Published July 25, 2003


Those who have travelled a lot will know what I am talking about when I moan about the fact that there isn’t a decent coffee shop with small snacks available in the particular town we have been discussing. Small, good looking, clean shops with a distinguished look are hard to find nowadays. Be it Paris, New York or Stockholm, you don’t find these jewels on every street corner no more.
Well, I suppose you don’t know where to look. Because high-calibre coffee shops are still around, but perhaps not where you would be looking. But they are there, oh yes, you’ll most likely find them at places like MoMa in New York City, or similar art museums all over the world. And Reykjavík is no exception !
Believe it or not, you can find this type of coffee shop on the upper floor of the National Gallery of Iceland. The Gallery, situated at Fríkirkjuvegur by the lake in downtown Reykjavík, houses some of the finest art works by Icelandic artists if you are interested. However, you don’t have to pay the admission to the showrooms if you are only going to visit the coffee shop. You just give the nice lady who sells the tickets a nod and a smile as you enter the marble clad foyer and continue up the elegant stairs – and you’ll find the coffee shop on your immediate right as you reach the second landing.
As you come into the coffee shop there is a glass counter where you may order something simple with your coffee. I say simple because there is not a great selection to choose from. On weekdays you can have a soup and salad – or “Today’s Special,” usually a plain fish dish, not fancy but good and tasty. On Saturdays and Sundays you can select either a ham quiche or a broccoli quiche. You should have no problems in making your selection.
A glass of the house wine, red or white, is priced at 610 krónur per glass, the beer goes for 550 krónur and a soda, such as Coca Cola, costs 200 krónur ( approx. $1.60).
If you are not having lunch, just dropping in for a quick cup of coffee and perhaps a cake, you have a choice of apple pie with whipped cream, a blueberry cake or a fancy marenge with pear filling and a lot of whipped cream. The white board on the wall beside the counter also lists coffee cakes and even milk biscuits (sometimes maliciously referred to as dog biscuits). A cup of coffee/tea will cost you 200 krónur for a regular brew, but a cup of Swiss mocha is offered for 280 krónur, – a price that would make Mr.Starbucks wonder!
The furniture and decor is, of course, very stylish and good looking Scandinavian design. There are art works by Danish artist Asger Jorn on the walls plus a few by Corneille. The furniture and the artwork give the coffee shop that clean, almost sterile atmosphere that people occasionally long for, in order to get away from the shabby bistros. Even the back-ground music is different; soothing classical music tuned so low that nobody can recognize it, floats by as if it were a part of the air condition system.
For those who appreciate fine art, the Summer Exhibition of Icelandic Art at the Listasafn is a must. Some may even want to stop by at the coffee shop.

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