I love that even as a Sydney local, our fair city still manages to hold hidden surprises. Cafe Svensson is one of them, a little pocket of Swedish hospitality tucked away in the heart of the Sydney CBD.
Martin Luther Church and Cafe Svensson on Goulburn Street, near Elizabeth Street
Connected with the Swedish Church a few doors down and run entirely by volunteers, we're a little nervous as we slide open the glass doors. The wood-panelled room is sparsely decorated - a string of Swedish flags hangs from the ceiling - but there's a merry atmosphere of chatter from the surprisingly full dining room, mostly young backpacking Swedes here for a chat and a taste of home.
Cafe Svensson menu
You know a place is authentic when the menu isn't even in English, but the energetic crew behind the counter are more than keen to help. Besides, we have Miss Schnapps, a Swedish ex-pat with us, who happily guides the way.
In Sweden, Miss Schnapps explains, the main (hot) meal is usually at lunchtime. Dinner is therefore a simple sandwich, but "it has to be open - that's what Swedes do," we're told in no uncertain terms.
The smörgåsar, or sandwich menu, has a range of options. We start with the egg and caviar sandwich ($6), a simple but tasty assembly of lettuce, cheese, cucumber, boiled egg slices and squiggles of herring roe.
We continue with the liverpaste sandwich, the finely textured pate livened with bread and butter cucumbers, tomato, lettuce and sprigs of fresh parsley.
Eating sandwiches with cutlery makes the meal feel much more substantial, and it's less messy as well.
My favourite is the Köttbullar or meatball sandwich. A trio of homemade meatballs are soft and springy, served on a bed of lettuce with fresh tomato. The rodbetssallad is the perfect accompaniment, a saucy beetroot and apple salad that is tangy and refreshing.
The Cafe Svensson service counter (and is that Father Christmas?)
Swedish desserts including the chocolate-dipped green marzipan pastry Punsch-roll
Noone is in a rush to leave. The cafe only opens one night a week, and it seems most people are content to spend the evening here. The church priest, Reverend Katja Lin, is a ball of chirpiness, and makes several rounds of the room.
Svensk Kanelbulle $2.50
Swedish cinnamon bun
Mums mums; cinnamon bun $2.50 and Chokladboll chocolate ball $2
Miss Schnapps is straight into the chokladboll chocolate ball, describing it as buttery sweet oats before she's unintelligible from the sighs of happiness. They're a popular childhood sweet in Sweden, often found at kids parties, and made by combining oats with butter, sugar, coffee and cocoa, then rolled in nib sugar and chilled in the fridge. It's like eating raw biscuit dough. In a good way.
Mums mums is another childhood favourite, although this one is store-bought. Underneath the thin shell of chocolate is the softest, fluffiest pillow of marshmallow you could imagine.
And then there's the classic Kanelbulle or cinnamon bun. "There is nothing better in my childhood memory than eating a warm cinnamon bun fresh from the oven with a glass of cold milk," Miss Schnapps reminisces.
Våffla waffle with cream and jam $3
We finish with orders of waffles, a little meagre in batter dispensation, but because they're cooked to order, the edges are thin and crispy. A puddle of cream and a splodge of jam is happily hoovered up as well.
Ahlgrens Bilar racing car sweets
It's a cool little insight into the Swedish community, made sweeter with a takeaway haul of Daim chocolate bars. Sweet.
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96 Goulburn Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9266 0236
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9/17/2012 12:47:00 a.m.