This has been a week of firsts for me in the world of food. I have tried several different dishes that I have never come across before in my life, which is quite a rarity for me as I was introduced to most things weird and wonderful as a child by my Grandad.
The alien dishes that I tried this week include a plate of Jellyfish from a (somewhat terrible) Dim Sum restaurant by Camden Stables Market; a bizarre texture – slimy, crunchy and semi-flavourless all at the same time! As well as a Sea Urchin from a fantastic Oyster restaurant in Paris. Despite being pricey, mine and Josh’s intrigue got the better of us and we took the plunge to order it… and would recommend that if you have any respect for your tastebuds you avoid it at all costs! The texture is mixed… slimy and yet also grainy, while the flavour is mildly salty and fishy, but not in a good way.
But those strange pieces of seafood aren’t what this post is about. As the title suggests, this post is about a small restaurant/cafe around the corner from Oxford Circus on Great Titchfield Street which serves Scandinavian food. Not jellyfish or Sea Urchin. It is a cuisine I have never even thought about trying before. But boy, am I glad I have now.
I was introduced to this place by the lovely Sophie who works for Story PR. It would appear that this restaurant is a favourite of hers and her colleagues, as well as plenty of other people who work in the area, especially of a lunch time, as when I arrived the queue was already out of the door and many of the tables were full. Once at the counter Sophie explained to me what the dishes were, and also recommended a few things to me as well. At the counter is a smörgåsbord of different small dishes, both warm and cold. A traditional smörgåsbord starts with fish, moving on to cold meats, and then warm dishes. Cheeses come at the end. I’m not familiar with Scandinavian food (which, to be specific, is food from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland) as a cuisine, but it does include a lot of ingredients I have tried before, simply prepared in different ways.
Herring for example is a staple Scandi ingredient, and I opted to try it in a curried form. Served in a small pot, garnished with a small tomato, this tasted very similar to the sauce found on a coronation chicken sandwich. The herring itself had a slightly pickled taste, which made the small pot a lot more complex than your standard coronation sandwich filler. I enjoyed it.
I also opted for two salads, the first of which consisted of what I now know to be a very scandinavian ingredient; beetroot. This was a creamy chopped beetroot and apple salad which was a beautiful shade of purple. The crunchiness and sweetness of the apple went incredibly well with the soft savoury beetroot. I could have had an entire plate of that alone!
The other salad I tried was Sweet Potato salad with Rye Kernels – another first for me as as far as I’m aware i’ve never tried rye kernels before… but I liked them. They tasted a lot like barley. The sweet potato was lovely, soft but not mushy. It was the most filling of the three dishes I tried, and tasted the healthiest. Perfect if you’re looking for a healthy lunch with a lot of vegetable goodness.
On my next visit I will be sure to try a few more of their dishes. The glass counter held a selection of open sandwiches; slices of thin bread topped with different goodies, such as Swedish meatballs with beetroot and apple salad and green leaves on stone-ground bread, and Danish pork liver pate with honey panchetta on dark rye bread, amongst many others. I’m also very intrigued to try the Hotdog with all the Scandi trimmings (£2.95 each).
All of these items are priced at £2.25 per portion (and the salad portions are a decent size, I can assure you) with the exception of the hotdog (or course), however you can always opt for the lunch deal, where 3 dishes cost £6.50 if you eat in, and only £5.95 if you take away.
If after your Scandi lunch you are in the mood for something a bit sweet, I would recommend you try one of their great Semlor buns; cardommon buns filled with whipped cream and marzipan, which are the scandinavian equivilant of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (although they’re actually nothing like pancakes). Freshly baked, the buns are fluffy and light, while the marzipan adds a sweet almond flavour as you reach the middle. It was filled with a little too much whipped cream for my liking, but that wasn’t an issue in the slightest as I just left it aside. Priced at £2.75 this is a great treat to allow yourself, but you’ll need to hurry if you want to try them as they’ll be gone at Easter.
This really is a lovely little cafe with some truly wonderful dishes. I’m so glad that Sophie introduced me to it, as I will now definitely be returning again, and would recommend if you’re a stranger to Scandinavian food that you check it out – it’s a very lovely restaurant to be initiated into! But having said all of this, if you don’t fancy dining in this lovely cafe but you are intrigued by the idea of scandinavian food, you can still pay this place a visit and check out their grocery shop at the back of the cafe! They stock over 600 food products from all over Scandinava, from sweets to savouries, from preserves to horrendous smelling cans of fish that they won’t even open in store due to the terrible stench. But they’re a delicacy… so maybe they’re worth holding your nose for!