You can’t tell a book by its cover, and I have learned that you can’t tell a restaurant by its tablecloth.
When I was in Reykjavik for a morning after our hike, A friend of Laurie’s, an Icelandic doctor from Toronto, showed us around town. I was eager to see Alvar Aalto’s Nordic House, which had a restaurant designed and furnished entirely by Aalto. Georg suggested that we have lunch there; I wasn’t too excited about the prospect when so much was happening in town for their summer festival, and with memories of museum restaurants being OK but not something to write home about.
The waiter took us to a table with a stained tablecloth; when we asked for the menu, he said (in what I took to be a surly voice) there wasn’t one, just a choice of soup, salad or entre´. After settling in, I asked again what was on the menu and he snapped “I told you already, its fish.”
I ordered the entre´, a cod served in lemon. And what fish it was, melt in your mouth, perhaps the best cod I had ever eaten. It turns out that the Dill restaurant is one of the best in the country,
the mindful creation of Chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason and Sommelier Ólafur Örn Ólafsson, pioneers of the New Nordic Kitchen in Iceland. Dill is much more than a restaurant. It is the result of a dream Gunnar Karl and Ólafur have shared for a while about a small restaurant with personality.
I asked Georg if I was misunderstanding the waiter’s surliness; he said that Icelanders are direct and to the point, this is how they speak. After we finished the meal he was indeed much more talkative as he explained how the restaurant worked, how they found and cooked their food.
A lesson learned; listen to the locals, and don’t look at the tablecloth.