When it comes to well-known cities to chow down in, Helsinki is a bit of an underdog. However the Finnish capital is a treasure trove full of locally sourced bites, amazing eateries and accompanied by watering holes galore. Check out this round-up on what glorious food I managed to scarf down during my short time here.
Vanha Kauppahalli and Market Square
The market area is a great place to make your first stop, get your culinary bearings and survey what sort of tasty seasonal fare the Finns have to offer. Here you can sample local produce – everything from local berries and cherries in summer (try the small and sweet bilberries), fat mushrooms, reindeer meat, cheese, and pastries. There is also a huge variety of street-food style stands where you can pick up something more substantial to keep you going.
Possibly the singular cutest café in the entirety of Helsinki, Regatta is most famous for its deliciously sticky cinnamon rolls (Korvapuusti) and Blueberry pie (Mustikkapiiraka) – which is more of a cake in my opinion, but still creamy and delicious. You are also able to use their outdoor BBQ area for free – they also sell their own sausages to grillers who still have an appetite once they’ve worked their way through their own stock. Regatta sits right on the water (near Sibelius park), where you can enjoy the view of the boaters lazily punting through the canals. Soaked in sun, or frosted in snow, Regatta is a must.
☛ Eat: Korvapuusti, Mutikkapiiraka and Kahvi (Coffee)
☛Merikannontie 8, 00260
If you’re over copious cups of filter coffee, and you’re craving a decent brew, look no further than Roasberg. Conveniently located by the central station, Roasberg has a huge variety of craft coffee and beans available for you to pick and sip from. Quite simply, the coffee is just really damn good. They also have a good variety of healthy soups, salads and lunch food available – but the coffee is what we came for and enjoyed most.
Something hearty (with a side of Beer)
Offering a good range of gastropub fare, Stone’s serves up generous and tasty portions. They also have an extensive international tap list to match if you’re after a cheeky pint with your meal. I went for a classic burger – (they also had a moose burger on offer but I wimped out), and there were heaps of veggie/vegan options. However the standalone that I’d come back for again were their halloumi fries. I’ve eaten a lot of halloumi fries in my time, but these were especially delicious and juicy – in a good way. I scoffed these down at a pretty high speed.
☛ Eat: Black N’ Bleu Burger: Organic beef patty, Cajun spices, Roquefort cheese, whisky soaked onions, tomato, lettuce, pickle and mayonnaise
☛ Eat: Halloumi Fries: Homemade deep-fried Halloumi sticks, mint yoghurt, BBQ sauce, Pomegranate seeds
☛ Keskuskatu 4, 0100
Sori Tap Room
I’m aware this post is a little pub-centric/beer heavy, but even if you’re not a big fan of brewksies, Sori Tap Room is worth checking out just for their food. Serving up Southern US style barbecue (think long, slow, and smokey sweet), Sori nails the flavours and has a huge variety of sauces, pickles and sides to pick from to complement your meal (the pork neck is to die for). And of course, as it’s a Tap Room – you have a huge range of Estonian Sori beers to try, as well as an extensive rotating guest and bottle menu.
☛ Eat: Smoked Jerk Pork Neck, Garlic & Dill Pickles, Pimientos de Padron
☛ Eat: Halloumi Fries with Caviar Salt
☛ Eat: Sori Royal Burger: Organic beef & pork patty, Monterrey Jack Cheese, Crispy Pork Neck
☛ Vuorikatu 16, 0100
Can you sense the theme now? Bryggeri literally translates to Brewery (when you travel with a couple of craft-beer nuts, you do often find yourself a few pints deeper than was initially implied). Warm, cosy and un-pretentious, Bryggeri has something on the menu for everyone (the theme is sort of a Scandi/German Gasthaus amalgamation) and focuses on making the simple taste great (e.g. the hummus had this vein of lime oil running through it, oh my word it was good). It’s also honestly worth mentioning how freaking amazing their fries (both normal and sweet potato) are. I don’t usually wax lyrical about fries but these bad boys were perfect – not too fat and wodgy, crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside with some hella fancy dips. Perfect for beers, central location and snacking.
☛ Cold Cut Platter: Alder-smoked ham, salami, sausage, cold-smoked reindeer, mature cheddar, cornichons, pickled mushrooms, hummus and grilled bread.
☛ Sweet potato fries and roasted garlic aioli
☛ Country-style fries with chili mayonnaise
☛ Sofiankatu 2, 00170
Tucked down a side alley opposite the Helsinki cathedral, if you’re after contemporary small plates, or an excellent cocktail, Chapter is worth a visit. The menu changes weekly to reflect the local seasonal produce, and they cook sustainably – using every part of the ingredient. Chapter prides itself on this – they have a small carbon footprint and do their best to minimise environmental impact (they use metal straws, hooray). We ate lunch here, but they also have 5, 7 or 10 course dinner menus if you’re after something a little more luxe. In addition to this, we loved the live DJ (a regular feature), spinning some chilled out Sunday tunes as we enjoyed our food.
☛ Eat: Whatever they’re cooking up! We had Beef Tataki, Glazed Pork neck, and Charred chicken wings
☛ Aleksanterinkatu 22, 00101
Situated next to the famous Tavastia rock club, and beloved of local and international musicians since the 70s (they’ve been graced by the likes of the Pogues and the Dead Kennedys) you should check out Ravintola Ilves for the history alone. The décor is a little dated, but the food is deliciously comforting with only a few options to pick from – the few hearty dishes they do create, they lavish all their care on – which you can genuinely taste. Not the best for picky eaters, but worth a visit in any case.
☛ Eat: Wild Beetroot Risotto
☛ Eat: Braised Veal Cheeks with Root Vegetables
☛ Eat: Tiramisu
☛ Urho Kekkosen katu 4, 00100
Credit for photo of Roasberg to Aromasian.com