To be blunt, the nightlife in 105 Reykjavík leaves something to be desired. So, when I heard that a new barber/whiskey bar was opening I was very excited. It’s perfect for Reykjavík hipsters who live outside of 101, satisfying the need to drink without the expensive end-of-the-night cab fare as well as being a sufficiently obscure concept to convince Miðbær friends to journey outside their normal 1 km radius.
I left work a bit early to make it in time for Quest – Hair, Beer & Whisky Saloon’s 17:00-18:00 Happy Hour. It’s a shorter timeslot than many other places featured on the Grapevine’s Appy Hour, but the offer of a free Bríó if you buy a dram of whiskey (one shot in a fancy whiskey-specific snifter) is a pretty good deal.
I had expected to find a bar with a quaint barber shop theme, maybe even some novelty barbers to add to the overall decor, but what I found was the exact opposite. Quest is primarily a salon. There is a full bar behind the cash register as well as some comfortable (yet, suitably kitchy) furniture in the back, but beyond that it looks very much like a barber. The difference being that the patrons were all holding pints of beer outside of their smocks.
To understand more about the place I spoke with the owner, Jón A. Sveinsson a.k.a. Nonni Quest. He told me the salon originally belonged to his mother and was opened in 1970, but they moved to this new location in October 2011. He has been trying to create a barber bar for a very long time, and his dream has finally come to fruition.
They only received the liquor licence five weeks ago, but he has operated a B.Y.O.B. policy with some regular customers for sometime. Believe it or not, this is actually the first barber bar. Nonni explained that both KEX and Barber Bar are able to use the liquor licences from the hostel/hotel, making Quest the first establishment to brave the bureaucratic labyrinth at the City Council.
“It’s been a lot of work,” he said, but he has a lot of great ideas and says that business is going very well. He wants to have beer and whiskey mentors come in to deliver seminars on tasting and how to appreciate the drinks.
Eventually, Quest will stop cutting hair after 18:00 and will just be the bar until 23:00. They have already held two intimate after-hours concerts and plan to make it a regular occurrence.
So far, he says that he has been met with overwhelming support. Clients are giving bottles of whiskey and lavish glasses that they think he needs to carry, which makes Quest immediately feel more established than the flaky bars that are always opening and closing downtown.
So soon after the receipt of the liquor licence, Quest still feels a bit more ‘salon’ than ‘saloon’, but I for one am very excited for what’s to come.