Shrove Tuesday, or ‘Fettisdagen’ (Fat Tuesday) as the Swedes like to call it, is an event that I look forward to every year, having been born and raised in Sweden. Instead of stuffing yourself with pancakes (Traditionally denoting the beginning of Lent), the Scandinavians treat themselves to the delicious Semla (Semlor=plural). A calorific cardamom bun that is cut, scooped and filled with almond paste and whipped cream.
This year it falls on the 28th February and I am pleased to tell you that there are numerous places in London where you can find Semla and enjoy a Fika – a typical Swedish custom where people gather to drink coffee, enjoy pastries and have a chat.
In the past couple of weeks, I made it my mission to find every place in London that offers Semla. What did I get myself into 😱… I have basically managed to stuff myself to last me for years to come!
Below, you will find a full list of Semla providers in London – scroll down for the TOP THREE FAVOURITES!
Scandinavian Kitchen is a cute cafe and shop, a few minutes away from Oxford Circus, offering food, pastries and groceries from Scandinavia. It is my favourite place to go when I crave Swedish goodies.
Their Semla is slightly on the smaller side, compared to its competitors, with less whipped cream and almond paste. However, the taste is all there and it is a healthier choice for those who are watching their calories!
Price: £2.95 take away – £3.50 eating in
Stockholm Restaurant and Deli is a little gem located in East Sheen Village. Run by husband and wife Göran and Majvor, they pride themselves in offering authentic Swedish cuisine and delicatessen in South West London.
Their Semla is baked in-house by Head Chef Göran and according to him, this is best enjoyed in a bowl of hot milk, the more traditional form of Semla eating. As many Semlor as I have had over the years, I never tried it with hot milk before, so I decided to follow Göran’s advice… and it was delicious! The hot milk soaks into the bun, turning it into a moist and comforting dessert.
Price: £4 takeaway or £4.50 eating in
Location: East Sheen/Mortlake
Smaka is a Nordic restaurant in Aldgate/Shoreditch offering a healthy range of home-cooked food with a Swedish twist. Opened in 2016 by Dennie Apt, he prides himself in incorporating Scandinavian ingredients and flavours from his childhood to feeding people Swedish food at Smaka.
Their Semla is the cutest! Half the size of a normal one, for only £1.50! Baked in-house, I found the bun slightly dense, but I really enjoyed it overall together with a cup of latte. I had just had lunch when I popped by Smaka, so it was refreshing to eat a petite Semla, it hit that sweet spot perfectly! Smaka is all about healthy food, so their Semla is great for those who want to indulge, but seeking a lighter option!
Nordic Bakery is a chic and calm Scandinavian cafe, famous for their dark rye breads, cinnamon buns and blueberry jam, used in several of their pastries.
Yes, you might think their Semla looks a bit messy, but trust me. Nordic Bakery has controversially replaced the almond paste with their blueberry jam. SHAMEFUL I know, but delicious! Despite no almond paste (coming from a person who loves it!) it still reminded me of the traditional Semla owing to the cardamom flavoured bun. This, combined with the generous amont of fresh cream and blueberry jam went down a treat for breakfast with a cup of coffee.
Price: £2.70 per semla
Locations: Baker Street, Covent Garden, Marylebone and Soho
Curious Yellow Kafe
Curious Yellow Kafe is a cute modern cafe located in Shoreditch, offering a range of breakfast, lunch and brunch options inspired by the UK and Scandinavia.
I did not get to try their Semla, but it looks great and rustic from the picture. The Semla on the right-hand side seems to have a generous amount of almond paste in it 👀… Me like.
Price: £3 per semla
TotallySwedish initially started off as an online shop selling Swedish food and goods, but later expanded to a shop in Marylebone and most recently in Barnes. It is a staple store for homesick Swedes and curious Londoners alike.
Throughout this period, TotallySwedish are offering the Semla (supplied by Bageriet, see the review below) and will bake Semlor in-house on Shrove Tuesday, 28th February.
Price: Two semlor for £7.99
Location: Marylebone, Barnes
Blåbär is a charming Scandinavian cafe and design shop based in Putney. Owners Sandra Linnea West and Oliver Goodier pride themselves in inspiring the Nordic Lifestyle amongst Londoners. Their cafe is the perfect place to stop by for a coffee, breakfast, lunch and a traditional fika, whilst being surrounded by Nordic interiors and designs.
Almas coffee shop is a Swedish inspired place serving homemade cakes, breakfasts and light lunches in Harlesden. Although not in my area, I have heard it is a great local gem.
Their Semla is baked in-house every year. Unfortunately I did not get to taste one this time, but lookswise it does not disappoint!
Price: £3.20 takeaway or £3.50 eating in
Svenska Kyrkan (The Swedish Church in London)
The Swedish Church in London is the central platform for meetings, worship and cultural exchanges amongst Swedes. Within the church there is also a tranquil cafe where they offer Swedish coffee and homemade baking goods. They will be serving Semla on the following days:
- Sunday Church Cafe: 26/2, 5/3, 12/3, 19/3, 2/4 and 9/4.
- Normal Cafe: On Fat Tuesday 28/2
- Ung i London Event: 1/3 (19.30-21pm)
Price: £3 per semla
The Best Semla in London
Aquavit opened in London 2016, following a successful 2 Michelin star branch in New York. It is a contemporary and relaxed Nordic fine dining establishment located in the heart of St James, Picadilly.
I am pleased to inform you that they will serve Semla, for a limited time only, starting from 27th February to 5th March, as part of their dessert menu. We were lucky enough to sample the Semla recently at the Aquavit branch, lovingly prepared by Head Chef Henrik Ritzen, and I can honestly say it was the best semla I have had. Freshly baked with a melt-in-your-mouth soft bun and a generous amount of cream and almond paste. Absolutely faultless!
Their Semla will be available throughout breakfast, lunch and dinner. Although in the higher price bracket, this yummy bun is totally worth it and you will not regret it once inside your belly! Go treat yourself to a fika at Aquavit – advanced booking recommended!
Price: £6 per semla
Location: Picadilly Circus
Fabrique is a Swedish stone oven bakery offering a wide array of fresh bread and pastries, using all natural ingredients and traditional methods. They opened up their very first bakery in Stockholm, 2008. Since then, owing to their authentic and distinctive flavours, they have openened up 11 bakeries in Stockholm as well as rapidly expanding in London.
Their Semla bun is airy and fluffy with a good amount of cream and generous amount of almond paste – just the way I like it! I get very disappointed when bakers skimp on the almond paste, because personally, that is my favourite part of the Semla!
My firm choice for a traditional Swedish Semla.
Price: £4 per semla
Locations: Covent Garden, Fitzrovia, Notting Hill and Shoreditch
Bageriet is a small yet stylish Swedish bakery, located in the heart of Covent Garden. Opened by bakers Daniel Karlsson and Sven-Gunnar Appelgren in 2013, this place has quickly established a reputation for having the best Swedish baked goods around town. I agree.
Their Semla has a generous amount of cream and hands down, the best almond paste I have had in a Semla. Baker Daniel makes the almond paste from scratch, blending plain and roasted almonds for its unique taste. Their cardamom bun is slightly more dense than its competitors, however for me that is not a downside, the more calorific – the better!!!
Price: £4 per Semla
Area: Covent Garden
There you have it! All the places in London where you can find the Semla (to the best of my knowledge). Unfortunately, throughout my research, I learnt that a number of places have ceased business such as the famous Fika as well as Cooper & Wolf. If you know of any I have missed out, please let me know in the comment section below.
If, by any chance, you miss Shrove Tuesday this year then you will have plenty more opportunities in the future. Here are the dates for the next 10 years!
- 2018 – 13 February
- 2019 – 5 March
- 2020 – 25 February
- 2021 – 16 February
- 2022 – 1 March
- 2023 – 21 February
- 2024 – 13 February
- 2025 – 4 March
- 2026 – 17 February
- 2027 – 9 February
- 2028 – 29 February