I never really understood the Scandinavian ritual of hygge until my visit to Soho’s Nordic Bakery. Heave open the café’s giant wooden door and you are encircled by comfort. Hygge is all about enjoying life’s simply pleasures and Nordic Bakery gets this spot on. There is nothing here to offend, overwhelm or disturb. It’s the epitome of calm and simplicity. Unlike most of London’s artisan hipster coffee spots, there is no modish music blaring from speakers, no triple shot skinny salted caramel lattes, and absolutely no avocado.
In the centre of the city, I feel as if I could look out of the window and find myself deep within a towering pine forest. The lofty interiors blend industrial exposed pipes and grey lined floors with alternating natural wood-panelled and deep blue-painted walls, wooden benches and autumnal tapestries. The only sounds you hear are the hushed tones of happy conversation and the steaming of the coffee machine.
Nordic Bakery is famed for its traditional cinnamon buns (£5.70) – the café’s biggest sellers. They are the first thing you smell upon entering the café. Warm from the oven and piled high in a wicker basket on the counter, their shiny sugar glaze beckons you to come closer. Shaped in the Finnish way, akin to a pain au chocolat, a thin dough is wound up into tens of tightly-packed layers spread with a comforting mix of cinnamon and sugar.
I found the weight of the bun alarming as I lifted it to take my first bite. Although neither doughy nor dry, the texture is as heavy as it feels. I submerged the soft stretchy layers into my coffee, hoping it would lighten the dough. As for the flavour, I was underwhelmed. I had expected a deep and powerful taste of woody cinnamon, given the delicious aroma, but the spicing of the bun is surprisingly light. I was unable to finish the entire bun and I wasn’t alone. Chunks of cinnamon bun were left on almost every table, each diner defeated by its monstrous size.
The coffee here embodies the same inoffensive and easygoing hygge attitude. I drink my coffee strong, whereas Scandinavians take a toned-down approach to caffeine. There is nothing wrong with Nordic Bakery’s soft and milky cappuccino (£2.80). It’s smooth, topped with a pleasant bubbly foam and has not a hint of bitterness, but was unlikely to charge my sleepy morning brain.
Final word: A truly hygge atmosphere, friendly baristas and homely decor, but the coffee is too subtle to be memorable, the cinnamon bun too heavy for my liking and, above all, I cannot justify spending over £5 for a pastry.
The cinnamon bun: 5/10
14A Golden Square,
T: 020 3230 1077
Open 7:30am – 20:00pm (Mon-Fri); 8:30am – 19:00pm (Sat); 9:00am – 19:00pm (Sun)