18° & RAINY ON THURSDAY 30 MARCH IN SYDNEY
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Hej! Here's your Scandinavian summer house.

Hej! Spring has arrived, the sun is out and colourful dresses complete with Swedish clogs have started to reappear on the streets. There’s no better time to head over to Sydney’s unofficial Swedish enclave, the relaxed beachside 'burb of Manly. This trendy north-shore hub has an enviable collection of Nordic design stores, and amongst the mix you’ll find Fika Swedish Kitchen.

The breezy, chic cafe was founded by expats whose wistful thoughts of home resulted in the brainwave of bringing the best of Swedish culture to the heart of Manly. It channels a Scandinavian summerhouse vibe and seems staffed entirely by attractive blondes like something from a Swedish travel brochure. The sunshine streams into the neatly curated space, illuminating the modern whitewash interior, rendered concrete benchtop and simple artwork.

The minimalism is balanced with homely touches of wooden furnishings, scattered cushions, pops of vibrant yellow and decorative jars of Swedish sweets. Fika translates as ‘taking a break for coffee and a bite to eat', and with that welcoming attitude and the open pavement dining, it buzzes with laidback Manly locals over the warmer months.

We decide to take a time out from our Marimekko homeware shopping, and dabble in some Swedish fare — but first we crack open a Rekorderlig cider while we peruse the lunch menu casually scrawled across the back wall. The obvious crowd-pleaser is the Swedish meatballs with potato mash, gravy and lingonberry jam ($18), comfortingly served up on canteen-style enamel plates.

If you miss the lunch hours, open sandwiches are available throughout the afternoon. Try the gravlax cured salmon skagen, a lavish open sandwich heaped with mashed egg and håvmästar sauce. If you are feeling a little indecisive there is always the smörgåstårta, a sandwich as complicated as its name is to pronounce. It's a three-layer stack of smashed egg, prawn skagen, gravlax, meatball, ham and Jarlsberg ($15).

Our table quickly became a smorgasbord, which literally translates to ‘sandwich table’. There was so much sandwich on our table that there was hardly any table. Not for long though. There were only a few crumbs left on our plates to remind us of what once was.

Now, everyone knows that hanging out in Manly is like being on holiday, and on holiday one always has room for dessert. With such an endearing name, it was impossible to go past Grandma Elly’s Apple Pie ($8) — the just-out-the-oven golden goodness served with a hearty dollop of vanilla whip made me momentarily wish I were related to Grandma Elly.

For an authentic brew, try the refillable Swedish coffee ($2), which is perfect coupled with a cinnamon bun ($5) from the freshly baked batch sitting enticingly on the counter. After you tear into this traditional pastry, you’ll be tempted to order a few as souvenirs to take on the trip home.

With such sincere fare, simple Scandi design and the happy chatter of Swedish expats enjoying a taste of home, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that you aren’t actually in Stockholm.

Published on September 17, 2014 by Eddie Hart

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