Beware the jocks and yuppies
None of these Austurstræti landmarks was the destination of Grapevines´correspondents, as we headed towards the restaurant/bar Thorvaldsen on a chilly evening in late December back in ‘04. Outside, we ran into the guitarist of the Icelandic punk band Tony Blair, who warned us of the jocks and yuppies that he claimed frequented the place. But they were nowhere to be seen when we entered the small and pleasant dining area and were seated by the window, with a view over Austurvöllur and the Althing. The atmosphere was relaxed and the lighting cosy – so cosy that if it hadn’t been for the lights from the Norwegian Christmas tree on Austurvöllur, we probably wouldn’t have been able to read the menu at all. The menu itself is short and to-the-point, as Thorvaldsen is as much a café and bar as it is a fully fledged restaurant. This is also reflected in the prices, which are relatively reasonable.
Like a duel between Cat Stevens and Slash…
First we tasted the coconut curry seafood soup with vegetables and mixed seafood. The generous serving of assorted fish, shrimp and shell fish looked fresh and delicious, but the taste was overpowered by the excessively robust curry flavour, which was delicious in itself but completely drowned out the delicate flavour of the seafood. It was like witnessing a guitar duel between Cat Stevens and Slash; although you can see Cat, he doesn’t have a chance of being heard over the powerful and almighty Slash. However, the Spanish goat cheese with Jamon Serrano, salad and honey melon sauce was a deceptively simple but stunningly delicious dish.
The yuppies arrive
For main courses we tried the monkfish on a spit with mango chili sauce, salad and baked potato and the lamb fillet on a spit with mango chili sauce, pan-fried vegetables and baked potato. Monkfish is a particular favourite of ours and this one was fine, if a little overcooked. The accompanying salad had obviously lost most of its crunch by the time it reached us, but the potatoes, filled with sour cream, were excellent. Despite our minor culinary misgivings this was all in all a solid meal in an agreeable environment. As the clock edged past ten and we were sipping our coffees, the place was suddenly filled by the kinds of people the Tony Blair guitarist probably had in mind. The cosy restaurant/café ambience was gone and the place had suddenly turned into a noisy and trendy bar. As we edged past a former Mr. Iceland and the legendarily well-endowed drummer in one of the country’s biggest pop groups, we agreed that for a relaxed lunch or a casual dinner, you could do far worse than to visit Thorvaldsen. Just make sure you’ll be out of there by 10 o’clock.
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