Survival of the fittest could well apply to Reykjavík restaurants. Never has there been such an abundance of eateries, so it’s mystifying that natural selection hasn’t yet weeded out the likes of Kopar.
Headed by Ylfa Helgadóttir, Kopar’s location—with a top floor view over Reykjavik’s old harbour—was widely appreciated. However, the website’s description of the ‘fresh and energetic atmosphere of the old harbour’ as part of the dining experience is rather ironic.
My earliest meal at Kopar this year was during the Food and Fun festival, when guest chef Amandine Chaignot wooed us with a flawless crispy-skinned trout dish, prepared with technical precision so on-point that I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I went back for lunch a few months later with memories of that skillful execution still fresh in my mind.
The ‘catch of the day’ (1990 ISK) startled me back to reality. It’s well priced, but the ubiquitous cop-out combo of fish fillets, a mound of spuds, an orange and white purée, and some greens is an lunch special curse that needs to be lifted. The chefs wouldn’t be able to pick out their own dishes from a line-up. Restaurateurs, are you listening?
Dinner a few weeks later got off to a disastrous start with two beautiful-looking cocktails—Violetta Mojidito and a Moscow Mule (2,090 ISK)—that were liquid proof that being Instagram-ready maketh not a delicious drink. The hostess swapped them with a disco pink offence, its burning rosemary twig a failed attempt to lure us back into the fold.
The Cod Tongues (2,190 ISK) were a missed opportunity. When deep fried, cod tongues have a velvety creaminess—a characteristic complimented at Matur og Drykkur with a tempura-like batter. Here, they’re speechlessly sandwiched between XL swathes of heavy batter. The Raw Scallop (1,990 ISK) was the only highlight of the meal, the contrasting hot and cold of the spicy jalapeños and cold shellfish so good that the misused dill crumble was forgiven.
We longed for absolution in the main course; it had been a bitingly cold walk to the restaurant and we hoped to be warmed inside and out. However, the Beef Cheek Bourguignon (4,990 ISK) is a dish the French would guillotine Kopar for. It was so deconstructed that we were as befuddled as the waitress, who exclaimed she’d never tried the dish herself. A lonely hunk of dry cheek sits glazed in a puddle of overcooked sauce and split butter reminiscent of reduced balsamic.
The Grilled Monkfish (5,490 ISK) is an all out affront to any sensitivity—gigantic broccolini ‘trees’ deep-fried in their thick house batter atop a mound of basil pesto, pineapple and pomegranate arils. Ironically, it was the absence of Fish and Chips that drew me to Kopar; little did I know we’d be trapped in a deep-fried nightmare. Where is the fish, you wonder? Sitting forlorn in its own puddle of underseasoned misery.
The problem at Kopar is that no two elements seem to speak to each other. The kitchen seems hell-bent on forcing a ‘twist’ onto everything in sight, and nothing is sacred, nor delicious. This is further compounded by the miserably earnest snail-paced service from waiters oblivious about the wares they peddle. Pull up your socks Kopar, your cooking needs to catch up to your popularity.