Bygga Bo, London E17
The Swedish café in London's East End
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Bygga bo means building a home and there is definitely a homely atmosphere to this friendly café nestling in London's East End in Walthamstow. It's a surprising place to find a Swedish café, but it seems to be thriving and playing its part in a still "up and coming" area of London.
At Bygga Bo you are more likely to hear Swedish than any East End spiv talk. It is run by two Swedes: Eva Robins and Malin Hamilton. Eva is passionate about food and always wanted to open a café of her own. Malin is an interior designer and is responsible for the shop within the café.
The café is open 9 till 5, weekdays except Tuesday, when it is close, and 9 till 6 on Saturday and Sunday. They have a small menu, something that I always think is a good sign because it usually means that items will be fresh and carefully selected. The breakfast section of the menu consists of about half a dozen items, although pastries are always available as well.
Pride in their tea and coffee
Swedes are often very proud of their tea and coffee and that is certainly the case with Eva. In my experience it is not that Swedish tea and coffee is really the best in the world, although some Swedes might have you believe that, it is simply that Swedes never serve poor tea and coffee: it is a matter of pride.
Their open sandwiches are excellent with items such as meatballs with beetroot salad and smoked salmon with horseradish. I'd like to be able to write that the bread comes from an artisan baker next door, but in fact it comes from an industrial estate in Tottenham, north London. Descriptions shouldn't matter but they do, and sometimes we are fooled by them. Their bread is really good, so don't be fooled into expecting an inferior product because it comes from a north London industrial estate.
Soup of the day
If you fancy something warm there is normally some tasty soup on offer along with some of that really good bread from the industrial estate.
It's a place frequented by the yummy mummies* of Walthamstow for fika, either because they are Swedish and they are missing proper fika or because they just like the delicious bakery items on offer. The cinnamon buns are especially popular, although I prefer Edd Kimber's recipe!
Although there isn't a children's menu it is a very toddler-friendly café, probably because Malin lives over the café/shop with her young daughter. There is a play area out the back and there is always somewhere to park a buggy.
Retro heat lamps
Bygga Bo has been converted from a hairdressers' salon and has retained the lights around the mirrors. The old heat lamps have been converted to add some stylish retro soft lighting, but being a Swedish café there are lots of candles around anyway.
The furniture is a hotchpotch of different chairs and stools, reminiscent of Christmas parties when every chair and stool had to be pressed into service to accommodate every Auntie, Uncle and cousin who turned up for a mince pie. It kind of adds to the bygga bo feel.
There is a backyard with decking which an estate agent would call a courtyard. It is a real heat trap and with only one umbrella it can get incredibly hot. There is also a bit of corrugated plastic over one section to provide shelter when it rains. I didn't see any ashtrays. Yummy Mummies don't smoke. That's why I like Yummy Mummies.
There are plants on the tables and the decking, but Prince Charles might say that the plants in the sun need listening too more often as they have obviously been pleading for more water and some shade.
So what's for sale?
Malin has assembled some well-known Swedish brands such as Cheap Monday and Fjällräven alongside some more individual items. The range includes:
• Ceramics including lots of candle holders and attractive cups and plates,
• Handmade jewellery,
• Shoes by Moheda Toffeln,
• Fabrics including rugs and napkins.
Part of the community
Bygga Bo hosts various community events such as the impressive E17 Art Trail, the occasional beer festival and Swedish celebrations, such as a Midsummer party.
*Readers outside the UK may not be familiar with the term "yummy mummies". It was a term that developed in the late 1990s and originally it was a slang term to used to describe young, attractive and wealthy mothers, but these days it tends to reflect any attractive and tastefully dressed mothers with toddlers.
Address: 8 Chingford Road, Walthamstow E17 4PJ
Nearest tube station: Walthamstow Central (It is then a 15 minutes walk towards Chingford.)
Other reviews: Tripadvisor
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