Published August 3, 2012
First thing you need to know about Slippbar is that the plates get served the moment they are ready. We made the mistake of ordering charcuterie and what I figured qualified as a first course and a main course together, and they all arrived immediately and all at the same time. So we ended up looking like a pair of blob monsters with a broken fridge. Granted, this idiosyncrasy is outlined on the menu but a little heads-up from the servers would have been nice. This is was in line with the service that was to follow, individual servers were fine once you could get a hold of them, but getting their attention was like flag-signalling a troglobite. Which was weird since there was easily one server per seated table.
So, lucky ducky that Slippbar serve yummy gummy food. And since it all arrived together, we can talk about this in no particular order.
The charcuterie (3,100 ISK) was probably the best I’ve had in Iceland (which isn’t saying much) and seems to be assembled based on availability. Although I’m not sure if charcuterie is the right term, since in my book that only applies to meats and Slippbar’s platter always seems to include pickles, cheese, nuts and bread—“antipasto” would seem like a better fit. This time around, it was composed of the Icelandic “Ljótur” blue cheese, a sharp cheddar, olives, serrano, chorizo, pepperoni, a leek kielbasa (I think) and pickled fennel, which sat there like a pale acidic jellyfish and really helped brighten up the meats. A pretty aggressive platter.
The menu bears the marks of the constant dialogue that takes place between modern cuisine in this country and Icelandic food heritage. Icelandic restaurant culture came into its own about 10–15 years ago. I distinctly remember when I saw my first mango, my first avocado and even my first taco—none of this stuff was widely available until well after I was born. (I recently hit 30.) And coincidentally, this transformation of the Icelandic food scene takes place during turbulent times in world cuisine. There are a number of food movements operating at the same time. Trends burn out in a matter of weeks and the concurrent demand for novelty and authenticity seems to be here to stay. So these are treacherous waters and Iceland’s lack of a proper culinary heritage gave it buoyancy to begin with, but it remains to be seen whether it will help in the long run. God knows there is only so much you can do with trout, liquorice and rye bread before you’ve backed yourself into a corner. Icelandic chefs have shown a lot of ingenuity but they have their work cut out for them.
Example of that was the shredded clothes (2,750 ISK), basically a lamb ropa vieja with roasted root vegetables, served on toast. It’s an excellent dish, both saucy and tender and a nice way of inflicting outside influences on local ingredients. Recommended.
The Marina fish soup (2,750 ISK), “possibly the best fish soup in town,” was a seafood soup similar to bouillabaisse. It had scallops and salmon, was quite light and sharp and heavy on tomatoes. A good alternative to the creamy chowders around town but not particularly remarkable in other ways.
Slippbar offered a happy hour on gin cocktails while we were there, and I really enjoyed my gin gimlet with the kaffir lime leaf. The rosemary fizz one with the egg white was kind of pointless though—it basically tasted like a fizzy gimlet with a rosemary loogie. Crazy stuff. Incidentally, one of the best drag queens in Iceland (out of uniform, regrettably) seemed to be running the show behind the bar the night I was there and doing a damn good job of it too.
The calamari (1,690 ISK) was nice and tender in a lightly coloured orly batter and came with a real tonsil tickler of a chilli sauce. It was called “squid and aioli” on the menu – Slippbarinn seem to be going to some lengths in avoiding the Italian culinary terms.
I like the design of Marina. It’s livelier than the other Icelandair hotels. Seems like someone actually tried to inject some character into the bar and lobby, although the large wooden sculpture of an old man taking a leak outside the restrooms was too much character for my tastes.
Speaking of which, let’s end with a splash and mention the highlight of the evening—the flatbread (2,250 ISK). The flatbread comes in three varieties, I can’t vouch for the other two, but the salted cod and tomato flatbread is definitely worth a revisit. Basically a piadina the size of a 9” pizza, loaded with brown olives, mizuna, pesto, tomatoes, chunks of salted cod and large flakes of parmesan. Kind of like a Catalan pizza and mucho tasty.
What we think: Tasty dishes of all sizes, served as they come
Flavour: Kind of Icelandic-Italian disguised as French-Spanish
Ambiance: Share a cocktail and watch the dockworkers
Price for 2 (with drinks): 8–12,000 ISK