so seriously you got the feeling he would never forgive himself if your glass of water went below the half-empty mark. For all his professionalism he would have done well to crack a smile, though, but I suppose that’s forbidden by contract these days.
The food consisted of modern versions of French haute cuisine, with foam and delicate little side dishes much in evidence. It was all very good, but perhaps not as mind-blowing as one was expecting from a restaurant with such an impeccable reputation. It may be that the Holt is simply a victim of its own success in that regard, served anywhere else a meal like that would probably surprise you with its quality.