Welcome to a series of articles rounding-up the very best restaurants in London for specific cuisines. We’re not necessarily talking authenticity here, rather the kind of food we really love to eat. Value is kept firmly in mind, and most of our picks represent this. On the flip side, of course, some places are so good that they are worth saving up for. As ever, please do let us know your thoughts and other recommendations in the comments below.
Cooper & Wolf
Set on Hackney’s Chatsworth Road, Cooper & Wolf majors on coffee, serving a range of single-estate beans roasted by Caravan down in King’s Cross. Influence for the short food menu comes from further afield, in Sweden, and it’s executed with style. Meatballs are served on sourdough toast with a beetroot salad, Hansen & Lydersen salmon (cured Norwegian-style in Stoke Newington) comes on a crispy potato cake, and cinnamon buns come warm from the oven. It’s worth a trip for the latter alone.
Curious Yellow Kafe
This brightly coloured spot on Pitfield Street takes in many caff classics (you can get a Full English as well as croissants), but really excels when it comes to Swedish-minded plates. A breakfast of gravadlax, cheese, ham, pickled gherkin and raw sliced veg is as Scandinavian as it comes, and there’s a nice line in regularly-changing pastries, buns and breads from the same part of the world. Vinyl playing in the background completes the hang-around-for-a-while atmosphere.
A relaxed hangout on Brick Lane, Fika is Swedish for ‘having a break’. In place of Kit Kats, the team have made a cosy hangout and pulled together a menu of nordic comfort food staples, including gravadlax, pickled herring and Swedish meatballs. The spherical favourites are a definite highlight in their classic serve, accompanied by mash and sweet gravy, but they also turn up in sandwich form, complete with melted cheddar. A range of akvavit is available to help things along, while snaps come in cloudberry, chilli caramel and gingerbread flavour.
Mikael Jonsson’s Chiswick restaurant has a pretty impressive pedigree. Not only has it got a Michelin star, but it was also recently voted 63rd best restaurant on the planet at the World’s 50 Best awards. That makes it the 4th best in London, apparently. Chef proprietor Jonsson is proudly Swedish, and although you wouldn’t necessarily know it from his cooking, nordic influences of the kind Noma made famous are apparent in an abundance of foraged leaves, a focus on vegetables as a main attraction, and a devotion to seasonal ingredients.
Set in arches next to Hackney Central station, Oslo presents a very East London take on Scandinavian food, in a space that merges slick nordic design with old train station memorabilia. Dishes nowhere near as out-and-out Scandi as the venue’s name, but pickles, rye breads and cured fish are ample indications of its inspiration. Sharing plates include dill-infused pickled herring and Norwegian pølse (red coloured sausages not dissimilar to fat frankfurters) served slathered in a sticky thyme and marmalade glaze. Burgers, spatchcock chicken and steaks all feature for mains, with scatterings of Scandi touches keeping the international influences in line: sea bass on a bed of fennel, accompaniments of beetroot carpaccio, and battered fish with crab mayo, for example. Platters are — incorrectly but endearingly — called smorgasbord to help keep the theme going. The drinks list includes a range of Norwegian craft beers as well as plenty more from closer to home, while upstairs is a live music venue. Not Scandinavian music, mind.
A haven for nordic expats, Scandinavian Kitchen on Great Titchfield Street stocks just about any hard-to-find ingredient you could wish for from Norway, Denmark, Sweden or Finland: from flatbreads and pickled fish to brown cheese and salted liquorice. You can even get lutefisk. While the bulk of its business is take-out, open sandwiches, pastries and some damn fine coffee are served on-site.
- Antidote: Hedone’s Mikael Jonsson has devised the menu for this natural wine bar in Soho.
- Ikea: Go on, you know you like those meatballs really.
- Nordic Bakery: Coffees, pastries, cinnamon buns and salmon on rye are the mainstays of these three peaceful cafés in Soho, Marylebone and Mayfair.