Silfur - www.silfur.is
'Flavours' tasting menu - 7.900 ISK2007 Conde Nast Traveller Hot Table
Silfur is one of Reykjavik’s most expensive restaurants, occupying the same category as Vox, Seafood Cellar and the Gallery at Hotel Holt. Conde Nast even awarded it a Hot Table award in 2007, the only Icelandic eating establishment to be given one since Seafood Cellar scooped the coveted award in 2004.
It came therefore as a surprise, not to mention a disappointment, that the restaurant failed to live up either to its Hot Table award or its sky-high prices. It’s not the food that leaves you feeling slightly short-changed at Silfur, it‘s everything else that is meant to make a meal there something special.
Atmosphere, comfort and service competence are particularly critical aspects of an expensive, top-end meal. If any part is less than perfect, it can detract from the otherwise exemplary food.
So quite why the owners of Silfur asked Gwen Stefani (I´m guessing it was her) to design their restaurant is beyond me, but the layout and decor of the place is tragically at odds with the rest of the building it occupies.
The restaurant takes up prime position on the ground floor of a gorgeous Art Deco hotel (a rare sight in an otherwise architecturally lacking city) but some genius decided on decorating the restaurant with the designer furniture equivalent of H&M.
Lots of those must-have modern black and white Versailles chairs, pink candle holders, black glass chandeliers and hideous neo-Baroque Italian lamps make the place feel like a living room of someone with too much money and not enough taste.
To emphasise the ridiculousness of the lay-out, a group of eight businessmen were perched on ‘trendy’ barstools around a long but thin high table positioned in the middle of the room. It was a ridiculous sight seeing them all squeezed together in their suits, desperately trying to enjoy their cramped six course meal whilst not falling off their seats.
My dining partner and I were shown to our miniscule fold-up table (designer of course) which was pushed up against a dark wall. It felt gloomy and uncomfortable, a feeling which refused to go away despite copious amounts of good wine.
Even though I could forgive the waitress for bringing the wrong wine (isn´t Pinot Gris the same as Riesling?), I couldn´t forgive the sommelier for recommending Rosemount and other such ubiquitous crap to go with their special ‘Food & Fun’ menu.
Ignoring the sommelier’s (read sponsor’s) suggestions, we discovered an otherwise decent wine list. I‘d heartily recommend the Trimbach Reserve Special Pinot Gris which is bold enough to go perfectly with both fish and light meats.
Fortunately the food was equally excellent - everything from the assortment of intriguing home-made breads, through the three different courses of fish to the roast lamb belly with its own divine crackling and pre-dessert sorbets. The snickers-style dessert was a little too close for comfort to the chocolate bar itself, but that was the only grumble with the food.
But in keeping with Silfur‘s ridiculous pretention, the food was served on vast plates which barely managed not to topple off our tiny table. There wasn´t any space for the wine, let alone relaxed dining.
With so many distractions it was hard to give the food the full attention it deserved. The chef that evening was winner of the Food & Fun festival, Geir Skeie from Norway, who tackled the menu with a modern Nordic flair that brought out the best in everyday Icelandic fish and lamb.
My advice to the management though - make your restaurant a little more comfortable and staff more knowledgeable and you may see people coming back!