Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Iceland - Part 2

New Year’s Eve, and what better way to spend it than with a 38ºC bath, good drink, good food, and throwing health and safety to the wind as Reykjavik’s residents ignite enough gunpowder to obliterate a small town, at the Hallgrímskirkja church fireworks.

First thing, a trip to the Blue Lagoon as detox in anticipation of the forthcoming night of debauchery.  A truly bizarre place - superheated water from the ground near a lava flow is used to run turbines that generate electricity at the nearby geothermal power plant and provide heat for hot water systems.  The water is then fed in to the lagoon.
Once you’ve put the fact that you’re bathing in power plant water out of your mind, it’s a fantastic experience.  The warm waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulphur and everyone looks equally ridiculous as they float around with silica mud smeared all over their face.  I came out as soft as a baby’s bum.  Definitely a must do experience while in Iceland.  Oh, and there’s a bar, so you can sip Viking lager while you relax.  Perfect.

Back to the hotel, and we’d planned ahead and booked in to VOX, the restaurant at the hotel we were staying in - the Hilton Nordica.  Not only damn handy, but also one of Reykjavik’s hottest restaurants at the moment.  The set menu made life easy, especially as we had slipped on our Stolichnaya overcoats in preparation for the chilly evening ahead.

The first two courses of Langoustine followed by Arctic Char were delightful.  Light and interesting with clever contrasting flavours and textures.
Skyr butter
Arctic char from Haukamyri - lightly smoked and fresh char with char roe, cucumber and creme fraiche
Slightly cooked langoustine with tomatoes, rose hips, horseradish and tomato foam
Then it got more challenging.  Lamb tartar is something I’ve certainly never had before and, not being a big fan of tartar generally, I found this hard to get my head around.  Having said that, the Icelandic berries worked perfectly with the rich lamb flesh - I actually found myself kind of enjoying it.

Lamb tartar, estragon cream, pickled onion and Icelandic berries
 Then Reindeer - not something I’m squeamish about as it’s such a close relative to venison which we’re so lucky to have in abundance in Scotland.  While I like it rare, this was slightly under for my tastes, but the dish came together in earthy deliciousness with the cabbage, kale, mushroom and smoked marrow accompaniments.

Reindeer from Herad - panfried reindeer, cabbage, mushrooms, kale and smoked marrow
‘Icelandic nature’ for dessert unfortunately failed to push my buttons.  Maybe we just didn’t like moss? ventured our waiter.  Maybe, maybe...

Icelandic nature - moss pudding with spruce sorbet and berry juice
For all it’s promise, I wouldn’t rate VOX as the best meal we had in Iceland (see Sjavargrillidin Part 1) and enjoyed the meals we had there in the Bistro (see below) more than this one in the Restaurant.

Waking up the next morning after a night of revelry and fireworks, I was feeling delicate to say the least.  It was all we could manage to have a refreshing walk in the snow and then back to the VOX Bistro for some sustenance and to force down the first beer of the day.

It’s always good to choose a hotel with a good in-house restaurant I think, for days like these where you don’t have to feel guilty when it would be just too much to drag yourself any further than the hotel lobby.  This would be the second time we ate in the VOX Bistro - the first being on the night we arrived and just needed to eat immediately.  Both times were great.
A simple burger and fries the first night was an exercise in near burger perfection - a rare steak patty topped with good cheese was served in what was unfortunately a bog standard burger bun - nonetheless along with crispy skin on fries, overall very very good.

Then there was the ultimate New Year’s Day hangover food - “Roast Beef”.  Grilled sourdough bread was topped with a mountain of rare roast beef, fried mushrooms, lightly pickled cucumber, sautéed onions and horseradish shavings on top.  Oh dear, I can’t think about it without drooling.  I’m going to have to stop now.  Part 3 still to come - with some cheap eats and the lobster soup Egon Ronay rated as the best ever.

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