Café Oliver is an establishment that is perhaps best known for its place in the Icelandic nightlife. At night time it’s brimming with drunk, muscular young men with bleached hair – and the women who love them. It leads a double life, however, as it’s also a top notch restaurant by day.
As soon as my dining partner and I arrived we received an enthusiastic reception from a large number of friendly and competent staff. We arrived at six, and the main rush only starts just before seven, so the place actually seemed overstaffed at first – very unusual in Iceland where labour doesn’t come cheap. As it turned out, every single table was taken within the hour so they were wise to be prepared.
We opted for a bread platter as a starter, served with olive paste, aioli and ruccola butter. It was such a good combination we had to restrain ourselves from filling up on the bread before our main courses arrived, a generous portion of grilled lobster tails and a filet mignon with foie gras respectively. The lobster was refreshingly different from most such dishes, as it was prepared with apples, mango and garlic foam. The result was a fruity flavour reminiscent of the beach in summer time, to get my arty farty critique comment out of the way. My counterpart was equally delighted with his filet mignon, but he turned out not to be a fan of foie gras in general, and barely touched the poor goose’s liver. I scolded him on his cold heartedness and ordered dessert.
It’s unusual, in my experience, for a dessert to manage to outdo a good meal that came before it but the hot chocolate-nougat cake with caramelle sauce and blueberry ice cream did just that. I still dream of it on some nights. The cheesecake was also quite good, but if you only follow one piece of advice you read in the Grapevine your entire life, let it be this: order the goddamned hot chocolate-nougat cake. The only way you could ever regret that move is if you got hit by a truck while eating it.
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