Standing out among the trendy bars and curry houses of Brick Lane, the Swedish restaurant Fika offers a cosy, calmer alternative.
Located on the curry mile that is Brick Lane, Fika might at first appear just a little bit out of place. But with its large windows, wooden exterior and closely huddled seating inside, it is ‘mysig’ (cosy) from the minute you walk in - which is certainly in keeping with the plethora of local curry houses. A little roof terrace complete with AstroTurf is a nice place to sit in the summer, while the blankets and cushions inside make it pretty much perfect for winter. AstroTurf also makes an appearance inside, both decorating the bar stools and cut out to create animals on the walls, with small paintings dotted around.
‘Fika’ is the Swedish term for a coffee break, and the small restaurant reflects this. Close seating, small tables and only ever a few members of staff create an intimate atmosphere, and when it gets busy in the evenings it may be hard to be served. However the staff are very friendly and once you get their attention food arrives quickly to the table. The clientèle are mainly East End kids on dates and it definitely creates a close (but not overbearing) ambience, but it would be equally welcoming for a larger group of friends. In the afternoons it's perfect for a lazy coffee.
With a menu that changes with the seasons, and features fish from Billingsgate and meat from Smithfields Market, you know you are getting good quality. However there is not a huge amount of choice (four starters and seven mains) and only a few vegetarian dishes. A salmon starter (£5.80) is deliciously flavoursome, served with beetroot purée and sourdough bread but the beef fillet (£7.90) is a little bland even if the berries and toasted seeds are a nice accompaniment.
For mains the smoked garlic chicken (£13.50) is unusual but tasty, served on a warm oak plank with red wine sauce, half a roasted garlic bulb and mash, all of which works well together. The main attraction is meant to be the Swedish meatballs (£10.20), served with a scoop of mashed potatoes (with skin). They're certainly superior to those at IKEA, but are probably not the best representation of this Swedish staple - they're a little limp.
Desserts include kladdkaka (£4.60) which is a dense, rich chocolate cake with a scoop of very good vanilla ice cream, and waffles, which are equally tasty and pop up again on the breakfast menu. However the best option is the jul Fika: gingerbread cookies; delicious gorgonzola cheese; and rich filter coffee, which can be for one or two to share(£7.50/£12.90).
Fika has a small wine selection with bottles priced from £17.50 to £48, as well as a range of cocktails. However make sure you try one of their Swedish beers or ales (God Lager, Crocodile and the marvellously monikered Ctrl Alt Delete). They also stock Rekorderling ciders that you can request hot for cold winter nights.
The Last Word
Perfect for a coffee or dinner, Fika is a welcoming place to catch up with friends, and a world away from the many average curry houses nearby.