Whether you're hungry for proper hygge, desperate for a decent slice of Danish London or just starving for authentic cinnamon buns, our guide to Scandinavian London will satisfy all your Scandi cravings.
London has a serious crush on Scandinavia, as you'll see below from our round-up of the capital's best Scandi-influenced restaurants, cafés (including some of London's best bakeries) bars, pubs and shops.
Whether homesick Scandinavian or hungry Brit, you get a warm welcome from the smiley staff at SK, who are a dab hand at doling out decent coffees and Swedish cinnamon buns. Lunch is mix-and-match combos of salads and open sandwiches, and cakes are baked every day: kladdkaka (Swedish sticky chocolate cake, served with whipped cream) and apple cake are excellent. Further temptation comes in the form of Scandinavian groceries, from crispbreads to herring and liquorice.
Stepping into Nordic Bakery’s calm, ordered world gives you a rush of reassurance that everything will, in fact, be alright. The sandwiches are neat circles of dark rye supporting Scandinavian staples such as gravadlax, brie and lingonberry, or vinegary herring with soft egg and a mustardy mayonnaise. Or try a karelian pie – a traditional Finnish rice or potato pasty. Get there early if you want to get your hands on one of the famous cinnamon buns, though the squishy, sugary butter buns are pretty addictive too.
'Fika' is the delightful Swedish expression for a coffee break - a form of social interaction that Swedes take seriously. This Fika on Brick Lane is a casual Swedish-styled restaurant, on this site since 2008. The food combines traditional Swedish elements – right down to meatballs and gravadlax – with touches of flavour from sunnier climes. Much is made of foraging and seasonality, and there's a cocktail list with Scandinavian accents aplenty.
This Swedish bakery (‘bageriet’) in Covent Garden is a contender for producing the capital’s best buns. Judging by the succession of Swedes popping in for a coffee and a sweet treat during our visit, it hasn’t taken long for word about this diminutive but stylish bakery and café to get around. A counter along one wall is lined with delicious Nordic baked goods – rounds of crispbread, plump cream buns and almond tarts – and the savouries just as successful. And the cinnamon buns? Delightfully light, buttery and aromatic. We’ll be back for more.
What with Violet, Pavilion, E5 Bakehouse and The Dusty Knuckle, Hackney has more artisanal bakeries than you can shake a rolling pin at. But you can never have too many, especially when they’re lovely as The Bread Station. Danish chef Christoffer Hruskova specialises in dark rye loaves, wholemeal boules and cinnamon buns.
Scandinavian cooking has been a big deal here in London for a few years, but much of it has been Swedish in origin or orientation. Snaps & Rye is Danish, and is also sensationally good. The venue embodies all that’s best about Scandinavian design, but the owners have clearly taken pains to make their food as good as it can possibly be. There’s a selection of ready-made sandwiches, but the superb ‘à la carte smørrebrød’ with Danish specialities is the menu to go for.
Sticks n Sushi has been imported from Denmark, where there are ten branches; many design elements in the cavernous space allude to its Scandinavian origins – such as the comfy wooden chairs. The sticks, or skewers, are safe and western-friendly: no gizzards, cartilage or other more uncomfortable cuts. Vegetarians won’t feel left out either, as there are plenty of veggie sushi choices and sides.
There are a few spots in London where you can get a decent Nordic pastry, but we’re particularly keen on the buns they’re doing at this Swedish bakery. Artisan bakery chain Fabrique offers excellent sourdough loaves baked in the stone ovens, huge walnut bread boules, batons of rye sold in whole or half loaves and, of course, cinnamon buns. Thank fika!
This Portobello Road café and restaurant has a firmly Nordic feel – the food and drink is Swedish and the staff are mostly Scandinavian. The eponymous Lisa has departed for pastures new but a focus on traditional Swedish home-style cooking remains. Expect, then, meatballs, Swedish fish stews, 'koldolmar' (a white cabbage roll with red lentils, mushrooms, onion, garlic and herbs) and 'pytt i panna' (a Swedish hash of pork sausage with ham, potatoes, onion, pickled beetroot and raw egg yolk).
O-Food, a Scandinavian cafe/restaurant in Spitalfields, is so clearly heartfelt in its environmental commitment that it demands to be taken seriously. This is a lovely, tiny place with a takeaway counter, the staff are incredibly friendly, and if you ask a question about the produce, you'll get a very enthusiastic answer. Did you know there was a ‘season’ for prawns? O-Food has a pint-size menu based on sandwiches, served on either rye bread or rolls. Fish and vegetables feature prominently.
This Scandinavian basement bar offers something different from most Fitzrovia venues. Stripped wooden floors with solid wooden benches and tables create a down-home ambience in which to sip bespoke cocktails like the Scandapolitan (muddled raspberries and passion fruit, vanilla and raspberry vodkas, Cointreau, passion fruit syrup and lingonberry juice) or more regular beers and wines. Bar food is along traditional smorgasbord lines (gravadlax, Danish pickled herring) and Nordic holds weekly parties, alongside annual celebrations for Danish, Swedish and Icelandic Days.
"Our new rotating express-lunch menu launches this week! £19.50 for two courses, £24.50 for three courses. Book now!"
With the Swedish Church across the road and the embassy around the corner, this reinvented Scandi pub-restaurant (Swedish-owned) was always going to be popular with our friends from the north. Customers (including many Swedes) come here for cross-Nordic fine-dining rather than just öl (that’s beer in Swedish), but if you still hanker for a beer at the old ‘Arms’, the smokers’ area at the back has been transformed into a swish, enclosed bar area.
A Chelsea cocktail bar and club with a Scandinavian influence thanks to the Swedish ownership. Drinks from the extensive menu include Jaeger Blod (a mix of jaegermeister, raspberry and pineapple), Swedish Spring Punch (forest berries, lemon and vodka with a top of champagne) and Solsken (mandarin vodka and passion fruit mixed with champagne and chambord liqueur).
You like a bargain? Head to one of the insanely cheap Tiger stores around London and get stuck in. Many will already be familiar with the delights of this Danish brand, where an eye-popping array of brightly coloured plastic things you never realised you needed are peddled. Everything here is super-cheap and just the right side of kitsch. Look on it as a really posh pound shop.
Most people know Skandium for its gorgeous ranges of home- and tableware, but there’s also classic furniture from manufacturers like Asplund, Artek, Fritz Hansen, Swedese and Knoll and even broader European wares from the likes of German design house Vitra and big names Cappellini and Cassina. What makes Skandium special, however, is its commitment to excellence in contemporary design.
Celebrate Scandi culture at Nordic Matters festival
The world is in love with all things Scandinavian right now, so the Southbank Centre's festival championing all things Nordic couldn't have come at a better time. The year-long programme celebrates the art, culture and lifestyle of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Finland, through music, food, theatre, visual art and talks. Here's what to look out for.