A friend called telling me that a new bar had opened in Bermondsey that was all about Swedish beer and cheese, so having a lot of family in that country – all with Bermondsey roots – I felt a need to check it out, writes Michael Holland.
London Calling Sweden is a cool place in a railway arch, as all the cool places seem to be these days, and it is right in there amongst the breweries and Bermondsey Beer Mile. Ali, the owner has a background of restaurants and coffee shops in his native Gothenburg but felt a need to branch out and become a part of the craft beer craze that has been sweeping England this past decade. He says, ‘When I came to London I was missing Swedish beer and food, so wanted to create a meeting place other than IKEA that represented Sweden, because, going by population, London is Sweden’s fifth largest city!’
Ali has brewing experience; he and his brother had a micro-brewery on the island of Orust on the outskirts of Gothenburg, and he says that with so many different types of beer nowadays there is always one that will pair nicely with one of the many Swedish cheeses that he imports into London: ‘The cheeses all originated in the monasteries from the 15th century,’ he reveals. But he adds that the cheese is not the main ethos of London Calling Sweden but something to provide as a light, inexpensive snack to go with the Swedish beer, which is where Ali’s heart truly lies and what he likes to talk about.
Poppels is just one of the breweries Ali checked out in his home town and chose this one for his Bermondsey bar for their good environmental practises and organic beers; ‘Plus, Poppels want to get into the English market, which gave me a chance to have a unique product here, and not a commercial product… It was an easy choice for me.’
And music is also a passion for Ali – He ran record shops back home and has a love for Motown, so you know you will always hear good music in London Calling Sweden.
In the few weeks he has been open, Ali has made his bar a venue place. He has built a stage for musicians to play on Friday nights and is introducing something new called, ’Afterwork’. This will consist of a small plate of food, that could be something like chicken wings or pasta salad, given free when you buy a drink between 5-7pm on Fridays. There are also plans to have a flea market on Sundays that Ali wants to involve the council and local residents in.
But back to the beer. The different Poppels I tasted each had their own distinctive flavour. First I began with an American Pale Ale (5.4% abv), a lively brew with the bitterness of the hops perfectly overriding all else. Next was a Passion Pale Ale (5.2%). Again, this was full-bodied in taste as well as coming through as refreshingly light. And in agreement with Ali, all the beers went well with the excellent cheeses.
After enjoying several superb ales in pleasant surroundings, Ali gave me a carry out so I could continue at home. And that is where I experienced the Double India Pale Ale, an amazing 8% abv beer that was everything I expected.
To sum up, in London Calling Sweden you can experience much of the best beer and cheese that fine nation has to offer, as well as good company, good service, table tennis, darts and big screen sports. Bermondsey had links with Scandinavia for many, many years via the Surrey Docks and the timber trade; new links have now been forged.
London Calling Sweden, Railway Arch, 72 Enid Street, Bermondsey, SE16 3RA
0207 231 3666 – www.londoncallingsweden.com
Thursday – Friday 5pm – 11pm, Sat 12pm – 10pm; Sun 12pm – 5pm
Cheese platter for two 12.00
American Pale Ale 5.50
Passion Ale 6.00
DIPA (btl) 3.00
Session IPA (btl) 3.00