The Nordic nations of Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland are known for celebrating the festive season in traditional style, so a December visit to their London eateries will be that bit special because of this unique association. And you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice, what with Scandinavian Kitchen in Great Titchfield Street, W1, Curious Yellow Kafe, Old Street and Nordic Bakeries in Covent Garden, Soho, New Cavendish Street, St James and Marylebone.
However, our first stop is Hej, a Swedish art gallery, coffee shop and café in Borough. Tucked away on a corner of Bermondsey Square, it has a warm, convivial atmosphere, which is accentuated even more during the Christmas countdown. You’ll find creative types, young families with their toddlers, seniors working away on their laptops, but with an air of relaxation and creativity rather than the grind of existence. If these are the ‘strong Swedish values’ mentioned in their promotional material then they have to be commended.
The brunches and lunches on offer focus on the healthy and wholesome. A Wheatberry, Beetroot, Couscous and Caesar Pasta meal is priced at £4.95 and is one of those bite-sized dishes that not only leaves you full enough for a day’s work but light and invigorated so as to complete those office or factory hours without too much sleepy slow-carb release. Remember, you are what you eat! But if you just want to get stuck in, there are also appetising Scandinavian-style pork and sage rolls tempting you from the glass counter amongst the more waist-friendly snacks.
Continuing the Swedish food theme, we head off to Bageriet in Covent Garden for some sweet-toothed delights, seeking a dessert top up after our health-conscious main. Bagriet means bakery in Swedish and in this small eatery on Rose St, just off Long Acre you’ll find a wide selection of biscuits, cakes and pastries that will have you umming, ahhing, and drumming your fingers on the counter in anticipation of guilty indulgence.
Many of these Scandinavian delights will be new to you but you are advised to dive in and come out of your comfort zone. Seeking the more familiar? Their Hallangrotta raspberry cakes are, well yes, made of a fruit you recognise. At £2.80 each, these economically-sized treats are certainly tasty and a comparably sweet alternative to their more traditional cinnamon buns. With Blabarbullar (blackberry buns) Appelbulle (apple buns), Sockerkringlor (sugar pretzels) and Notnougatbulle (hazelnut brioche) on the menu, make sure you bring your Swedish dictionary or have a flick through the online menu before you set out.