I moved to London when I joined Neo4j almost seven years ago. And that’s when I discovered the concept of fika. Neo4j is a Swedish company headquartered in California – we like to say it’s an American company with a Swedish soul. And I guess fika is part of the Neo4j soul.
So what is fika exactly? Probably one of the most popular Swedish words alongside ABBA and IKEA. Though it won’t be exactly right and probably won’t capture the full essence of it, “fika” is pretty often translated as “have a coffee and a cake break.” It’s an essential part of Swedish culture (like going to the pub in the UK perhaps!).
One of the key components is sharing the moment with someone else – it’s a time to connect. If you’re on your own you’re just having a coffee, right? Making connections and being connected is a core part of what makes Neo4j what it is. It’s actually one of our values – (we)-[:VALUE]->(relationships) – and fika is a great way to do just that.
Fun fact about fika: Though the preference goes for something homemade or fresh, it doesn’t really matter what you are eating. This is great. I mean, being a Frenchie living in London and working for a Swedish company, I couldn’t stop myself from only eating cinnamon rolls even if I wanted to!
Fun fact about me: I don’t drink coffee so I won’t be able to tell you if the coffee was worth it!
As London is buzzing with new places and things to do, it’s an amazing city to fika in. And I definitely used the opportunity of writing this article to check out a few Scandi places around!
Let me share with you a few of my recent fika moments.
Hej Coffee – Bermondsey
Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when going for fika is to find a place with all the Scandi vibes. Hej Coffee is one of those hipster places in London, and if it’s a sunny day you might be able to get a spot outside. They have a decent selection of pastries, and what I like most about this place are the huge windows that let in plenty of daylight, even in the middle of the winter.
When I was there, I tried the cinnamon roll and couldn’t help myself from getting pain au chocolat as well. I also tried their Swedish hot chocolate from the brand Nöje, which was nice but nothing mind-blowing. But without a bathroom, you can’t stay there all that long, so I’d recommend this place for a short break or take out.
Ole & Steen – Various Locations
I went to the Ole & Steen Canary Wharf location so I could work for a bit while joining a friend, but there are various locations – the closest one to our London office is on Tooley street. The specific set-up of the Canary Wharf spot is definitely great for work… less of a hygge Scandi vibe, but I must say the food did not disappoint. If they all have a similar vibe and set-up you should definitely go for it! Try the chocolate swirl – it reminded me of chocolate almond croissants.
As I said, it’s not really only about the food or the atmosphere, it’s about the moment and who you share it with, so as long as you are in good company, you’re good to go. However, I am French – it’s also a lot about the food. If it’s an art de vivre, fika might not have to be in a Scandi café then, and we can still get excited by the food! (Can you tell I’m bringing French vibes to this article?)
Maître Choux – South Kensington & Soho
OK, so I had to share a French fika place here, didn’t I? Forget the Paul Bakery and le Pain Quotidien – if you are ever in the South Kensington area (and more recently Soho too), make sure to stop at Maître Choux. I love their eclairs, they are really fancy and delish (but very expensive too – let’s be honest)! If you are going there, I suggest you try them as well, but the underestimated winner is actually their chouquettes. Chou-quoi? Chouquettes! Chouquette translates as “little bits of (choux) pastry” and that’s exactly what they are! The dough used to make these pastry puffs is the same dough that’s used to make the eclairs. They are rich with the flavor of a butter and egg-based dough, and slightly sweet from the sugar pearls on top. They are surprisingly airy, but so good!
Cedric Grolet – Belgravia
I have also recently tried Cedric Grolet’s creation. My friends decided to level up fika for my birthday and picked up some cakes from Cedric’s new place in London. He crafts patisseries that look like fruits… heaven. If you’ve never seen what he does, check out his Instagram, and if you get to try them, you can thank me later!
NoNo – Bermondsey
I’ll finish this article with NoNo. While NoNo only offers take-away, it’s my favorite local spot. They serve vegan treats and some of the best cardamom buns – their sourdough bread is pretty good too. If you are ever in the area, let yourself be tempted! (And yes, per the photo there, I do have a small tray that says “fika” at home!)
I guess with our crazy busy-bee way of life, in the end what matters most is that you take some time for a coffee break! So please let this post serve as a reminder to take a break and connect today 😉
Craving more Scandi vibes? Treat yourself to Eldr Restaurant & Rooftop in the heart of Belgravia. Located at the top of Pantechnicon – the home of Japanese and Nordic dining and shopping in Belgravia – you’ll love Eldr for the cocktails, the vibes, and the Nordic-inspired plates.