Ahhh… that magical smell of sea salt and sunscreen greets the nose as you drip dry after a leisurely paddle in the Pacific (between the flags of course!) at one of Sydney’s most iconic beaches, Manly. With a sea-stoked appetite, you set off toward the historic Manly Corso in search of traditional Aussie beach-fare to settle those rising tummy grumbles. Hmmm… fish and chips? Nah…cliché. Chico roll? Chico-not! OK, so now your feet are burning on the hot pavement as you slip deeper into the café encrusted alleyways, just off the Corso, in hopes of finding a foodie oasis that only the locals know about. Kebabs, sushi, crepes… been there, done that. Swedish?… in Manly? Yep! Fika Swedish Kitchen brings homemade Scandinavian food culture and perfectly melds it with the beach vibe of Manly.
Fika’s atmosphere is bright, cosy and welcoming. There’s a clear Nordic influence in the décor that lends itself perfectly to the “beachy” feel of Manly. While the space makes us feel right at home, it really is the amazingly lovely people that run Fika that make this place so comfortable.
It’s late morning as we score a great table out front, where we can watch barista Kieran work his magic and also squeeze in a bit of serious people watching in the heart of Manly.
With the latest trend of cold pressed juices, I’m always drawn to the quirky names and interesting combinations that cafe’s have on offer. Today, it’s the Sweet Cheeks – a blend of watermelon, apple, cucumber, lime and raspberry. The minute it arrives, I take my first sip through the funky zebra straw, and I knew I made the right choice! The freshness of cucumber and lime is always a great combination but blended with the other fruits, it serves a taste to my palate that is equally tart, as it is sweet. As I am sure you can imagine, it didn’t last long and was quickly devoured leaving me craving for more.
A Campos logo is a reassuring sign for many Sydney-siders like myself, but that’s just half the battle! A barista and their machine must be at one as they turn out coffee after coffee for discerning coffee lovers. Kieran at Fika Swedish Kitchen performs the deed extremely well with my cappuccino. It’s full of flavour, medium bodied strength, with no bitter aftertaste. The temperature is perfect, as are the milky textures, just creamy enough but it doesn’t override the warm chocolate flavours. I have no trouble in finishing my yellow cup of the good stuff.
With the trusty cappuccino quickly being consumed, we were tempted by the frosty promise of the iced coffee. Served in a whimsical jar, and punctuated with a funky straw with which to siphon the chilly treat, this delightful drink can be optioned up with whipped cream and/or ice cream.
Perfectly light and fresh on a sweltering day, the Stockholm Salad mixes the textures of beluga lentils with crisp, cool asparagus, sweet beetroot, and pickled carrot to accompany beautifully moist salmon pieces which all work together to create a delightfully tasty, healthy plate. The subtle sprinkling of a citrus dressing brings an ideal acidity to the salad that further enhances the flavours of the fish and veggies.
I am always a fan of simple, uncomplicated food but even more so during the heat, and so I opt for the Salmon Lover. The very generous serving of skillfully house-cured salmon, served on a bed of smashed avocado, offers a great marriage of ingredients, but it is the nuttiness of the pumpernickel that made this dish stand out. The crunchiness and density of the bread was a good juxtaposition to the smoothness of the avocado and salmon. Top it all off with the expertly poached Rock Chic organic, free range egg, and I’m in heaven!
Perhaps a signature dish at Fika, is their take on Toast Skagen. It was my second time ordering this dish, and this iteration is beautifully presented. The famous prawn, dill and lemon mayo is daintily stacked on the avocado and topped with caviar. It all sits on sourdough with a garnishing of dill, lemon, and radish. It’s a pretty sight and draws ‘oohhs and aahhs’ when brought out. It tastes fantastic too. You can discern each of the ingredients – the prawns are sweet, there’s tang from the lemon, and the mayo is creamy and rich. Even the garnishes do their job, with the dill adding a lightness, yet freshness to this dish and the radish providing a clean, contrasting flavour.
There are two items in Fika’s lunch menu that are only served between 2pm to 4pm. Swedish Meatballs and Mash is described on their menu, as meatballs with creamy gravy, lingonberry jam and pickled cucumbers. If, like me, you think that it sounds like that very similar meal at a famous global Swedish furniture company, you can be assured that it is no coincidence – this is an iconic Swedish dish! But, that is where the similarity ends. Fika’s version is truly home-made, and you actually taste the meat that is perfectly seasoned and lightly pan-fried.
The mash is one of the best potato mash I have tasted in a long while. The lingonberry sauce is really what transforms this dish into something special. The red sauce provides a citrus, fruity flavor and the pickled cucumber completes the dish with a sharp, sweet-and-sour taste.
The other is the Gothenburg Hotdog – described as a grass-fed beef and organic pork frankfurter, served with their signature potato mash, roasted onion and house gherkin mayonnaise, in a bread roll. The hotdog is sourced from Brot & Wurst, a German small goods stored located in North Narrabeen. It is gluten, colour, soy and preservatives free and is definitely not your average ‘sausage’! The boiled hotdog is sandwiched between a roll, served with a generous dollop of mash potato, and topped with fried shallots, which gives the dish a crunchy texture. One final surprise in this dish is the delicious mayonnaise, made with gherkins, that enhances the experience with a sweet and sharp edge.
For a little extra, you can add a side of their famous Skagen prawn mix. I would definitely recommend going the extra mile for a jar of it to make it sea-sde surf-and-turf meal – we are the beach, after all!
Fika has a wide range of desserts on regular offer. But during February, the Semla bun makes its’ appearance on Fika’s menu for a limited time, to commemorate the European Christian religious customs to denote the beginning of Lent before Easter.
For those who are not familiar the Swedish-Finnish traditional Semla, it consists of a cardamom-spiced wheat bun, which has its top cut off, and is then filled with a mix of milk and almond paste, topped with whipped cream. The cut-off top serves as a lid and is dusted with powdered sugar.
From taste to presentation, this dessert is everything that is to be expected in a traditional Semla, and more! The bun is light and fluffy and the hint of cardamom in the bun gives it an unusual sweet, fragrant taste. The fresh whipped cream and marzipan marries with the overall flavor of the bun. The dusting of icing sugar makes this dessert a dish that is not for the calorie-counting obsessive, but definitely worth trying at least once in your life!
Fika Swedish Kitchen really is a breath of fresh Scandinavian air within Sydney’s coffee culture and is a must for food and coffee lovers looking to explore the amazing variety our city offers us.