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Monday, September 17, 2012

Cafe Svensson, Sydney


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.

Leverpastej $5
Liverpaste sandwich 

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.

Köttbullar $6
Meatball sandwich

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

There's a modest selection of desserts under the glass domed cake stand, but more impressively, many of them are homemade.

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.

View Larger Map
Cafe Svensson on Urbanspoon

Cafe Svensson
96 Goulburn Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9266 0236

Opening hours:
Wednesday 6pm-9.30pm
24 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/17/2012 12:47:00 am


  • At 9/17/2012 1:29 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    i hate marzipan and yet i cant stop staring at how neon green it is and now i really want to try it..

  • At 9/17/2012 7:29 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    I had lunch there something like ten years ago when I was walking past. A bit like eating at IKEA just without the screaming children. The mums mums sounds great!

  • At 9/17/2012 10:47 am, Anonymous Simon @ the heart of food said…

    I'm sure I've been past that area a number of times and have never noticed this place before.

  • At 9/17/2012 12:06 pm, Anonymous Numi said…

    I admit it's been about a decade since I left Sweden to live abroad, but I'm pretty puzzled at this "the main (hot) meal is usually at lunchtime. Dinner is therefore a simple sandwich" bit. That's not true. We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner just like other countries. The only meal "irregularity" is the Swedish fika or coffee break. You might have a sandwich for breakfast, lunch or mentioned fika, but only having one for dinner sounds more like a diet thing. The standard is a hot meal for dinner.

  • At 9/17/2012 12:13 pm, Blogger Jacq said…

    chokladboll! nothing wrong with eating raw cookie dough covered in sugar :)

  • At 9/17/2012 1:26 pm, Anonymous Eha said…

    Am softly laughing! I actually got married for the first time in that 'funny' little church on the left many, many moons ago! Methinks it was the German Lutheran Church then, and us Estonians were allowed to have our services there! Funny old world :) !

  • At 9/17/2012 5:51 pm, Anonymous Kim said…

    I love all sorts of Scandinavian food! Gonna be sure to visit this little cafe!

  • At 9/17/2012 8:08 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How did I miss this one? I swear, we must have walked past it more than once on our last visit.

    I am thoroughly obsessed with all things Swedish (thanks, IKEA!) so will definitely drop in the next time I'm in Sydney!

    In the meantime, my homemade cinnamon buns will just have to fill the void...

  • At 9/17/2012 8:12 pm, Anonymous Sara - Belly Rumbles said…

    liverpaste sambo with dill pickles, yup, one of my favourite foods.

    I love how Sydney has all these little gems, would take you more than a lifetime to discover them all.

  • At 9/17/2012 8:48 pm, Anonymous Christine @ Cooking Crusade said…

    Another awesome find! mmm why do I want a meatball sandwich now... PS How good are Daim bars? I love stocking up on the huge packs at Ikea but they never last me terribly long :( lol

  • At 9/18/2012 9:20 am, Blogger Shawn said…

    Wow - never knew about this one, so there, thanks so much!

  • At 9/18/2012 11:26 am, Anonymous SarahKate (Mi Casa-Su Casa) said…

    How fun! You always find the best places. I love the sound of all those open faced sandwiches... kind of like French tartines.

  • At 9/18/2012 10:40 pm, Anonymous Vivian - vxdollface said…

    what an interesting find! i thought they were worms in the first pic T_T thought it must've been a halloween related post lol

  • At 9/19/2012 9:44 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    This is a discovery - love the open sandwiches in Scandinavia!

  • At 9/23/2012 6:51 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    Omg! I walked past that place when I went to Sydney earlier this year - and I wondered what it would be like! Now I know! :)

  • At 9/24/2012 7:30 pm, Anonymous SF said…

    Hi there. I actually work at IKEA... and I'd actually go so far to say that they bought the little sweets (the chocolates, etc) FROM our store.

    I have eaten one of the little chocolates, the chocolate covered cream filled thing you have a photo of... and... well, it's exactly the same as what we sell at our store. I can almost assure you that these aren't homemade.

  • At 9/25/2012 7:18 pm, Anonymous Cath said…

    Isn't it funny the little places that we walk past every day yet we rarely give them a second glance? :)

  • At 9/26/2012 1:43 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Numi - True - I think that was more a reference to the days of yore, much like the traditional English Sunday roast for lunch, and then sandwiches for supper, but I've amended it for clarification. Thanks :)

    Hi Eha - Yes it was/is a German Lutheran church, and how lovely! I'm sure you were a stunning bride!

    Hi Kim - It's a cosy little find. Hope you enjoy it!

    Hi Jujichews - Homemade cinnamon buns would suffice on any occasion methinks!

    Hi Sara - Agreed. Sydney eats are a real treasure trove!

    Hi Christine - Daim bars are crazy addictive!

    Hi Vivian - Haha no Halloween here.

    Hi Sarah - Wow you really did manage to get around Sydney on your super fast visit!

    Hi SF - I agree that the mums mums were store-bought (and now I know where to find them!) but the chocolate balls were definitely homemade, as reassured to us by the Reverend, and evidenced by the buttery residue on our fingers. Will have to visit Ikea to stock up on Swedish sweets asap :)

    Hi Cath - Agreed. You have to keep your eyes open everywhere!

  • At 9/27/2012 2:44 am, Blogger we could me marvelous said…

    looks so delicious !!
    Hope you enjoy it ♥

  • At 10/02/2012 11:01 pm, Anonymous KB @ Neat Eats said…

    Must have walked past there a hundred times without ever seeing it.
    But it's Wednesday tomorrow - might have to check it out!

  • At 10/15/2012 7:37 pm, Anonymous SydneysEateries said…

    Is this owned by the same people as Svens in Bondi Junction by any chance?

  • At 10/16/2012 11:59 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi SydneysEateries - No, Cafe Svensson is run by the church next door :)

  • At 10/18/2012 2:12 pm, Anonymous Carrie said…

    It's a great spot for any Swede with a bit of homesickness. I've definitely been known to go there for a coffee and cake every once in a while :)

    I actually posted a recipe for authentic Swedish cinnamon buns on my blog a while ago if anyone is keen to give it a crack.

  • At 4/09/2013 8:07 am, Anonymous Sam said…

    Oh I have never ever ever noticed this place! I'm definitely going to drop in and check it out though - caviar and egg sandwiches are my favourite. Such a lovely post! x


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