Grapevine’s correspondents arrived early in the evening so we were practically the only guests there, but that would change soon. The first things that greeted us when we came up the stairs boded well for the evening ahead: A life-size statue of an Afro-American clown and a vintage jukebox. We were seated by the window in the pleasant dining room, so we could enjoy the spectacular view which included two of Reykjavík’s major landmarks: The hot-dog stand on the Lækjartorg square and “Núllið”, Reykjavík’s only proper public convenience (urinating is complementary but you have to pay a small fee for more extensive operations).
One of us lit a cigarette while we leafed through the appetizing menus and then came the first shock of the evening: smoking is completely forbidden in the restaurant. The smokers in the group were relieved, though, when they were informed that they were allowed to smoke in the lounge upstairs. While there, we chatted with the Swedish engineer Inge Gunnar Jonsson, who complained bitterly about being relegated to the attic to satisfy his addiction. When Swedes complain of over-regulation you know that something is wrong. The homely wood-panelled lounge itself was extremely cosy, though, and in fact reminded us of the editor’s home, the only difference being the lack of hairballs, empty beer cans and stacks of John Cougar Mellencamp CDs (Bruce Springsteen, goddammit. How often do I have to say this?-Ed).
When we returned downstairs, it was time to order the starters. One of us went for the cream of wild goose – delicious, although a little to salty (strange, since the soup had nothing to hide, taste-wise), another tried the “foie gras,” French duck liver (or “Freedom duck liver”, as he insisted on calling it), which was stunningly delicious and melted in the mouth like butter. Much to our surprise, our editor, who was celebrating his birthday, ordered the only vegetable starter on the menu: eggplant and parmesan tart, served with smoked cheese, arugula and tomato “confit.” We suspected that perhaps he was on a mission to iron out the wrinkles in his birthday suit. As the evening wore on, it became increasingly clear that these suspicions were completely groundless.
Café Ópera’s speciality is their “Hot Rock Fantasy”: The diners fry their meal themselves on piping hot granite rocks. There are two options: Meat Fantasy (cuts of beef, lamb and pork) and Fish Fantasy. At first we thought that the latter had something to do with Fish, former lead singer of Marillion. Guðrún and Tanja, our astoundingly gorgeous waitresses, were quick to correct us: The Fish Fantasy consists of various fresh seafood: Salmon, tuna, scallop, lobsters and shrimp. We ordered a combination of the two fantasies, Guðrún and Tanja dressed us in aprons and chefs’ hats, and soon we were frying away. The fish and meat was fresh and tasty and was served with a baked potato filled with cream cheese, garlic butter for frying and two different sauces: Barbecue and soya. The barbecue sauce wasn’t in quite the same class as the rest of the meal; a good French mustard would have been more appropriate. Dazed after this feast, we retired to the upstairs lounge for dessert and coffee. Grapevine’s correspondents shared a tasting of sorbets and custards. Two obese thumbs up.
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