The Nighttime Edition
Something that always seems to be missing in reviews of restaurants, bars, cafés and whatnot, is the bathroom. And when you think about it, the flowery potpourri smell in the bathroom might make up for a semi-flat beer, and stumbling upon a clogged toilet could make you forget about all the great food you just got. What good is a good service if your experience is shadowed by a dirty bathroom?
When writing these reviews, I went to some of Reykjavík’s most popular bars to check out their bathroom facilities: Did they have soap and toilet paper? Was the number of the toilets sufficient considering the place’s size and popularity? Was it clean and did it smell nice?
Vínsmakkarinn offers some of the best service I’ve ever experienced, but sadly, this is only a review of the bathroom facilities. Their bathroom, unlike the service, was not perfect. On the upside, the most important things—namely, soap and toilet paper—were in stock. However, the bathroom wasn’t very clean; furthermore, two silverfish ran past my feet while I was in there, which was both gross and indicated a possible humidity problem.
The first bathroom stall I tried had its lock all bent and broken, as if someone had tried to open the door with a crowbar. On to the next one. It was tiny, which would have been okay if the door didn’t open inwards. I’m probably skinny enough to squeeze in there, but my dress didn’t allow me to climb over the toilet to close the door without risking falling into the bowl.
My journey continued upstairs, to the stalls next to the smoking area. The queue time would have been okay if it hadn’t been for drunk people cutting in front of everybody. The stall I finally got was adequate enough for a decent review, but one shouldn’t have to go through so much trouble to find a working bathroom.
Poet Pálmi Freyr Hauksson recently declared the men’s bathroom at Bar 11 the worst-smelling place in Iceland, describing the scent as akin to having someone constantly peeing right into your nostrils.
Pálmi pretty much sums it up. The air down there is toxic, and more often than not you try to avoid being in the basement since the smell tends to stink up the entire floor. I could have been annoyed by the fact that there wasn’t any toilet paper (apart from what was clogging the toilet), but the only thing that seemed important at the time was getting in and out as quickly as possible, before I would faint and suffer brain damage from the lack of oxygen.
There are two good things about Kaffibarinn’s bathroom; it’s spacious, which gives you a little break from the crowded dance floor where you have sweaty people from all directions grinding against your body, and it has a hanger so your coat and/or purse don’t have to touch the dirty floor.
However, there was pee all over the seat, toilet paper was nowhere to be found and the room reeked of urine and cigarettes. Also note, Kaffibarinn harbours a lot of sexual tension (hence the grinding people on the dance floor), which serves to stretch out the bathroom line, as a lot of patrons like to go there in pairs for some reason.
During weekends, this place becomes a total stink bomb. I’m pretty sure the students cramming for their exams at Háskólatorg prefer to sneak down to the bar to use the private bathrooms for their number twos instead of the half-open stalls next to their study areas. How else can you explain the chronic smell of poop?
Furthermore, the smoking area sits by the entrance in a totally wind-free area, so the smoke tends to waft inside to the bathrooms (and sometimes all the way into classrooms). The area needed a thorough cleaning when I visited—there was some toilet paper on the floor—but still, there was plenty of toilet paper left, and soap in abundance. On the plus side, there were a bunch of bathrooms available, making the chances of a waiting time slim.
Considering there was more staff at the bar than customers, someone should have checked out the bathroom situation. The booth handle was sticky for some reason, and there was a lot of apparently used paper on the floor. Still, all the necessities were present, and the standard queue was absent, with abundant booths.
Paloma gets the honour of having the longest line to a female bathroom (of all the places surveyed). Men enjoy the use of a urinal in addition to their private bathroom, and indeed I saw many females sneak in there while I waited for the women’s bathroom. When it was finally my turn to go and I was about to sit down, I realized that the seat was actually not a seat; it was a broken toilet lid with a very large hole in it. The edges seemed sharp and dangerous, and the thought of someone sitting down without noticing it was pretty disturbing. Of course, neither bathroom had toilet paper or soap on offer.
As it’s part of a hotel, Micro Bar’s bathroom is usually very clean. On the night of my visit, the women’s bathroom had recently been cleaned, but the men’s bathroom was festering in neglect. Ultimately, though, everything was clean—and they have wheelchair access.
The wait for the women’s bathroom was way too long considering there was no queue to speak of. Eventually I gave up and opted for the men’s room. There seemed to be only one toilet for men and one for women (with the women’s offering wheelchair access). Once I finally got in, the bathrooms themselves proved decent. However, anyone forced to spend time waiting is subjected to a terrible stink, as the smoking area is poorly closed off.
Dillon’s bathroom facilities proved to be quite the surprise, reminding me that one should never judge a book by its cover.
The bar itself isn’t very clean-looking. The interior is mostly made of timber (which is difficult to keep clean). However, the bathroom was not only clean, but there also seemed to have been a whole other architect working on it. Despite some waiting time, my bathroom experience at Dillon was great—there was nothing missing and it smelled really nice.
The stalls in the women’s bathroom were decorated with a huge, pink, pixelated photograph of Reykjavík, covered with large empty frames. One could guess that guests were supposed to write a message or something in those frames, but no one seemed to get that idea. Now, while I was soaking in all that art, three girls struggled to get out of their booths, the locks all stiff. Both the women’s and men’s rooms were fairly dirty, and the synthetic air freshener smell failed to cover up the toilet stink. However, apart from a single broken sink everything else was up to code.
In a fairly new bar you expect a fairly new bathroom. The first thing I noticed, however, was that the new-paint-smell had already given way to the bog-standard puke-and-poop-scent so prevalent in bar bathrooms. Of course I realised that there was no toilet paper after I sat down. Thankfully, someone in the next stall all of a sudden handed me a roll from beneath the divider and said, “Hey there! I noticed that this stall didn’t have any toilet paper and I know how gross it is to have your vagina marinating in your panties all night!”
For some reason there were a lot more men than women at this bar. Naturally this affects the gender-divided bathrooms. When I visited, the women’s room was by no means perfect, but it was fine, given that it was fairly neat and had toilet paper, soap and hand dryers. However, the men’s room was dirty and generally pretty terrible. Those wanting to wash their hands in that space are made to stand ass to ass with some random guy using the urinal that’s right across the sink in the tiny room. Also, there was no area private enough for guys with shy bladders (nor shy colons).
Frederiksen Ale House
Frederiksen is a brand new bar located where Café Amsterdam used to be. Never have I ever seen such an improvement on a bar. Last time I went to Amsterdam’s bathroom I slipped and fell in puke. I don’t see that happening at the new Frederiksen. As to be expected of brand new toilets, they were absolutely spotless. Plenty of toilet paper and nice smell of pure cleanliness (no artificial smells used for covering up something nasty). The bar was packed but as they had plenty of toilet stalls (including a wheelchair accessible one) no one had to wait. But the best part was the fact that the soap dispensers had motion sensors, so you never needed to touch them.