A trip to IKEA is always a joy, whether for furniture, meatballs or both – and anyone who doesn’t feel that way doesn’t have a happy bone in their body. I’m certainly not one of those people, but the hour plus travel time to its Wembley and Croydon branches kept me away longer than I would have liked. In fact, the last time I visited an IKEA in person, I was a kid.
Naturally, I was therefore delighted to learn that the Swedish giant had opened a brand new baby store in Hammersmith, not only within walking distance but, very importantly, also housing a cafe and grocery store on site. So when my eleven o’clock cravings started to hit, I headed off to my new local IKEA to buy some meatballs.
The IKEA stores look like labyrinths and the one in the newly refurbished King Street Mall is no different. This was the case on opening day, since MyLondon reported , and it was still true today. Having passed by several times while visiting the nearby Lidl or Sainsbury’s, I felt confident about where to go.
Upon entering the open section on the corner called “Swedish Grocery”, I was even a little pleased to have managed to avoid the crowds of the main store. At the counter, I was appalled to see that there were only open sandwiches and wraps, along with a few baked goods. Where were the meatballs? !
READ MORE: ‘I visited the new IKEA store in Hammersmith on opening morning and it was a hot, sweaty maze’
Luckily the sound of distant commotion stung my ears and I followed the thin hallway to the right and discovered the somewhat hidden cafe. Now obviously I came involuntarily, but a signpost wouldn’t hurt. I was about to settle for an open meatball sandwich and miss my meatballs, and I can’t be the only one.
Unlike the deli section, this part of IKEA was absolutely packed. Virtually all the seats except for a few window stools were taken and the queue snaked around the half wall in the main furniture section of the shop. I dutifully joined the back and estimated there were 12 people in front of me.
It moved quickly and in no time I was moving to a few places behind the robot control screens. Although they are no different than fast food joints such as McDonald’s, these struck me as more futuristic and classy, probably because they were.
The rest of the cafe had the same minimalist, classic Scandinavian look that IKEA is famous for – everything was matte black, sleek glossy white or a pale wood color. There were a few finishing touches scattered throughout, mostly hanging lights and green plants. To my right was the tableware section of the store and a flickering TV screen that occasionally showed a giant meatball. (Far from true to size, as I soon found out.)
I could see the meatball appear one more time before the nearest board became free, then I went to place my order, scrolling through with equal excitement and confusion until I found what I was looking for: a single serving of meatballs. I went with four for £1.50, but there were also multiples of eight and twelve, as well as very reasonably priced meal options. (The robot board then recommended a side of mashed potatoes and/or Daim cake but, while tempting, I was here for the meatballs and meatballs alone.)
With the queue huffing and huffing behind me, I walked about a yard to the station labeled “Pick up here.” This was flanked by a coffee pot on one side and two dispensers for sauce, ketchup and cranberry jam on the other. Number 47 was called within minutes which brought my total wait time from start to finish including the queue to around 11 minutes. Not bad, considering how packed it was.
Although much of the cafe was still crowded, a few had retired after their bite or to sit instead at the ‘alfresco’ tables – in one of the hallways of the mall rather than outside. This, added to the large number of tables and chairs despite the small space, allowed me to find a good sized table.
Once downstairs, my little pot of paper meatballs and two even smaller pots of sauce seemed absolutely dwarfed by the massive tray and table. It was half comic, half alarming, as I had always remembered that even the smallest portions of IKEA were decently sized.
Biting into the first meatball, I was equally thrilled with the combination of a firm, slightly crispy exterior and a chewy, succulent interior. There was a thin layer of oil on the outside but that didn’t bother me as it just served to amp up the taste and texture of the meat.
Paired with ketchup I liked it even more. I wasn’t sure if the lingonberry jam was meant to go with the meatball, but I took the risk and it was just as delicious. (Google later confirmed that it’s done that too.)
I was dismayed, however, to find that they seemed to have shrunk since the last time I had them. Even forcing myself to take two more conservative bites of each rather than shove them all into one, they disappeared far too quickly. I wasn’t expecting to have plenty of four meatballs, but it didn’t even tickle the spot and I felt that if I mashed them together it would probably amount to one meat sausage.
Whether it’s the fact that I was a literal kid the last time I ate them, another sad effect of Brexit or IKEA cutting portions to fit the new bite-sized store, I’m not not sure. But they were definitely smaller than I remembered.
Aside from the size of the meatballs, I have to give them to the new IKEA cafe. The food was quick and delicious, the atmosphere was warm and lively, and the aesthetic was excellent – all despite the number of people there. It might have been a bit cramped but I’d take that if it meant more seating. All in all, I will definitely be back soon for another dose of meatballs.
But next time I’ll go for the eight balls. Or maybe all twelve.
You can find IKEA Hammersmith here and you can also buy IKEA meatballs here.
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