Fika Cafe, the Swedish-inspired spot from Nikki Leigh McKean and husband Victor Barry (Splendido, County General), opened this week on Kensington Avenue, serving up a selection of coffees, sandwiches and pastries.
Taking cue from the siesta-style tradition of taking fika (a small coffee break with sweets) at various junctures throughout the day, McKean has created a spot for people to grab a quick bite and escape for a few minutes. She told me that she studied for a year in Sweden, and the idea of bringing the culture of ceremonious break-taking to Canada has been a dream of hers for years.
The space, designed by Sarah Callanan, is extremely clean and bright. Caesarstone tables and a tasteful mixture of whites, greys, and blues leave the cafe uncluttered, though small touches can be found everywhere once we start looking around. Behind the bar is a collection of vintage teacups used in Nikki and Victor's wedding, and a restrained display of exposed beams and brickwork accent, rather than dominate, the space.
The front patio is finished, but the work for a back patio and studio / meeting room / communal table in the back of the house are still underway. It's a lovely area, and, once finished, should make for an attractive getaway from the bustle of the market, as well as doubling the square-footage currently available.
Coffee comes locally from Pilot Coffee Roasters, with double shots of espresso loaded into every drink. We visited on a hot day, so we ordered an iced coffee ($4.25), topped with a sprig of mint. The baristas are friendly, enthusiastic, and fuss over the smallest details in the drink.
The pastries are crafted at Splendido, though the sandwiches are built to order. The mortadella sandwich ($7.50) is gorgeous. A fat stack of the thinly-sliced meat is panini-pressed between two slices of Splendido's potato bread.
The smoked salmon ($7.50) is served open-face as a smorgasbord, layered with picked red onions, radishes, and pickled cucumbers.
The chocolate tart ($4.75) is as decadent as you would expect from the Splendido crew, tasting like a snack-pack with a perfect buttery crust. The chocolate-chip cookie ($2.50) is worth every penny, soft and moist beyond belief. The jumbo-sized salted caramel macaroon ($3.00), however, is worth the trip alone.
Too hot of a day? Not to worry, the ice cream sandwich ($4.50) is comprised of a tart and sweet lemon compote, and vanilla bean ice cream, that is then nestled in-between two delectable pistachio cookies.
A blind taste-test would render it easy to imagine the place as a sibling restaurant to Barry's main spot, The County General, but in reality the cafe hosts a completely different atmosphere and design ethic that stands it apart. Airy and peaceful, our quick visit soon transformed into the best part of an afternoon. I'll be going back for the mortadella sandwiches, but I can easily see this space becoming a regular rest-stop from navigating the Market throng on a weekend.
Fika is currently open Tuesday through Sunday, 9am-7pm. Plans are afoot for weekend barbecues on the front patio.
Photos by Morris Lum