Kopparberg Experimental Dining, Hoxton Grill

Strawberry compote

Photo: Prad Patel

English weather. A national stereotype. A common trope. Unpredictable, changeable – always make-conversation-able.

It’s not been doing too badly of late, but our summer temperatures are never worth shouting about. Let’s be honest – they’re really not much different from Scadinavian summers.

So when there’s such a thing as amazing Swedish cider, why not pretend we’re in Sweden? Yes, that’s a jolly good idea.

In fact… *drum roll*… Kopparberg have got us covered! They are running a pop-up Urban Forest at the Bootstrap Company’s space in Ashwin Street, Dalston. This is East London and so, of course, this event is too cool for school, with live music and street art, as well as food from Fika, the Swedish restaurant on Brick Lane (who, incidentally, do the best semlor in London). It’s open until August 3rd so hurry to check it out!

However, earlier this month, I was hanging out in a different neck of the East London woods. Continue reading

Semla Season – A Quick Trip to Bageriet, Covent Garden

Sweet treats

Sweet treats

I’ve decided to do something rather mad. I’ve decided to have a sugar-free February. The reasons for this are two-fold and I won’t elaborate on them here. Instead, I’ll cut to the important part – the part about what any dessert-loving person might do when faced with a sugarless February: eat a shed-load of sugary desserts.

As it so happens, it’s semla season. For those of you who have never heard of a semla or semlor, they’re a cardamom-spiced bun with the top sliced off, filled with an almond paste and whipped cream, and they’re eaten across Scandinavia for Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras. Last year, I went on an epic hunt for semlor across London and tried three different semlor.

Semla

Semla

Daniel Karlsson, pastry chef of one of the semla I sampled previously, has since set up a tiny, quaint Swedish bakery/café in Covent Garden called Bageriet (you can read about my previous visit here). I took a trip with a friend who had never tried a semla and was desperate to get their Scandinavian/Swedish sugar fix.

Now being a tiny specialist bakery, this isn’t the cheapest dessert rampage in the world, but we’re oh-so-cultured, so we ordered our semlor at over £4 each. I got mine with cinnamon milk, which is apparently the traditional way to eat semlor. Personally, I found it was a little thin and that it detracted from the bun, but I quite enjoyed drinking it separately.

Semla with cinnamon milk

Semla with cinnamon milk

The semlor themselves are CREAMY. Be warned. But the texture of the bun is beautifully light and the almond paste is fantastic.

Not content with just cakes, we got the home-made hot chocolate. This was way too mild for me on the chocolate front, but my partner-in-sugar-munching was delighted with its gentle spiciness. It certainly warmed us up on a cold day.

Hot chocolate

Hot chocolate

As for the sugar-free February, the following day was the February 1st and my resolutions fell epically flat. I went to a friend’s birthday meal at Wagamama, where out of their excessively long menu, there was NOTHING that didn’t contain sugar. I was offered raw vegetables without dressing, declined and ordered whatever. On Monday we begin again, I vowed.

To be continued…

Bageriet

Website: http://www.bageriet.co.uk/
Where: 
24 Rose Street, WC2E 9EA
When: Monday – Friday 9am-7pm; Saturday 10am-7pm; Sunday – closed.

Some more Swedish treats…

009

008

007

Review: Bageriet, Covent Garden

Cinnamon buns

Scandinavian countries are perhaps more famous for design rather than their food. Yet this might be changing, perhaps led by Noma, a two Michelin-star restaurant in Denmark, consistently ranked as one of the best restaurants in the world. It’s reputation certainly goes some way to debunking notions of Scandinavian cuisine as purely meatballs and pickled herrings.

However, much as I would like to claim to weekly dine in Michelin-star places, reality is somewhat different. So for a more accessible avenue into tasty Scandinavian treats, it’s worth seeking out a bakery. I’d previously sought out semlor (Swedish Easter buns) and had been impressed by Daniel Karlsson who ran an order-only bakery, Bageriet.

Very fortuitously, Daniel has decided to expand his business and has opened Bageriet as a little café in Covent Garden, serving flat bread sandwiches and all kinds of sweet things.

The cakes are just beautiful and there is a lot of choice. As well as the classic cinnamon buns, highly recommended are the vanilla buns/ vaniljbulle as they balance cardamom perfectly with the creamy filling.

Vanilla buns

Vanilla buns

So creamy!

So creamy!

We found the custard bun was way too skimpy on the filling, but the espresso cake was fabulous – it was like a firmer version of tiramisu.

Custard bun - bit sparse on the filling

Custard bun – bit sparse on the filling

Espresso cake - tiramisu has evolved

Espresso cake – tiramisu has evolved!

There are a couple of small tables inside and one tiny table outside. Rose Street is fairly quiet so it’s a good escape from what can be a hectically busy area. At £2.45 for a cinnamon bun to eat in, prices are edging towards Scandinavian levels but we can’t fault the quality. So venture forth, go Swedish, and get some attractive cakes to adorn that Ikea coffee table 😉

Website: https://www.facebook.com/BagerietLondon
Where: 
24 Rose Street, WC2E 9EA
When: Monday – Friday 9am-7pm; Saturday 10am-7pm; Sunday – closed.

Bageriet

113

114

083

077

078

079

Cinnamon buns

Cinnamon buns

Finnish Food!

Tinned moose

Tinned moose meat – in the Finnish Church shop

It’s no news to foodies in the UK that Scandinavian food is seeing a huge rise in popularity. I’ve written a fair amount on Swedish food but I decided it was time to branch out.

Finnish food. I knew nothing about it other than it’s supposed to be similar to Swedish food. And so my quest began to find Finnish food in London.

After a cursory Internet search, I realised that this would be tricky. Finland only has a population of 5.4 million and there are only ~30,000 in the UK. Although most of them are in London, that still doesn’t leave that many Finns in the capital. As for Scandinavian food being trendy, Finnish food seems to be a little forgotten about.

There are three places that I could find: Scandinavian Kitchen, which offers a mix of many Scandinavian food, the Finnish Church and the Nordic Bakery, which has predominantly Finnish-style sandwiches and cakes.

Having previously paid a visit to the Scandinavian Kitchen in search of Swedish semlor, I decided to head to the Finnish church in Rotherhithe, which has a cafeteria.

My friend and I entered a canteen-style room where Finnish families were queuing up and helping themselves to potato-and-salmon stew and the traditional crispbreads with cheese. We joined the queue. And then we realised no-one was paying.

I went to the lady in reception and asked.

“Oh! No, that is the food for the families who attended the services. They pre-ordered it. But if you wait, maybe there’ll be some left…”

I immediately declined this overly kind offer. We were not here to steal food off Finnish Christians. That’s when she pointed to some pastries on the table the other side of the room. Help yourself, she said. You can pay later.

A type of pulla topped with nib sugar

A type of pulla topped with nib sugar

First up, I sampled a type of pulla  – a traditional cardamom bun. It was lightly flavoured with some kind of mildly sour butter or cheese on top, sweetened by sugar. It was quite an intriguing contrast and I could imagine happily snacking on these.

Karelian pie

Karelian pie

Next, we tried a karelian pie. This is a rye crust with a savoury rice filling. I wasn’t quite sure what I made of it – it was quite one-dimensional in flavour and my friend and I thought it would be improved by the addition of some jam.

But then I sampled the Nordic Bakery karelian pie (£1.70) and I think it might be my new favourite snack.

Karelian pie with egg butter

Karelian pie with egg butter

This pie came topped with an egg butter and was lot more flavoursome. The firmness of the crust contrasted with the softness of the filling, and the whole pie was a delightful mix of textures. They also do a potato version, which I’ll be heading back to try!

Cinnamon bun

Cinnamon bun

After polishing off the karelian pie, I got my hands on a Finnish cinnamon bun. The bread was almost crispy and quite chewy – the whole bun was very dense – but the cinnamon made every mouthful moreish.

Keeping it simple

Keeping it simple

Finally, I tucked into another type of pulla – cardamom bread and sugar.

Nordic Bakery also has some flatbread open sandwiches but I didn’t try them because they looked a little pricey for their size and content.

I’d love to try some Finnish food that isn’t just bread and pastries, so if anyone has any recommendations, please email me or leave a comment below.

Finnish Church cafeteria

Where: 33 Albion Street, UK-London SE16 7HZ
When: Weekdays 14-21, Saturdays 10-21 and Sundays 10-20.

Nordic Bakery

14a Golden Square
Soho, London W1F 9JG
Mon – Fri 8am – 8pm
Sat 9am – 7pm
Sun & Bank Holidays 10am – 8pm

37b New Cavendish Street
Marylebone, London W1G 8JR
Mon – Fri 7.30am – 6pm
Sat, Sun & Bank Holidays 9am – 6pm
48 Dorset Street
London W1U 7NE
Mon – Fri 8am – 6pm
Sat, Sun & Bank Holidays 9am – 6pm

One semla, two semlor… Swedish buns for Fat Tuesday!

Semlor looking pretty in Totally Swedish

Semlor looking pretty in Totally Swedish

As well as battling in a pancake-eating challenge, I’ve had another mission this week: seek out some semlor.

A semla is not the South of England Men’s Lacrosse Association, as a cursory Google search might suggest. It is a cardamom-spiced bun with the top sliced off, filled with almond paste (similar to marzipan) and whipped cream, with the top of the bun placed back on top. They’re traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday in Swedish. They’re found across Scandinavia, but as I first sampled them in Sweden, I always think of Sweden. I think they might be most popular in Sweden too (any Scandinavians want to offer your opinions on this?).

Given that I wasn’t going to be in Sweden this Fat Tuesday, I decided to seek out what was on offer in London. This quest wasn’t without some hiccups. I tried the Nordic Bakery, which I found to be gloomy and depressing, perhaps in a bid to reflect Scandinavian winters. I was greeted by an equally gloomy lady, who said that there were no semlor in the Nordic Bakery this year. So much for Nordic. I also took a trip to a pop-up bakery in Fortnum and Mason but missed the semlor by a day (look out for a fab feature tomorrow though).

Several trips and much essay-procrastination later, I had three candidates and three semlor. The competition was on.

  1.  Scandinavian Kitchen
    61 Great Titchfield Street, W1W 7PP 

    Scandinavian Kitchen

    Scandinavian Kitchen

    Inside SK Inside SK Inside SK

    This is a fun, cosy place café with plenty of Scandinavian supplies lurking in the back. I was extremely happy to find a Moomin guiding customers to Odin’s Throne (AKA the toilet).

     

    Moomin Moomin Moomin! :-D

    Moomin Moomin Moomin! 😀


    The café serves lots of open sandwiches on crispbreads, which look a little fiddly and small, but their cakes are eye-grabbing – apple and cinnamon cake, chocolate brownie cake… mmm….

    I forced myself not to get distracted and to stick to the task in hand. My friend and I ordered a semla each (£2.95).

    SK semla

    Sadly, we were distinctly underwhelmed. The semla tasted of nothing. We could not detect any almond flavour at all. The dough was chewy and stodgy, and the cardamom did nothing to enhance it. I tried my hardest not to think about the other cakes. I began humming the Abba tunes that were playing in the background.

    Very disappointing, but the café has a chilled atmosphere and the other cakes definitely look like they’re worth trying, so I may return.

     

  2. Bageriet, supplying Totally Swedish 
    En route home...

    En route home…

    Next candidate was Daniel Karlsson of Bageriet (‘The Bakery’ in Swedish). He came to London 6 years ago and has been baking tasty things for a lot longer than that. For Fat Tuesday, he had baked loads of buns and was stacking them high in Totally Swedish, a store that, unsurprisingly, sells lots of Swedish produce.

    I got a box of two for £7 and hastily carried them to a friend’s in order to share them.

    A little bit squashed...

    A little bit squashed…

    Mine got a little squashed in the voyage but it still tasted great. The almond paste had a much stronger flavour than Scandinavian Kitchen’s, and it complimented the dough, which had a firmer texture. Very pleasing. I almost regretted sharing.

    Bageriet will be opening a shop in Covent Garden next month so look out for it. I will definitely make a visit.

  3. Fika
    161a Brick Lane, E1 6SB

    Being trendy on Brick Lane

    Being trendy on Brick Lane

    Situated on Brick Lane, Fika is trendy by virtue of its location. Inside it is dimly lit and contains a few fake grass-covered seats. We visited at 1.30pm on a Friday and found no-one at the counter or serving. Eventually, a guy emerged and told us to wait because there were lots of customers and there was only him in the kitchen. We were distinctly unimpressed at the set-up, but took a seat. At £3.50 for a hot chocolate, we weren’t going to be ordering drinks whilst we were waiting.

    Eventually, my semla arrived. It was neat and beautiful. But it was TINY. And it had just cost me £3.50. I approached it with scepticism.

    The tiny, work-of-art...

    The tiny, work-of-art…

    The bun had the most bread-like texture of the three, which I really liked. The cardamom was present but not overpowering. The almond paste had a full, rich flavour, although there needed to be more of it as it was slightly smothered by the cream. However, overall, Fika’s tiny semla snuck into first place in terms of flavour. If they weren’t an outrageous £3.50 each, I’d be stocking my room with them.

Eating Granny Snot

Phlegmnomenally good!

Phlegmnomenally good!

On my quest for cinnamon buns in Sweden, I came across a lot of wienerbröd (literally “Viennese bread” or otherwise known as a plain old Danish pastry). The popular variety in Sweden have a custard-like filling, with icing on top.

I was about to tuck into one of these, when I was informed of the name of the custard-like filling.

“We call it momors hosta – “Granny’s cough”.”

Not easily put off, I tucked in. I felt cold, wet, phlegmatic custard slide down my throat. “Granny’s cough” – what an appropriate name. Needless to say, I couldn’t eat any more.

However, this experience got me thinking – what other words or descriptions are there in Swedish that we simply don’t have in English? I don’t speak Swedish but through spending some time in Sweden, I’ve made a short list:

  1. Knullruffs – After-Sex Hair 

    Well, the Swedes do have a bit of a reputation for whiling away the long, dark winter hours between the sheets (don’t blame me – I’m just reporting the stereotype!).  They even have their own special strain of chlamydia.  Knullruffs is undoubtedly a very useful word.

  2. Kåseri – Storytelling 

    This refers to a practice of telling stories on a topic, often anecdotal, often entertaining, but with a serious undertone. This is common on the radio and it sounds like a lot of fun. I want to institutionalise this in the UK!

  3. Langett städa – Cleaning round the edges 

    My absolute favourite phrase. You know when you have guests coming over but you’re in a hurry? You might look at the state of your house with a sense of despair, then grab the hoover and vacuum only the visible dirt. This is langett städa – only cleaning the surface and visible stuff. It definitely does not involve cleaning under the rug 🙂

Eating Out in Stockholm

Not-Swedish-Meatballs: Chinese-style pork and mushroom meatballs

Not-Swedish-Meatballs: Chinese-style pork and mushroom meatballs at restaurant, China!

How To Eat Cheaply + Recommendations 

On New Year’s Day, I experienced a happy wake-up at 7.30am to get on a bus from Dalarna to Stockholm…to arrive to a dead city. “There’ll be plenty of places open”, my boyfriend said confidently. “The restaurants will definitely be open.”

“Are you sure?” I said doubtfully.

“Yes, us Swedes are not like you Brits.”

I rolled my eyes , got off the bus and found myself in a dead city. A few coffee chains were open and the usual fast food suspects. Nothing serving a hearty lunch could be found.

The trouble with Stockholm is that, even when the restaurants are open, the prices are going to damage your wallet almost beyond repair. The cheapest main courses start from around £15, and that will be for a pasta or risotto. You want meat, my friend? Well, be prepared to pay £25 upwards for a main.

You can try and see the positive side of eating out in Stockholm by visiting Norway, a land where no-one can afford take-out food (4 small portions of fish and chips at a street café = roughly £72).

Sweden isn’t nearly so bad, but for students and travellers on a budget, eating out in Stockholm is a challenge.

So how can you eat cheaply in Stockholm?

The short answer is: you can’t. Not really. You aren’t going to find much Swedish food at a reasonable price, and you are not going to find the same value that you can find in the UK. But here are some tips for those that find themselves in Stockholm without access to a kitchen.

  1. Eat your main meal at lunch
    We all make mistakes...

    We all make mistakes…


    Many restaurants and cafés offer a “dagens” or daily lunch, which is a deal that ranges from 75 – 15kr  (roughly £7.50 to £15). This is the best way to get a good meal at a reasonable price.

    Food quality can be hit and miss. Take for example the above picture of a “Mango chicken balti” at an Indian restaurant (Indisk Mukat Restaurang) that my boyfriend insisted was “all right for lunch”. No. No, it wasn’t. The chicken was the awful processed stuff that is like eating a very soft sponge, the sauce was so sweet that I felt sick pretty quickly, and that thin, orangey sliver is really all the mango I got. All for a reasonable 10,5kr (£10.50!). ARGH.

  2. Get fast food or take-out

    Falafel

    Falafel

    As a self-confessed food snob, this really goes against all my principles. But needs must. And weirdly, Swedish fast food isn’t quite as dire as some of the stuff served up in Britain. Pizzerias are commonplace, and are almost cosy. Take Pizza Hörnet by George, for example. The inside was clean, and the service friendly and efficient. As for the pizza, it was unfortunately the most salty thing I had ever eaten which, after one slice, left my mouth burning like I’d been ingesting seawater. I complained to my boyfriend and he shrugged. “Swedes like their salt. This pizza is normal.”

    Pizza Hörnet by George

    Pizza Hörnet by George

    Saltiest pizza in the world

    Saltiest pizza in the world

    Also common are kebab houses. If you don’t trust the meat, go for the apparently ubiquitous falafel.

    My boyfriend reports that this is the best place for falafel in Stockholm

    Falafel King!

    When all else fails, get a take-out and find somewhere to sit where you won’t freeze. I was lucky enough to get introduced to a Szechuan dish, “twice cooked pork“. The pork is first boiled with ginger and salt, and then fried with vegetables. Whilst the execution of this was fairly poor, I bet the authentic dish is fantastic, and it’s now on my “to-eat” list.

    Classic Szechuan dish: Twice-Cooked Pork

    Classic Szechuan dish: Twice-Cooked Pork

  3. Just eat cinnamon buns, pastries and/or sandwiches
    Salami and brie sandwich: dry and unmemorable

    Salami and brie sandwich: dry and unmemorable

    Stockholm is packed with cafés, bakeries (bakerei) and cake shops (konditori) serving sandwiches, which always seem to include a salami and brie combo. Be warned – these sandwiches will set you back £7 – £8, and they’re often dry.

    If you have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of cakes to try. Popular are Sarah Bernhardt biscuits / chocolate biskvi, which consist of an almond biscuit base, a chocolate cream middle, topped with chocolate. All in all, it’s a little too sweet for me. However, these are valued national biscuits as I saw them on the Swedish equivalent of the Great British Bake Off, Hela Sverige Bakar (“All of Sweden is baking!”)

    Chocolate biskvi / Sarah Bernhardt biscuits

    Chocolate biskvi / Sarah Bernhardt biscuits

    Inside the biskvi...

    Inside the biskvi…

    There are also plenty of chocolate balls. These used to be called  negerboll (“negro balls”).  I say no more.

    Chokladboll

    Chokladboll

  4. Avoid Gamla Stan
    Stortorget Square

    Stortorget Square

    Gamla Stan – or Old Town – is the centre of tourism in Stockholm. Don’t even think about eating there, not even in a café. It’s very pretty and there are LOTS of things to check out, including Kungliga Slottet (the Royal Palace) and Storkyrkan (church), which has a spectacular interior with a very impressive statue of George slaying the dragon. So by all means visit Gamla Stan – just make sure you’ve eaten well in advance.

    We were desperate for refreshment and visited Chokladkoppen, which is a take-away and sit-down café. I can’t remember how much it stole from my wallet – although it is definitely not the worst offender price-wise – but I had a miserably milky hot chocolate and the cinnamon bun was underwhelming too, even if it was HUGE.

    Giant cinnamon bun

  5. Starve, and go back to your respective country

It’s a great excuse to lose some weight, right?!

Recommendations

Well, you’ve probably guessed by now that, for obvious reasons, I haven’t eaten out extensively in Stockholm! But there are a few places that I would recommend.

  1. The Muffin Bakery
    Drottninggatan 73 or Linnégatan 42

    The King of Muffins: Chocolate Brownie and Cheesecake

    The King of Muffins: Chocolate Brownie and Cheesecake

    The coffee might not be up to much, but it’s all about the Chocolate Brownie and Cheesecake muffins. I cannot visit Stockholm without devouring one of these. It’s cheesy but chocolatey and gooey in the middle. It’s 34kr but one can easily be shared between two. There are other varieties of muffins and they also do decent sandwiches at prices that are reasonable for Stockholm. There are two cafés – I go to the Drottninggatan one as it’s really central. Their website (Swedish only) can be found here.

    Goats cheese toasted sandwich

    Goats cheese toasted sandwich

  2. Nagano
    Rådmansgatan 58, 11359 StockholmNaganoFriendly lunch place that serves up tasty and reasonably-priced Japanese set lunches. I had a surprisingly good chicken katsu (breaded cutlet) lunch here and my boyfriend appreciated the veggie gyoza (dumplings). The portions are decent too.

  3. Café 60
    Café 60

    Café 60

    Really trendy, slightly kitsch café that is eternally busy. I’ve only eaten here once where I had a cake that was almost as good as Nando’s choc-a-lot cake, but not quite. There are plenty more scrummy looking cakes, and sandwiches and salad. It has free WiFi so it’s often packed with laptops/iPads and coffee cups.  Their website is here.

  4. China!
    Ringvägen 110 – 116 61 Stockholm

    China!

    China!

    Hoi sin pork with steamed buns and spring onions

    Hoi sin pork with steamed buns and spring onions


    It’s always a good sign when a Chinese restaurant is packed with Chinese people! I only had two dishes here – some meatballs (pictured far top) and some amazing hoisin pork with dumplings and spring onions – but I was impressed with the quality, flavours and presentation. The food is flavoursome but light and I didn’t end up feeling sick, which often happens to me after a Chinese. China! is not cheap, but it’s not outrageous – sharing two dishes might set you back £30, but you’ll leave satisfied.

I’m by no means an expert on Stockholm, so if anyone has any recommendations, please get in touch 🙂

Update: One recommendation I’ve received is to target Stockholm University’s restaurants and cafés. Apparently, the restaurant next to Södra Huset in Stockholm University serves dagens for 60-80kr. You can choose one main (fish, meat, vegetarian), and enjoy an all- you-can-eat salad, pasta, and bread bar, and an all-you-can-drink drink bar. Thanks to Toru Anraku for the suggestion.