Kensington gets a lesson in Swedish coffee culture
TORONTO—Nikki Leigh McKean has dreamed of opening a Scandinavian-inspired coffee shop since travelling to Sweden on an exchange 15 years ago. Enamoured with the coffee and food culture, she planned to call it Fika.
“There is almost no translation; it’s like ‘siesta’,” said McKean. “The suggestion is that you stop, relax, have your coffee and sweets, socialize and spend time with people. And they do it religiously.”
She told ORN she was fascinated by the fact that, in Sweden, take-away cups weren’t available and loved the simplicity of the fresh, minimal design.
McKean opened Fika (which does have to-go options) at 28 Kensington Ave. with her husband Victor Barry, chef and owner of Splendido and The County General, in late May.
With the help of designer Sarah Callanan, McKean fashioned the café with light colours, kept it open concept, and added some rustic antique touches, salvaged from the 1902 house which was the site of a former clothing store.
The 1,000-square-foot café seats 12, with a 16-seat front patio. The back area houses McKean’s photography studio and will also be available to reserve for functions. McKean and Barry plan to open a second back patio next year.
“I really wanted to be able to create a space that was light and bright and youfeel like you can breath in,” said McKean. “The food also reflects that; really delicious food, but really light food.”
The menu items are made daily in the Splendido kitchen and brought over every morning. Items include a variety of baked goods, such as gluten-free salted caramel chocolate macaroons, and snack items, including pistachio and lemon ice cream sandwiches.
Lunch items include a panini-pressed mortadella, gruyere and arugula on potato bread, smoked salmon on toasted rye with crème fraiche, radish, chive and cucumber and an open-face avocado sandwich on French country white bread with coriander lime, tomato and pickled onion. Prices range from $1.25 for a shortbread cookie to $7.50 for a sandwich, with an average check of about $10.
The café sources from local Pilot Coffee Roasters and offers espresso-based beverages, iced coffee, whole leaf teas and Italian sodas.
McKean said they are still adding to the menu and Barry is working on a quinoa salad. “I find that sometimes you go to a coffee shop and there is lots of delicious food, but there’s never something in between,” said McKean. She said it has been a fun challenge for Barry, as a fine-dining chef, to limit the amount of butter and cheese to create lighter, everyday items.
“We’re trying to find that balance of a [creative] staple food that someone can eat every day and that is going to fuel your mind and you’re not going to feel like you have to curl up in the corner and have a snooze,” said McKean.
Barry is also planning a pop-up special for the area’s monthly Pedestrian Sundays.
28 Kensington Ave. Fika.ca,