Appearances can be deeply deceptive. In the case of the exterior of the recently-opened Arnarhvoll, this is a welcome realisation as the outside is a mush of grey stone with barely more than an average front door to welcome guests. In contrast, take the lift to the top floor restaurant and you’ll forgive the monochrome building as one of Reykavík’s finest mountain views floods into the snowy white dining room whilst the outside terrace is even more extraordinary. I chose to have the three-course menu as I’d previously eaten lunch at the Arnarhvoll and found the main course portion sizes to be amusingly small (“I didn’t order a starter…oh”) but skilfully presented and completely delicious.
The first course – a plate of goat’s cheese, Parma ham, beetroot, caramelised baby onions and tiny slices of crisped bread accompanied by assorted foams and dashes of sauce – was the very essence of nouvelle cuisine. Little actual cooking had gone into the dish, but each tiny island of beetroot or parcel of ham and cheese was presented with a surgeon’s eye for precision and which equally satisfied the eye and taste bud with the smooth, rich cheese proving to be the perfect foil for the tart ham and the onions bursting with rich juice. The addition of the chef’s trick du jour, fluffy foam served in extravagant flourishes around the plate, was unnecessary but showed that the cook really cared about elevating his food above the sum of its ingredients.
Icelandic lamb is one of the country’s national treasures and the main course did it justice with a delicious medium-rare fillet served in a burnt butter reduction alongside, most memorably, a lambs tongue. Whilst the fillet was rich and tender, as expected in a top restaurant, the tongue was a revelation with its dense meat providing a perfect balance between texture and flavour. The two carrots and two chips accompanying the dish suggested, however, that the idea of minimal nouvelle cuisine has been taken a little too seriously. The dessert was a standard chocolate mousse served with a divine but minuscule helping of coconut ice-cream. Less may be more in some cases but when the food is this good, less is simply dinner deprivation.
- Where: Ingólfsstræti 1 101 Reykjavík Tel.: 595 8540