If you thought Scandinavia was all about vikings and flat pack, you’d be wrong. There’s Volvos, rotting herring and Scandi-noir boxsets too. There’s also an increasingly popular cuisine that’s taking London by storm. So load up your long boat, grab a handful of whatever hygge is and join me in the sauna, we’re heading to Scandinavia…
Already having racked up two Michelin stars in New York, Aquavit arrived in London three years ago and has made more than a splash with its haute cuisine Scandi food. Although less snooty than its New York counterpart, the relaxed vibe still ensures a consistently high standard with a menu revolving around the changing Nordic seasons and more than enough meatballs and lingonberry to go round.
Don’t be mislead by the decidedly French sounding name, Fabrique is all Scandi. The stone oven, specially imported from Stockholm to ensure authenticity, creates artisanal sour bread that has proved so popular since Fabrique started in just 2008 in Sweden that there are now 11 outlets out there and five in London. The original UK shop opened in Shoreditch, but they’re now in Notting Hill, Covent Garden, Holborn and Fitzrovia, providing commuters with their Scandinavian fix every morning.
New Nordic cuisine meets traditional Norwegian fare at Soren Jessen’s third restaurant, Børealis. Occupying the ground floor of the working space, Fora, the Scandi-chic restaurant serves up hearty dishes of frikadeller, seared beef tartare and curried herring. Make sure you save space for the cinnamon bun ice-cream and Kladdkaka, a sticky chocolate cake.
Stripped back and simple, Nordic Bakery is as Scandinavian as they come. Set in Soho’s hectic Golden Square, the recipes and ingredients all come straight from northern Europe’s northern-most parts, with cakes and buns (a lot of cinnamon) a-plenty. Check out the traditional Norwegian custard bun, the Skoleboller while sat on furniture designed by cool Nordic designers.
Think the full English rocks? The full Swedish consists of eggs, sausage, avocado, västerbotten cheese and crisp bread, so like its British counterpart but cutting back on the stodge. The white painted interior is bright as a summer’s midnight in the arctic circle, the cafe is a Swedish sanctuary in West London.
Putney dwellers have got it good, but no need to blåbär about it. Blåbär, which actually means ‘beginner’ (or ‘Blueberry’), is a Nordic shop but also sports a café amid the homeware, serving healthy bites (Icelandic yogurt pots, anyone?) as well as chocolate balls and cinnamon buns. Obviously, being a furniture shop, it’s not just the food that’s for sale; the crockery and utensils are also available to purchase.
Looking for Scandi restaurants in the city? Then look no further than Ekte. The all-day kitchen serves up Danish pastries, Smørrebrød (open sandwiches), Biksemad (Nordic hash) and even sea buckthorn sorbet.
Aster is notable for being located in one of the country’s ugliest buildings, and yet managing to be one of the best looking restaurants in town, at least among the Scandi restos. Set over two floors, with a more-than-decent bar and regular live music giving way to fine dining courtesy of Executive Chef Helena Puolakka who brings her French, Finnish fusion to bear.
The Harcourt is an unexpected Scandinavian restaurant located on Marylebone’s Harcourt Street. The Grade II listed townhouse and is awash with contemporary art and wooden panelling and, best of all, a modern Scandi restaurant serving an all-day modern European menu and extensive cocktail list.
Set a course dead ahead for Bread Ahead! The London Bridge bakery proved such a success in Borough Market that it’s now branched out into both a cookery school and a proper sit-down restaurant over in Soho. Take classes in Nordic and Scandinavian bakery, or just enjoy some cinnamony wares to take away or eat in.
Embracing hygge doesn’t mean you have to sit in a quiet corner and eat herring. Taking time to enjoy live music is equally as important. Which is handy because Hackney’s live music venue, Oslo, has a bar and kitchen and plenty of tunes. Famous for their Yorkshire puddings as well as their music, the menu, nevertheless, nods toward its Nordic heritage, as does the general aesthetic. You could almost be in Oslo when you’re in Oslo, except being Hackney there are probably even more beards than any Norwegian fjord can offer.
If you’re after freshly made food and groceries, straight outta Scandinavia, then head to Fitzrovia. Which is what founders Bronte and Jonas (a Dane and a Swede) discovered they couldn’t do back when they founded ScandiKitchen back in 2006. Finding, and filling, a niche for Scandinavian produce they created a shop, a website and a café to cater for their fellow countrymen and beyond. Today the kitchen is very much full steam ahead with food from all over Scandinavia and Finland served including pastries, homemade cakes, as well as breakfasts, freshly made open sandwiches and salads.
West London’s Chiswick certainly isn’t central or massively accessible, which perhaps makes it an unlikely location for an exciting and innovative restaurant like Hedone. But the restaurant, which serves birds with the feet and feathers left on (to remind people they come from an animal) serves a fascinating French with Nordic influences, creating a seriously seasonal menu that’s full of surprises.
S’up, Kupp? Kupp are all about bringing their experience of the Nordic region to Britain, whether it’s through the medium of boozy weekend brunches (is there a better medium?), pastry and a hot drink at their Fika Café or enjoying a Nordic cocktail at their cocktail bar. Taking their mission to share to its logical conclusion, they ideally want us to share too, with most dishes designed to be enjoyed by several. Not that you’ll want to let anyone else near your plate.
It’s unclear if the spelling of the word ‘cafe’ or the Swedish food is more curious at Curious Yellow Kafé, but the latter obviously informs the former, giving Hoxton a splendid Scandinavian café. They serve plenty of Swedish dishes with a slant toward the healthy.
Icelandic chef Aggi Sverrisson doesn’t have to prove he’s a genius in the kitchen, the Michelin people have already done that, and yet he continues to demonstrate it from his Portman Square restaurant season in and season out. The modern European menu is predominantly inspired by Sverrisson’s Icelandic heritage and the Scandinavian influences conspire with British produce and a fantastic restaurant and Champagne bar to make this an evening out to remember.