There seem to be three things that are crucial to the successful running of the bistro-bars that are ubiquitous in Reykjavík:
1. Good food, preferably served with artistically drizzled balsamic glaze
2. Surroundings that are comfortable for anyone from laptop users or gossiping girlfriends, to first daters and giddy revellers
3. A healthy assortment of beautiful young Nordic people drinking lattés or Coke
Oliver, the current bar du jour in Reykjavík, is expert in all these fields. The food was delicious and well priced. My starter of gnocchi provencal (890 ISK) was creative and flavourful, and presented with the requisite balsamic glaze. The goat’s cheese stuffed chicken breast (1950 ISK) was fantastic and my companion raved about her baked cod (1890 ISK). Everything was beautifully presented and the coffee cups were especially nifty (they are from the “Body Talk” series, if that provides any hint of the reason). Thanks to the large portions, the food is very good value. Many starters would easily suffice for a main course.
The atmosphere at Oliver is very similar to its bistro-bar competitors. There’s a spacious patio on the roof at the back for the few sunny days of summer. A nice touch is the rule that the ground floor remains non-smoking until 10 pm.
The managers at Oliver may be following the pattern of these types of establishments to the letter, but the news is not all good, however. The service, while friendly, was sporadic. It took a while for drinks to arrive and to get someone’s attention to order dessert. The service was fairly indicative of the general mood of the restaurant. Oliver knows it has good food. It knows it is the most popular bistro at the moment. Why does it need to do anything else?
This complacency certainly does not seem to be affecting Oliver’s popularity. Maybe the food and some eye candy really are all people are looking for.