My Swedish Career

‘There were no good brunch spots in Sweden’

'There were no good brunch spots in Sweden'
Greasy Spoon owners Laura Hinton and Tyrone Poh-Janrell. Photo: The Local
When British expats Laura Hinton and Tyrone Poh-Janrell found there was no place to go for a good brunch in Stockholm they decided to take matters into their own hands. The Local spoke to the owners of the Greasy Spoon cafe for this week's My Swedish Career.

The cosy cafe in Stockholm's hip Södermalm area is a welcoming hub for expats as well as Swedes looking to sit down and chat to friends over a cup of coffee and a hot brunch any time of the day.

Introduced by their Swedish partners – Laura's boyfriend and Tyrone's wife are childhood friends – the two Britons bonded over their shared frustration with the Swedes' breakfast habits. Despite the Swedish 'fika' tradition (coffee and cake), they could not find a good breakfast or brunch cafe.

“There wasn't even a place where you could just get a decent cooked egg. The coffee's great, but the food often a bit boring,” says Laura.

“Most brunches here don't start until 11am, cost around 300-400 kronor and consist of buffets with scrambled eggs swimming in their own juices,” says Tyrone.

They had both worked in the cafe industry before and decided that what the Swedish capital needed was a place to go for a proper full English breakfast and battled through Swedish bureaucracy to get there.

“We definitely needed perseverance and determination. We went to so many different banks before we met one young banker, who happened to live on Södermalm and understood our concept and believed there was a market…All the organizations and institutions you have to apply to to open a cafe, we just couldn't believe it!” says Laura.

“But in the end we got there,” adds Tyrone.

In June last year, the Greasy Spoon finally opened its doors and paved the way for several other similar new brunch places popping up across Stockholm.

“Luckily we hit the trend at just the right time. Our second weekend we were completely full, with people queuing outside, so really quickly we had to grow the team. We've got 13 people working here now, not counting myself and Tyrone. Everyone who works here is an expat.”

“But our customers are maybe 80 percent Swedes, 20 percent expats,” says Tyrone.

The Greasy Spoon on Tjärhovsgatan, Södermalm, Stockholm. Photo: The Local

It has been a busy year overall for Tyrone, 41, who is also in the middle of his part-time paternity leave ('pappaledighet') looking after his one-year-old.

“My Swedish wife and I used to live in Melbourne together. Then she finished her Masters degree at Uppsala University and after that we moved to Brussels. But you only get two weeks' paternity leave in Belgium, so we said 'no way' and moved to Sweden. But she didn't tell me how cold it was!”

Laura, 34, from London, came to Stockholm with her Swedish boyfriend in a move that was supposed to be temporary while they decided where to go next.

“But then we just stayed. I like the nature and the progressive thinking, which is something I feel is sometimes missing in England,” she says.

“My favourite place in Sweden is my inlaws' summer house on one of those small, quiet islands. It's easy to get stuck here, because it's easy to like,” adds Tyrone.

If all goes well, their brunch brainchild may grow. Laura reveals that they have plans, though still at a very early stage, to expand.

“We want to open another cafe, but we're still quite new so we may need to wait until things get more stable,” she explains.

Meanwhile, their best recipe for others wanting to follow in their footsteps is not to give up.

“Doing your research and getting all the information you need will save you time in the long run. Keep calm and carry on,” says Laura and Tyrone nods.

“Use the expat community. We got help from the British butchers in Stockholm and an English baker, even our electrician is English,” he says.

“It was really nice to have that community, but we got a lot of help from our Swedish friends as well. Sometimes we were up working until after midnight to paint and tile the place,” adds Laura.

Tyrone offers some good old British banter: “If you think you've got a good idea, keep trying. But it's bloody hard work!”