Thursday, May 01, 2008

Nordic Bakery
14a Golden Square, Soho, London W1F 9JG

Food: Purportedly London’s first Finnish coffee shop, the shop serves traditional Nordic fare, which are, as the words on the shop window state: “dark rye bread / cinnamon buns / coffee”. There's not much else other than smoked salmon on rye bread, Karjalanpiirakka (karelian rice pastries, best eaten with the traditional accompaniment of egg butter) and korvapuusti (cinnamon buns). Everything other than the rye bread is baked on-site in the kitchen located in the basement.

The day I was there, I opted for the last two, seeing as both of these are traditionally Finnish. The pie turned out to be a rice cake wrapped in pastry, and without the butter, would have been quite bland otherwise. It’s not too large and is most likely meant to be a starter to a more substantial meal, which, in my case, happened to be the gigantic cinnamon bun. Now, I am a huge cinnamon bun fan (no pun intended… or was it? Heh). I’m a fan of cinnamon and anything sweet in general, and this warm, delectable, soft-yet-crunchy-in-the-right-parts pastry sure hit the spot.

Beverages: The cappuccino was pretty good in my books. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the Finnish are the largest consumers of coffee per capita, drinking five cups of the stuff (and we don’t mean weak Starbucks stuff here) a day on average. The shop uses Illy for its espresso-based drinks. It was good enough for me to sip it in conjunction with my cinnamon bun without requiring sugar (although after the sweetness of the bun, you probably wouldn’t want to consume any more sugar!).

Prices: Cappuccinos and lattes cost £2. The open-faced rye bread sandwiches cost £4 (which I felt was rather high given the relatively small sizes), while the karelian pie was £1.50 and the enormous cinnamon bun was an incredibly good bargain at just £2. Overall, I guess the prices average out… just as long as you get the cinnamon bun!

Service: Service was good. The staff was generally friendly. The only quibble I had was that whenever people came in through the door and were clearly looking for seats, none of the staff would come forward to offer assistance. In my case, while I was told all the tables were taken, I spotted some with spare seats and pointed them out. To the staff’s credit, they checked with the customers sitting there for me, and I managed to get a seat.

Size/Ambiance: The place is of a decent size, although tables seemed relatively small. The day I was there, it felt as if the place could potentially get too noisy, if you know what I mean. However, though I was by myself and just generally people-watching and sort-of-eavesdropping, I just felt at peace with the world. Perhaps it had something to do with the woody design scheme chosen by the owner: the Alvar Aalto furniture were made of pine wood which had been coloured dark brown, while Finnish paintings were hung on the wall. I felt as if I was in a quaint, cosy log cabin, close to nature, as opposed to being smack in the middle of the bustling city. Even the way the food and drinks were served added to this effect. Everything came neatly arranged on a small wooden tray.

Overall, this place is a great stop for a 30 minute coffee break (or a fika, as a Scandinavian might say). If it’s not too crowded (hah!) or if you don’t feel bad lingering in a place for too long, then I’d say it’s a great place just to sit and chill out with a good book.

I can’t wait till my next trip there. As you may have guessed, I’m going just for the bun!

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