Whether we’re getting hooked on Nordic noir TV shows or going bonkers for Danish designers, the UK’s appreciation for Scandinavian culture is growing at a spectacular rate. Food is no exception: chefs and writers such as Norwegian-born Signe Johansen are inspiring us to cook Scandi dishes at home, while cutting-edge restaurants such as Noma and Fäviken have repeatedly ranked among the world’s top 10. But this cuisine isn’t just the preserve of the Michelin-star diner or adventurous home cook. Stylish Nordic bakeries are popping up all over the country, meaning fika – the Swedish coffee break, preferably served up with something sweet – is finding a welcome place in our days. Read on for our favourite places to try it.
A cavernous, disused railway arch in East London isn’t the first place you’d expect to stumble upon flour-dusted chefs, but that’s what awaits visitors to Fabrique. Founder Charlotta Zetterström ditched her job in the finance industry to open Fabrique in Stockholm back in 2008 with her husband, David. Many loaves later, the business expanded, but it hasn’t forgotten its roots; it still relies on many of the original recipes. “We even use the same sourdough starter in every one of our bakeries,” says David. “When we opened in London, we had to bring a little tin of it over on the plane.” A handful of scattered tables at the front of the building serve as a pared-back café – the best spot from which to watch bakers, who’ve been toiling since the small hours, deftly shaping kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) or hand-finishing deep brown rye, levain and sourdough loaves. The Shoreditch bakery also supplies two Fabrique cafés in Covent Garden, and Notting Hill, so here’s hoping its brilliant buns are here to stay.
Arch 385, Geffrye Street, London E2 8HZ
020 7033 0268
Paul Rawlinson refers to his great-grandmother’s handwritten recipe book from 1917 when creating the pastries, cakes and desserts served at Baltzersen’s in Harrogate. The cosy Nordic bakery and café, which takes its name from Paul’s Norwegian grandmother (spot her hand-knitted woolly jumpers hanging by the kitchen), uses the best of Yorkshire’s larder, Scandi-style. The freshly baked sultanaboller, which lie somewhere between a scone and a teacake, come with butter from nearby Acorn Dairy and are washed down with excellent coffee from Leeds-based North Star Coffee Roasters. The signature bake is the skolebrød, a cardamom dough with a custard filling and coconut icing. “They’re my weakness,” says Paul. “If there’s only one left at the end of the day, the staff know it’s mine!”
22 Oxford Street, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG1 1PU
“I started out working from my own kitchen, just selling bags of biscuits to Swedish shops, and it’s grown from there,” says Daniel Karlsson. The softly spoken Swede now runs Bageriet, in London’s Covent Garden, with friend and fellow baker Sven-Gunnar Appelgren. Family recipes are at the heart of the business. “My grandmother was an excellent cook,” he says. “I make her cardamom biscuits and skorpor (a spiced rusk), traditionally served with blueberry or rosehip soup.” The pair prepare everything from scratch in the tiny bakery space beneath their equally snug café, tucked away down a cobbled street in one of London’s busiest tourist areas. Customers squeeze into tightly packed wooden tables, dunking headily spiced biscuits into their coffees, and a steady stream stop by to pick up beautiful artisan breads, tarts and cakes. “These products have been hidden from the rest of Europe for many years, perhaps because they don’t always look fabulous in the way French pâtisserie does,” says Daniel. “But the flavours are simply amazing.” If the queues are anything to go by, Daniel’s customers agree.
24 Rose Street, London WC2E 9EA
020 7240 0000
With speciality coffee, a shop and a seasonal menu, this spot in Manchester’s Northern Quarter will indulge your love of all things Nordic.
6 Tariff Street, Manchester, M1 2FF
Snaps + Rye
“Here, we don’t talk about the weather; it’s ‘How’s the rye today?’” says Kell Skött. This is the bread that was named Londoners’ Loaf at the 2015 Urban Food Awards, and you can buy it at stylish Danish eatery Snaps + Rye in London’s Westbourne Park, which Kell runs with his wife, Jacqueline. He is vague about the recipe – it’s a closely guarded secret – but he mentions “malt beer, honey, a bit of liquorice and lots of seeds”. The result is a treacly, slightly bitter, moist loaf that forms the base of Snaps + Rye’s lunchtime smørrebrød – open sandwiches with classic Danish toppings such as pickled herring. Leftovers are used to flavour ice cream or to infuse akvavit for a cockle-warming digestif.
93 Golborne Road, London W10 5NL
020 8964 3004
You might recognise Peter Ljungquist‘s name from the packs of crispbreads now sold nationwide, but it all started with Peter’s Yard café, which opened in Edinburgh in 2007. The group now has six six Söderberg sites across the Scottish capital, with the flagship café in the city’s pretty Quartermile a firm favourite. Visitors to the glass-fronted space can stop by for smørrebrød, sourdough pizza in the evening, and takeaway artisan loaves. And there are sweet treats galore – the heady cardamom and cinnamon buns called kardemummabulle; mazarin tart (like a bakewell); and little chokladbollar – chocolate, coffee and coconut balls.
Quartermile, 27 Simpson Loan, Edinburgh EH3 9GG
0131 228 5876
Hunt down the crumbly biscuits home-baked by Swede-Bristolian Elin Fry and sold in cafés around Bristol – including Small St Espresso (smallstreet espresso.co.uk), Zest Deli & Café (zestdeliandcafe.co.uk) and Zion (zionbristol.co.uk). The cardamom biscotti are the perfect fika treat.
Two Magpies bakery
This Southwold bakery uses Scandi techniques to make its award-winning breads – from 100 per cent Swedish rye to sourdough levain and cardamom knots. There is also a daily selection of cakes and pastries, and a sourdough pizza menu on Saturday nights.
88 High Street, Southwold, Suffolk IP18 6DP
With three London branches, this peaceful café serves excellent coffee and sweet treats. Try the blueberry upside-down cake. Not London-based? The brilliant Nordic Bakery Cookbook will help you create a fika moment at home.
Various locations in London
Photography by Chris Terry