The multi-tasker

Christian Davis meets up with Swedish-born Fredrik Olsson who owns and runs Kosmopol in London’s trendy Chelsea


FROM CENTRAL Sweden to a cool, understated bar in Fulham Road, south west London, it has been a long journey for 45-year-old Fredrik Olsson, owner of the Kosmopol bar, Ballantine’s global brand ambassador and winner of global listings magazine Time Out’s Love London award for Best Local Bar 2016.

He’s not one to boast but he lists the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka Prince William and Kate Middleton, Adele, Lionel Ritchie, Mika and a veritable team of Chelsea footballers among his clientele.

So how did a thoughtful, intelligent, mild-mannered man get into the brash Alpha male world of bartending? In a nutshell: ice hockey player, nurse, decorator, croupier, chef, bouncer/doorman and, finally, bartending.

It started in Ludvika in central Sweden. His family was sporty. His father ran the local sports stadium and the young Olsson played ice hockey and taught physical education.

“It’s where I learned about the importance of team work, looking after each other. I like to take the lead role, I like being in charge and I love teaching,” said Olsson. That explains his involvement as director of the Chelsea Academy of Bartending.

The ambitious Swede took himself to Göteborg/Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city on the country’s west coast, where he found himself in a casino as a croupier, rolling the dice, spinning the wheel and dealing the cards. This move took the young Olsson into the world of hospitality.

“Bartending, cheffing, I enjoyed being around people,” said Olsson. Having caught the hospitality bug, he attended the Bas Bartending School in London in 1996. That got him a job at the Long Island Iced Tea Shop just off London’s Leicester Square. The experience allowed him to “get up to speed”. He then moved to Berkeley Playhouse, which he describes as “a strip club but no nudity”. He then went on to The Saint Bar, near St Paul’s Cathedral, but not as a bartender. Olsson had done a global managing risk course which qualified him to become a door supervisor. It took him into supervising launch parties and other such events.

He worked at the Met Bar, Pharmacy, Teatro and Quo Vadis, not to mention the launches of Gucci Rush fragrance and a Lauryn Hill album at the Armani shop in Knightsbridge and overseeing the opening of a new deli in Harrods.

At the start of 1999, he started at Eclipse as a bartender but quickly rose to general manager. “It was my first taste of management,” he said.

He employed and trained staff and created a new cocktail menu for the bar – and increased takings by about 30% from around £12,000 to £20,000 per week.

In January 2001, he joined Bardo in Fulham Road as general manager. Again he moved takings from £7,000-£8,000 to £12,000-£13,000. “I put it on the map – albeit a local map,” he quipped.

In 2002 Olsson opened his own bar, Kosmopol.

Olsson’s top tip to any young up-and-coming bartender is: “Save up about £2,000 so you can always walk away from work and still be able to pay the two-to-three month’s rent.”