Words by Erik Magnusson
Swedish folk love their coffee and cinnamon buns, a revelation to few who have ever spoken to one for more than five minutes, and the tradition of having a fika is as strong as ever. Even though American chains are beginning to pop up here and there, there are plenty of genuine gems to seek out, both new and old.
I’d place Konditori Valand in the latter category. Although perhaps not the oldest of them all, since the opening in April 1954 with the interior designed in detail by its founder and still current owner Stellan Åström, no alterations have been made making it an exquisite diamond of a time capsule. To walk through the door is quite literally like taking a step back in time, having replaced only the old red brass-type cash register with a newer model, it still sits behind the counter contributing to the film noir ambience of the spacious and wooden clad café that whispers of a different era.
One of the most prominent ways in which the ‘era’ was different in 1954 was that most cafés, Valand included, were open until eleven in the evening making it possible for common people to socialise over coffee and pastry without having to book a table for dining. Valand in particular started out having great pastry ambitions, implied by the word ‘konditori’, but ’54 was also the year television was introduced to the wider population in Sweden. Visitors dwindled in numbers, opening hours were shortened and staff cuts were made. Mrs. Åström, co-owner and present since the opening, rolled up her sleeves and took over the rolling pin, streamlined the selection of pastry and has been the driving force in the kitchen and behind the till ever since.
You will find no creamy, pompous, glittering cakes of fairy-tales here and no lattes as of yet. Konditori Valand offers Black coffee, a drip of milk with it (if that is what caters to you) and well made Scandinavian household pastry. Can you eat interior? No. Can remarkable surroundings influence your senses, and if combined with something simple but delicious elevate your mind and spirit slightly? Yes, this is possible.
I'd go for the blueberry pie with vanilla sauce and a cup of black java. And, I'd bring a book.