Once upon a time, more specifically in 2006, two lost Scandis paced the corporate streets of London looking for the comforting foods from their long left behind native lands. ’Twas nowhere to be found, and so came the idea of Scandi Kitchen to life.
So the story goes. Today, 8 years later, the café has been up and running for almost exactly 7 years, and has become a foodie household name in London. Popular with expats and locals alike, it is a bustling hotspot just north of Oxford circus. Recipes from there feature regularly in local and national newspapers, and nordic cuisine is more popular than ever.The café also has a shop selling products from all over Scandinavia, and is the only supplier of these in the UK. Online supermarket giant Ocado is amongst the wholesalers, as are other restaurants and cafés. In short – ScandiKitchen café and shop is here to stay, bringing a bit of the cold, enigmatic north to London.
We met with Bronte, one of the lost Scandis, to chat about the process from idea to shop, advantages and challenges, lessons learnt and the importance of planning. She welcomes us in the café, on the relatively new lower ground floor expansion, to meet demands.
ScandiKitchen has grown slowly and steadily from the start, and its success is (on the surface) down to 4 things.
Consistency and quality are important, and ScandiKitchen tick both boxes. The daily menu varies, but include open sandwiches with a range of fillings such as smoked salmon, Danish paté with bacon, prawns or roast beef. They have meatballs and salads every day, and during winter there’s a daily soup. The cakes and buns also vary, but staples are cinnamon buns, Swedish Kladdkaka (a deliciously sticky chocolate cake), banana cake with pecans and a tart with the season’s fruits or berries. In addition to the café there is a large shop area filled with Scandi foods, from fresh products (cheese, meat, fish and dairy) to cupboard staples like tinned mackerel, herring, jams and condiments, as well as a wide range of chocolate, crisps and Scandi sweets (including pick and mix!).
Warm and quirky, Danish Bronte explains how the want for more balance and freedom in life was one of the motivators of starting her own business. To do something together with her partner, Swede Jonas, was another important factor. They both left successful careers when the idea of a café started growing. ‘The first 6 months were pure planning’, she says. They did the numbers, and then did them again. ‘If it doesn’t make sense on paper, chances are it won’t work out’. They made a business plan, did the preparation, and with some help from friends and family, the little shop/café opened its doors in July 2007.
The day to day for a business owner varies greatly, and for Bronte it is hectic. She is dealing with their website and their hugely popular social media accounts, as well as working on a book and some general supervision of the café – although this is largely managed by her skilled staff. She says she loves the variety and the flexibility it gives her, and it makes it possible to combine with having a family. Bronte’s first child was born on the same day as the café opened – a true testimony to the fact that anything is possible as long as you plan, prepare and work hard.
Setting up your own business is challenging and requires a lot of discipline, but the rewards can be great. It allows you to set your own pace and be in charge of your own time as well as doing something you really care about – and who wouldn’t like that?
‘Having a cafe and food business is lots of hard work and we’ve learned lots of life lessons – but we love what we do and it drives us every day to do more and do better.’ – Bronte Aurell, co-founder of ScandiKitchen
To visit ScandiKitchen, head to the café on 61 Great Titchfield Street, London, W1W 7PP.