Walk-ins, sad to say, belong to a bygone era of Reykjavík. Nowadays if you call to inquire about dinner you’re given the standard have-an-afternoon-snack-at-six or starve-until-ten ultimatum. Of two evils, we chose the latter this time. KOPAR restaurant was jam-packed by the time we showed up—half an hour early and ravenous. In Iceland, novelty catches fire quicker than kindling, and this newest addition to the Old Harbour neighbourhood was flaming. I felt as if I had been invited to a housewarming party at someone’s awesome new apartment. The place was raw and simple, baring its brick walls, iron railings and wooden rafters to create a sort of urban-industrial atmosphere, and the party was steadily getting louder in a warm, welcoming way.
Our table wasn’t nearly ready, but a friendly waitress walked us up the winding stairs and seated us by the bar. She then forgot us for a while before taking our orders for drinks and then promptly forgot us a while longer before finally bringing them (in her defence, it was a very busy night). I ordered the lime pie mojito, which arrived in a beautiful copper cup with a candy cane-striped straw. The creamy lime liquid would have been divine except for the “pie”—which I assume referred to the soggy biscuit that had been dispersed in my drink. Next time, I’ll ask for my pie on the side.
Our table was ready at precisely ten. Everything on the menu sounded amazing, from the deep-fried cod cheeks to the spicy crab cakes, from seafood risotto to the smoky BBQ ribs. My head was reeling from too many scrumptious options, so I was very grateful when our waitress recommended the KOPAR Adventure nine-course chef’s menu (7,400 ISK). The wine list consisted of a few bottles each from a number of different countries, both Old World and New, most of which were reasonably priced at 5,900–8,500 ISK. Their selection of house wines was not quite as stellar, but our waitress recommended Peter Lehmann Wildcard Shiraz to go with our main course, which turned out to be an acceptable match.
Our first course, the deep-fried cod cheeks, was a golden promise of what was yet to come. Dipped in a savoury lemon-oil sauce, they were a wonderfully crisp and juicy start to our meal; worth a visit in themselves.
I had been looking forward to trying out the Iceland rock crab salad, as KOPAR is the first restaurant to serve this locally sourced crustacean. But as much as I love avocado, it simply overwhelmed the starring ingredient and reduced it to barely a trace.
Next came the catfish atlanticus, crusted with pistachios and soaked in lobster-infused champagne sauce. The dish was so lovingly crafted that I could taste the painstaking care that had been put into it, though I couldn’t say the same about our frightfully overcooked salmon.
Our next dish was a crispy leg of turkey, large enough to sustain a caveman until the arrival of civilization. Each course was served promptly without feeling rushed, but the staff often forgot to take care of auxiliary details: our table had a spill on it when we arrived and our waitress didn’t always remember to clear our plates before the next dish was served, which was a little unappetising.
The star of the evening, however, was the glorious beef cheek bourguignon, so tender that it fell apart as I was cutting it and worth five stars on its own. My only quip was that the previous portions had been so large that we hardly had any room left in our stomachs—something that almost never happens to me.
While “emphasis on local and sustainable ingredients” isn’t exactly the most original idea for a restaurant, it certainly is a classic one that’s here to stay.
Let’s hope KOPAR is, too.
What We Think: A terrific setting with truly tempting menu, though some dishes need a little honing
Flavour: Icelandic land-and-sea fusion
Ambiance: A buzzing party in studio loft
Service: Forgetful but friendly
Price For 2 (With Drinks): 8,000-12,000 ISK
Our Rating: 3.5/5