Fika (pronounced “fee-ka”) is a Swedish expression meaning “to drink coffee” or “coffee break”, usually accompanied with pastries. See, I knew I was Swedish in a past lifetime! I absolutely love Scandinavian food and pastries so it was with great anticipation that I visited Fika – a delightfully tiny restaurant in London’s Brick Lane.
Brick Lane and Shoreditch are, arguably, the epitome of London cool – and quite possibly the hipster capital of Europe. The entire area feels like the embodiment of a particularly on-trend limited edition magazine or the realisation of a very well curated Pinterest board. The countless boutiques, vintage stores, coffee shops and pop ups in the area practically require proof of your hipster credentials before allowing entry (sidebar: am far too old to be a hipster). Fika, although plenty hip thank you very much, has an unassuming and welcoming glow about it. This is maybe due to the fact that is has been open for over five years and doesn’t actually need to try so hard.
A blackboard sign outside the restaurant advertises ‘great filter coffee’ and it is the very first thing I order while I wait for my husband to join me. Great filter coffee is like the Holy Grail for me and so it is with a sigh of contented relief that I sip my cup of truly fab coffee. Fika actually sells their own coffee blends and there’s Swedish cakes and treats displayed on the restaurant storefront should you want to experience the full fika (sadly no cinnamon buns on the day of my visit).
But I am here for lunch and the menu has plenty to tempt me – after much deliberation we go for the miniature beetroot loaf with birch tree water shot and some pickled herring to start. The pickled herring comes on little mounds of purple sweet potato mash which look very pretty but don’t really add much to the dish (the herring would have been lovely with just the dill yoghurt). The beetroot bread is still warm from the oven, it melts in the mouth and I could happily eat it with grilled goat’s cheese all day long.
Although I am sorely tempted by the big elk burger (which the table next to us are having) I am on a diet so I opt for the pulled ox cheek with foraged leaves while my husband selects the Swedish meatballs (it has to be done!). The meatballs in their pool of rich gravy are fantastic and easily washed down with the Finnish and Swedish beers we order. My pulled ox cheek is meltingly tender but comes with more of the purple potato mash – sorry, it’s (again) not doing it for me… The foraged leaves are lovely though.
We are too full for dessert but we order more coffee – Aeropress this time – and a coconut chocolate bite to share. I would love it if Fika was more local so I could spend Sunday mornings there lingering leisurely over cups of coffee and kladdkaka cake… But I promise myself to return in the evening to sample their intriguing cocktails.
Fika, 161 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB. Booking recommended for larger parties or for dinner.
Find more reviews at Transun‘s guide to Scandinavian Restaurants.