Say that at the end of the month, right before payday, you are quite proudly—in possession of 2000kr (17€) you just found at the bottom of a backpack: what do you buy? If you happen to pass by Eldstó Café in Hvolsvöllur, you could treat yourself to a plate of warm waffles served with cream and jam and a steamy cup of coffee for the moderate price of almost 1900kr (16€).
When Sigurjón M. Egilsson visited the establishment a couple of days ago, he had this same idea. He thoroughly enjoyed the warm waffles he ordered as well as the attentive service provided, but he was otherwise stunned by the bill that was placed on his table. Thus, after a very polite online review and many a gasp by the all-judging social media community, the local caféterie is now at the centre of a scandal involving three plates of fragrant waffles and a 7050kr (60€)check worthy of a dystopian sci-fi. “Undoubtedly the reason behind this is the amount of tourists that are visiting Iceland,” Sigurjón writes on miðjan.is. “Such a café would hardly survive if its customers only included Icelandic people.”
Granted, the 7000kr bill ended up being a mistake. Sigurjón was in fact charged for a dish he never ordered: the house waffles with ice cream. These waffles are different from those you usually get at a café. As the owner Guðlaug Helga Ingadóttir painstakingly describes them, one might even be drawn to think of them as Super Waffles: a homemade, soft grid of butter and sugar baked to perfection, its immense proportions served on too small a plate with some delicious ice cream on the side. It’s what Captain America would order if he spent his holidays in Hvölsvöllur.
Concerned parents & afternoon tragedy
It’s not the first time a local has complained about the high cost of living in Iceland today. It’s uncommon to find a room in Reykjavík for less than 70000kr (600€) per month, unless one is accustomed to living without access to a kitchen or a shower. When said topic comes up in conversation it always sparks some criticism, especially from concerned parents. It’s therefore unsurprising that the Wafflegate has been discussed and shared by social media users with tremendous vigour. One could even say it’s a true Sunday afternoon tragedy.
On her part, the owner Guðlaug Helga finds it hard to believe that anyone would dare complain about her prices when establishments all over Reykjavík charge insane amounts of money for the smallest portions of food. “A soup in Reykjavík can cost over 2000kr,” she explains. “I went to a restaurant in Reykjavík and ordered a chicken salad and all I got was a bite of chicken and a leaf of Iceberg lettuce. Nobody talks about that.” Despite her good intentions, however, she seems to be oblivious to the fact that some of the best waffles you can buy in this money-driven town are sold at 1090kr (9€) apiece at award-winning café Mokka Kaffi.
Nevertheless, her frustration is understandable: Guðlaug and her husband have built their café from scratch, and have hardly taken time off to go on holiday. They employ both Icelanders and foreigners, whose legal contracts stipulate an hour of their labour be worth—coincidentally—more or less the same as an ice cream waffle. “We have tried our best not to be driven by greed,” she explains in an interview with Vísir. “I think people have to be fair when they express themselves on this matter.”