However, in modern parlance, Fika, means to ‘remove yourself from your everyday routine to relax, unwind, catch up with friends and be re-inspired’. This laid back Scandi vibe was evident when I visited to check out Huldfolk (Hidden Folk) that celebrates the fabled forest creatures of Scandinavian folklore.
Fika fans will be familiar with the venue's penchant for ambitious creative projects – last summer the entire space had a makeover in tribute to the film director Wes Anderson.
This year Fika has forsaken the Nightmare on Elm Street, and has been turned into a Scandinavian-style forest, complete with a trolls' “grotto” and real foliage. While in no way did it feel like a real forest and the only trolls I noticed were on Twitter, Fika had been transformed into an oasis of Swedish calm away from the Brick Lane bustle.
Of course a calm and laidback attitude has its strengths and its weaknesses. I was running late, but that wasn’t a problem for our (very good-looking) waiter. When we arrived, we didn’t have a table, but that wasn’t a problem for our (equally good-looking) waitress. And judging by the hipster (and very good-looking) diners that filled every table, the ethos seems to be working. However we waited for 15 minutes to be offered a drink, and another ten for the water and (very good) Pinot Noir to arrive. Twenty-five minutes for a drink? That even tested my normally patient demeanour.
Fortunately the menu and dishes were worth the wait. We started with the beetroot and birch. A small but perfectly formed dish of a miniature beetroot bread loaf, with goat cheese, sorrel and a ‘shot’ of birch tree water. The bread cheese and sorrel was divine. The ‘shot’ (non-alcoholic in case you were wondering) was a bit like … water. Fine but not the flavour experience I was expecting. The sorters sill is three flavours of pickled herring with crushed purple potatoes – their natural colouring – and dill yoghurt. Another great dish with the cold, unseasoned potato working surprisingly well with the sharpness of the herring.
For mains we ventured beyond meatballs to try the elk burger and chips. Given it’s a large member of the deer family, I was expecting a venison kick and wasn’t disappointed. Big flavours yet very lean. Delicious. The wild mushrooms with bulgur wheat, was like a foraged risotto – a great combination of woody and earth mushrooms with good texture. Again a great dish although a warning – it’s a deceptively big dish. So be hungry. True to form I tried the kladakka – or sticky chocolate cake – with vanilla ice cream for dessert. This didn’t quite work – it was a bit like a chocolate brownie without the shape. It might have been better served warm.
Fika is much more than a coffee break and the Hidden Folk residence gives you the chance to try some interesting, and fabulous food. Just be prepared to be patient.
On a scale of * to *****
Wining and Dining ****
Serving and Pouring **
Hip factor ****