Determined to taste a "tomato greenhouse lunch"
The thick, dense fog seemed to go on for ages as we rounded each highway curve, as I gripped the rental car’s side door handle, sweating through my supposedly breathable layers, all for the want of an organic tomato farm restaurant reservation. Would you believe me, if I told you, that I was never quite as elated on my trip to Iceland as I was in the moment that I found myself sitting down, alive, eating my warm soup? It’s true. Not holding a live puffin, not seeing my bucket list “Elephant Rock” through the drizzle and rain, but to find myself inside a luminescent greenhouse the size of Walmart that held rows upon rows of tomato plants and its restaurant all under one glowing, buzzing roof--this was the moment I found myself content with life.
We were leaving Reykjavik, Iceland by rental car after our two and half days spent in the city proper, and we managed to get ourselves back to the airport to pick up our rental car (why I thought this would be the best idea in hindsight is beyond me now), and after quite the long delay and wait in line (like any rental car pickup system it seems, there is no system for when your line exceeds five or more people), we were ushered into our upgrade SUV (the make-good apology for the long wait), and I counted off the distance the GPS said we had to make it now exactly on time to the lunch reservation. We had just the amount of time allotted to arrive on time to the lunch I had eagerly been awaiting for three days now. We couldn’t afford to get lost, mix-up any directions, and be delayed.
In theory, I had probably been waiting around five years to go to this restaurant, Friðheimar, since my friend had come back on her trip and gushed in detail (with lovely photos to showcase as well) how sublime her “tomato greenhouse lunch” was--a magical cuisine highlight on her own Icelandic trip. And combined with the reservation I made sure to make by way of email two months in advance, I was not going to miss this spot.
We were making fairly good timing, with me nervously checking the time and glancing at my phone’s Google map while constantly checking the next upcoming direction to give my boyfriend (at the time, now husband), when we realized very soon, we had left Reykjavik behind and we were out of the city, and heading east out into the wide open country. When you drive in Iceland, you feel as if you’re driving on an alternate, yet-to-be named planet, where if it’s not grey and raining, it’s quite the hyper fantastic opposite in color.
Neon patches of moss call out atop black as night volcanic rock (there really isn’t soil per se in Iceland) set against the deep, clear pure blue sky. And you’ll start to see lavender purple lupine, the only real floral to stand on its own and survive the tough landscape. While we wouldn't get to experience the color-topia of the terrain for another few hours and later that day, we were buzzing along in the persistent grey world that surrounded us, until all of a sudden we hit dense whiteness. A low fog had settled in the country terrain and in between the surrounding hills, a precursor for the storm that was moving in later that day, and we found ourselves driving in the thick of it, literally. It was a two lane highway, but in Iceland the highway is more like a well-paved nice road with a single lane on one side and a single lane on the other. And we couldn’t see either. We couldn’t see our lane nor the oncoming traffic. All we could see was the road directly five feet in front of us as we would approach it at a speed that was roughly 60 mph.
I began to repeatedly ask my boyfriend to slow it down, which he wasn’t comfortable doing; he felt he had to keep pace and that it could be worse--more accidental if we went under the speed limit. I continued to persist and pretty much yell for him to either pull over or slow it down, all to no avail, and prayed for the next what appeared to be ten minutes for it to all be over before we possibly would be over some cliff or rear-ending another car.
If you have never driven in fog before, it's the equivalent to driving in a white out snow storm (which I have had the experience prior to this trip), and if you think there seems to be no end in sight, when you know it very well can’t last forever, you start to breath deep and anxiously, quite desperately pray very hard for you to come out the other side alive--at least that is what I did. And we did.
We couldn’t very well speak for the following five to ten minutes after surviving driving without sight but as soon as I felt safe to, I checked our time, and determined we could still make the lunch reservation with just forty-five minutes to go. I was coming down from an adrenaline high, and counting my blessings to have survived the scariest ten minutes of my life in a car, so the lunch reservation still seemed inconsequential, but doable.
Low and behold as we pulled onto the gravel driveway and winded our way back toward the farm, I realized we would not only be on time, but perhaps a tad early, by about five minutes. Our early morning pastry and coffee breakfast felt like forever ago, and suddenly I was hit with hunger for our 1:30 seating.
There are only four items on the menu. All the easier to make your tomato meal choice. Complimentary fresh bread served with olive oil accompanied the lunch, and while my boyfriend scarfed down his ravioli, I took my time, sip by sip, savoring my tomato soup that seemed to pack even more flavor than I had anticipated. My body immediately and finally relaxed, and I was able to take in the bustling of tables with large tourist groups, leaving, sitting down, and the general chatter of a busy restaurant, all amongst the towering height of plentiful cultured tomato vines in various stages of growth. It all was seemingly ripe in flavor and sustenance, and I found myself smiling as I could not believe we made it here, through the thick fog, two months after my reservation and five years after I had first had a glimmer of visiting.
After we opted to skip dessert, and paid, our tomato greenhouse lunch affair was over before we knew it. We said hello to the farm’s Icelandic ponies on our walk back to the car, and I saw a friend had commented on my posted photo, that the Kardashians had been here. Is there no spot on Earth that the Kardashians hadn’t infiltrated and touched? I stewed over this unbeknownst fact that now I was aware of, and couldn’t believe that even at my in-the-middle-of-nowhere tomato farm greenhouse reality tv had found its way to this restaurant.
But as I look back on the memory, I realized that’s the thing about travel, each experience and memory is whole heartedly personal and yours alone. Each memory is a unique one unto your conscious and the details you perceive, the ones that wrap themselves around each smell, taste, sight, and sound. I had the death-defying fog alongside my boyfriend, and no one else did. Not even the Kardashians.
*Do go and enjoy this spot if you find yourself with some time to explore Iceland, as you will need to plan a half day around your reservation. And do make a reservation. I can almost guarantee you won’t get in without one, and I can guarantee you will enjoy your meal.
**All photos taken by Kyra Shapurji and not for individual use unless contacting the owner.