In an increasingly frenetic world where many of us eat lunch 'al desko' and order our flat whites 'to go', finding a moment to take a break is something quite special. Swedes, however, have got it nailed with their cultural ritual of fika. In new book 'Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break' Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall explain: 'In Swedish, coffee is just 'kaffe', but coffee plus something to eat is 'fika'. And the meaning goes much deeper.Fika represents an entire culture. In Sweden the tradition of fika is as common as breakfast; something that almost everyone does at least once a day. Life without fika is unthinkable.'
The beautifully illustrated book charts the history, social etiquette and language of fika,and includes a wealth of recipes for traditional, modern, on-the-go and special-occasion treats (cinnamon buns; almond tart; gingersnaps) to bring a bit offika into our everyday routine. And if you don't want to get the rolling pin out yourself, here are the best places in London to hit pause, Swedish style.
Dane Bronte Blomhoj and Swede Jonas Aurrell opened Scandi Kitchen in 2007 as they missed all the foods and treats from home. The red-fronted cafe-shop offers a smorgasbord of open sandwiches (smoked herring; Danish cheese; Swedish meatballs, to names just a few) and cakes (try the Danish 'dream cake'), as well as a vast selection of Nordic groceries to take home.
61 Great Titchfield Street, London W1; www.scandikitchen.co.uk
All three outlets of Nordic Bakery are calming, clean-cut spaces featuring furniture from iconic Nordic designers (Kaj Franck, Alvar Aalto and Ilmari Tapiovaara) to satisfy your design as well as caffeine fix. The bun choice - cinnamon, berry, butter, custard, apple, almond - demands a return visit.
14a Golden Square, London W1; 37b New Cavendish Street, London W1; 48 Dorset Street, London W1; www.nordicbakery.com
Under the railway arches near Hoxton Overground station, Fabrique's white-tiled Shoreditch branch is its first outside Stockholm (where it has 11 bakeries). It dishes out still-warm cinnamon buns, cardamom rolls and a carb-fest of fresh loaves to a hungry hipster crowd, with coffee from Swedish coffee roasters Johan & Nyström, of course.
Arch 385, Geffrye Street, London E2; www.fabrique.co.uk
The baby Swedish bakery in Covent Garden opened in 2013 by Daniel Karlsson (a pastry chef) and Sven-Gunnar Appelgren (a baker) and remains a popular spot for top-notch coffee and the lightest, fluffiest cinnamon buns this side of Stockholm.
24 Rose Street, London WC2; www.bageriet.co.uk
This Brick Lane venue does its namesake coffee break with a kick (try the Fika Trio - cinnamon bun, coffee and Linie Akvavit) and in the evening evolves to serve something even stronger - Scandi-inspired cocktails with twists of elderflower and dill snaps or cloudberrry liqueur and Swedish beers, as well as a full menu of dishes from across the North Sea.
161 Brick Lane, London E1; www.fikalondon.com
Words by Fiona Kerr, www.cntraveler.com
'Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break' is out now from Ten Speed Press