Fika: the Swedish social custom of taking a break – whether with friends, family or colleagues – that most often involves coffee and traditionally requires the accompaniment of sweet baked goods. Fika is so ubiquitous it’s used as both a verb and a noun. As well as the pastime of a coffee stop with friends perhaps more familiar to us, fika also connotes an important, daily social ritual in the workplace where professional as well as private matters are discussed. Wherever fika takes place, caffeinated or soft drinks are required alongside a selection of fikabröd (literally fika bread) consisting of biscuits, cakes and sweet, enriched buns such as kanel- (cinnamon) or kardemummabullar (cardamom).
In Britain, afternoon tea certainly has a whole different raft of connotations and would probably be perceived as slacking in the workplace! I think we should take a leaf out of the forward-thinking Swedes’ book and embrace the social ritual of the fikapaus. Regular short breaks have been proven to sustain focus and motivation and the Scandinavians understand this balance. Art and Vintage in Abbeyhill is my new dream fika spot. The café-turned-shop on Lyne St, just off Montrose Terrace (where you’ll also find the Century General Store) combines fika in the form of delicious coffee, cake and light lunches with Scandinavian design and a beautifully curated selection of vintage pieces.
I first met one of the owners Toni Gallacher at the monthly flea market in Leith (which you can read about here) where I fell for her beautifully thoughtful selection of old things. I particularly loved her vintage kitchenalia – which you can spot in many of my baking posts. Her selection is always considered and well-priced, and she just has the eye. So imagine my joy when I heard she was opening a shop. A whole shop! I’ve been anticipating its opening since she first mentioned it last December – and the finished product more than lived up to my high expectations, given what I had seen she could do with a stall!
Toni and co-owner Paul Butler decided to create the shop, café and gallery last Summer, when they found a shared love of all things vintage. Toni is an artist and art teacher (you can see some of her paintings on display in the shop), while Paul has worked as a chef for 15 years, most recently as Head Chef at a popular New Town bistro. They had a vision of a relaxed, inviting place where they could spread their love of good coffee, hearty food, Scandi design, contemporary art, and vintage treasures. Art and Vintage distills this vision in a cleverly curated space that’s truly unique in Edinburgh.
I really don’t need to reiterate my love of all things vintage as it’s pretty obvious – even if you’re new to these parts – that I just adore old things. Another love that I perhaps haven’t documented quite so much is my penchant for Scandinavian design: whitewashed walls, stripped back wooden floors, the clean lines of mid-century furniture – I could go on. The surroundings of Art and Vintage, designed by Edinburgh-based design studio Splintr, are an absolute dream come true with all the above and more. The design is minimal yet filled with thoughtful touches: Ercol chairs, parquet counters, pendant lights. And it’s perfectly unfussy, making it an ideal backdrop for the selection of vintage objects.
Toni explained that she wanted the collection of vintage to feel consistent rather than a mish-mash, junk shop style, with loads of different bits and pieces and no thread connecting them. That certainly has its place (you know I like a good rummage!), but as a shop that needs to convey a clear vision, Toni has carefully selected a range of pieces sourced from the UK and Scandinavia. I’ve used the word curated before but it really is the word for it: each of the pieces chosen and displayed shows Toni’s artistic eye: the colours and textures selected to work together, and the makes and eras too. From antique scissors to Hornsea pottery, Scandi enamelware to retro linens, it all just works together.
The selection is such high quality and prices are reasonable too – in most vintage shops the mark-up can be huge but Art and Vintage has got the price point right I think. I couldn’t resist picking up a wee something to go with my retro kitchenware collection and came away with a blue and white enamel flowered mug Toni sourced in Sweden. For £5, so old and in such good condition, it was a bargain – especially compared to what they go for online (or the price of a new high street mug!). I could have gone a little mad to be perfectly honest, and I’ll certainly be making another visit come payday…
I couldn’t not mention the fika treats too: the coffee hit the spot while our cakes and pastries were very tasty. I had the chocolate and beetroot cake (gluten free!) and it was the most deliciously moist vegetable cake I’ve ever had – almost brownie-like in consistency. I will definitely be going back for lunch as the salads looked amazing. It was a lovely, quiet spot to relax and enjoy some Scandinavian magazines on a Saturday morning while oggling vintage pieces and just taking in the surroundings. I have a feeling it will be my regular post-thrifting haunt as two of the fairs I visit are nearby, in Meadowbank and Leith respectively. I left feeling entirely inspired and already itching to return.
What do you think of Swedish fika? Are you a fan of Scandi design?