Towards the end of last year everyone was going mad for ‘hygge’. The Danish trend referring to taking enjoyment in life’s simple pleasures is showing no signs of slowing down, so get yourself a cinnamon bun, listen to some live music and enjoy your minimal surroundings; here is our guide to all things Nordic in London.
Nordic Dining... Via NYC
Two Michelin-starred New York restaurant, Aquavit has flown across the pond to set up shop in London. The menu revolves around the changing Nordic seasons so expect dishes like Swedish meatballs; venison tartare with wild blueberries, lingonberries and juniper and, for breakfast, crisp rye bread with boiled eggs, smoked cods’ roe and avocado.
The Best Cinnamon Buns in London
A classic ‘fika’ in Stockholm includes coffee with a sweet cinnamon bun – a traditional Swedish spiced roll, which Fabrique bakery in Hoxton bake fresh everyday. Situated in the railway arches beneath the overground, it’s the perfect pick me up if you’re commuting to work or weekend treat after visiting nearby Geffrye Museum. Not based in East London? Don’t despair – there’s a bakery in Covent Garden as well now, so you can get your Scandi-fix more centrally, and the Swedish bakery also bake bread to order for you to enjoy in the comfort of your own home.
Nordic Kitchen in Shoreditch
Rok Smokehouse and Bar has made quite a name for itself since opening, offering exactly what it says on the tin; smoked fish and meat with an authentic wood-smoked flavour, which is also infused into their ice cream. Yep, you read that correctly. The unique oak wood ice cream is definitely worth a try, served with peanut crumb and juniper blackberries for a more familiar dessert taste. In-house, Rok make their own pickles and line the shelves by the kitchen in rows of quirky Kilner jars, containing all things pickled and brined. Be sure to try the cauliflower cheese, it’s a knockout.
Simple Scandinavian Cafe and Bakery
For dark rye bread, cinnamon buns and coffee at 4 London sites. Wood and neutral coloured walls create a feeling of harmony, with sleek furniture designed by iconic Nordic designers including Kaj Franck, Alvar Aalto and Imari Tapiovaara adding Nordic cool. The menu is based on genuine Nordic recipes and ingredients, such as open rye bread sandwiches like egg and herring and Danish salami with brie, while their in-house bakery produces various sweet treats, like Tosca cake, a Swedish classic soft sponge with crispy almond caramel; Skoleboller, a Norwegian custard bun; and of course the renowned cinnamon bun.
Traditional Food in All-White Surroundings
Notting Hill does trends pretty well so it’s no surprise they boast a Scandi cafe. Lisa’s on Portobello Road is a favourite amongst bloggers for its fairy lit interior and Swedish menu; you’ll find everything from meatballs to fish stew, to a traditional Swedish breakfast (that’s eggs, sausage, avocado, cheese and crisp bread if you were wondering). The cosy white interior will make you want to sit for hours, whilst in the summer months you’ll want to bag a table outside.
Coffee and Home Inspo
If you want to give your home the Nordic treatment and you live in Putney then you’re in luck. In addition to homeware and furniture, Blabar has a cafe serving tea, coffee, healthy bites (Icelandic yogurt pots) and naughtier treats (cinnamon buns and chocolate balls). While away the hours and you’ll feel right at home. Even more so once you realise everything in here is for sale – from the chair you’ve sunken into, to the coffee cup you’re drinking from.
Uncomplicated Yet Sophisticated
Aster is the new star of SW1, opening its doors in February to reveal a ground floor café and wine bar as well as a chic restaurant, cocktail bar and two private dining spaces up on the first floor. Executive Chef Helena Puolakka is heading up the kitchen, expect dishes such as Pyrenean lamb shoulder, braised January King and lingonberry; duck breast, salsify, spiced buckwheat and grapes and chocolate with beetroot.
Pub With a Scandi Twist
The Harcourt is nothing new – the building originally opened at The Harcourt Arms in 1826 – but a takeover last year transformed it into a relaxed, all-day modern European menu which gives a nod to Nordic cuisine. You’ll find gravadlax with pickled cucumber and quail eggs; Nordic reindeer with pearl barley, turnips and lingonberry jam and dark chocolate mousse with liquorice crumbs and salted caramel. Drop by in the afternoon for rye bread and pickled herring and cinnamon buns.
Nordic Baking Workshop
If you’re not content with a cinnamon bun and flickering candles in your bedroom then you’ll want to embrace the art of Nordic cooking as well. Sign up to a Nordic baking workshop at Bread Ahead and you’ll learn the secrets of authentic Swedish rye bread and crisp breads, and how to add flavour with citrus, cardamom and caraway. The half-day sessions run for three hours and are suitable for all levels of Nordic baker, from novice to pro.
An All-Day Break
The word ‘fika’ in its truest sense means ‘coffee break’ so it’s not too much of a surprise that Fika Bar & Kitchen in Bethnal Green offers just that, not only in coffee and cake form, but also lunch, dinner and a good old bottle of wine. Tuck into classic Scandi fare such as gravadlax cured in dill with brioche and a leaf salad, Fika meatballs in a red wine sauce with mash and lingonberry jam, and Swedish pancakes with vanilla ice cream. Scandal drinks haven’t been overlooked – think snaps and akvavit in blueberry, elderflower and lingonberry flavours to name a few.
Live Music Venue
Embracing hygge doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to a quiet corner – taking time to enjoy live music is equally as important. Hackney’s live music venue Oslo has a bar and kitchen that makes it as much a daytime destination as it is after-dark. Check out the upcoming music programme or just plan a visit for a roast – they do a mean Yorkshire pudding.
Want more culture? The Southbank Centre is running a year-long celebration of Nordic culture. Nordic Matters will shed light on everything from music to food – check the programme of events out on their website.