It’s hard to be objective about a place when you’ve been so many times before and have already formed some conclusions. When eating rather than clubbing here, it’s still the Thorvaldsen atmosphere you are used to. There are lots of inoffensive beige tones and very comfortable seating. There is a different display of art on the walls every month, which helps the regulars feel like they’re going somewhere new. Patrons are a busy mix of tourists and locals, the latter mainly being comprised of groups of women over the age of 30, smoking long cigarettes and gossiping (I suspect this is what those famous Icelandic saumaklúbbar (sewing clubs) are for).
The food has Asian influences, and the offering is quite varied and creative (there is a venison “lychee mojito” starter). The menu itself is a bit irritating. I guess the attempt to categorize everything as “Thorvaldsen vs something” is meant to identify the inspiration for the section, but I found it a bit hard to follow and possibly even confusing for some (hands up any visitor who knows the category they mean when they write “bland í poki”).
Most restaurants seem to have either very generous servings or terrific presentation. The latter is definitely the strong point of the meals at Thorvaldsen. The people sitting next to us ordered sashimi that would not have been out of place at a posh London sushi joint. My dish featured a Parma ham-wrapped monkfish tower with generous quantities of coriander, although the poor naan bread at the bottom of the tower got a bit soggy languishing in the sauce.
Overall, the main dishes presented interesting flavour combinations (see naan bread and monkfish combo above), but I felt that the starters and the desserts were a bit overpriced. I guess someone has to pay for all the time it takes to stack the tomato slices and arrange the parsley sprigs just so.
For regulars to Thorvaldsen in the evenings, it’s hard to shake the idea that you’re paying what seems like a lot to dine in a nightclub. Thorvaldsen deserves to be seen as a restaurant in its own right, however, and for tourists, it is a good example of a typical and high quality Reykjavík bistro-bar. For the rest of us, you won’t find any surprises, but it’s a good place to head with a few friends to eat out (just order a main course though!) once in a while.