New Nordic Cuisine, foraged fresh ingredients, honest flavours, beautifully designed restaurants and contemporary food festivals are just a few reasons to visit this stylish Nordic capital. Written by Miisa Mink, who grew up in a foodie family near Helsinki. She’s now co-owner of the Nordic bakery, a Scandinavian style café chain in London, and author of The Nordic Bakery Cookbook.
ARTS AND EATS At Atelje Finne, Chef Antto Melasniemi serves seasonal, local food in a minimalist, stylish restaurant where original art and furniture creates 50s flair. The menu is based on seasonal vegetables, foraged ingredients such as mushrooms and berries and local fish and meat. Booking is recommended.
BIG BRUNCH For personable service and local atmosphere head to Qulma in Kruunuhaka. Natural yoghurt served with homemade mint pesto is part of its breakfast (€8.70), and generous brunch (€19). Buffet-style soup lunch (€9.90) includes homemade bread and various toppings.
GREAT-VALUE LUNCH At Pastis restaurant, cooking is based on French cuisine using fresh Finnish ingredients. Lunch is great value at €25/ two courses, €30/ three courses. (Pieni Roobertinkatu 2, 00130 Helsinki, tel. 010 29 28 990)
BEST BURGER The city’s most vibrant indoor foodhall is Hietalahden Kaippahalli (Mon-Fri 8am–6pm, Sat 8am–5 pm; Lönnrotinkatu 34). Brave the queue at Roslund butchers to order its Rosburger, dubbed Finland’s best burger. (€ 12.50).
PERFECT DAY Plan your visit during Restaurant Day, a worldwide food festival born in Finland. Held four times a year (next one 17 May), this contemporary food festival allows anyone to set up a pop-up restaurant for a day. Visit people’s homes for authentic Finnish home cooking, or pick up handmade Japanese dumplings from a stall in the Helsinki Central Park.
THE COCKTAIL Adjacent to restaurant Ravintola Juuri is Latva , a contemporary bar serving wines and champagne from small producers (Serge Mathieu Brut Prestige, €12 a glass) organic beers (Prykmestar Organic Pilsner, € 7.20) plus ciders and locally created cocktails. The service is friendly and knowledgeable.
FINEST FOOD MARKET Locals get their food fresh from the market. Venture to the akaniemi neighbourhood for its authentic market (Mon-Sat 6.30am-3pm). Don’t miss Reitin Kala, a beautiful family-run fishmonger, or have a cup of coffee and munkki (cardamom doughnut) at one of the outdoor stalls.
FINNISH TAPAS Finnish root vegetables are becoming world famous for their variety. At Helsinki restaurant Juuri – which means ‘root’ in Finnish, the whole menu is focused on roots and its specialty is small tasting plates (€4.60/plate). It ranges from sugar-salted trout from Åland with red currant and licquorice to beetroot mousse with roasted goat’s cheese and dill.
SEASONAL FLAVOURS Helsinki is littered with restaurants serving great food made from local ingredients, focuses on uncomplicated flavours. Book in advance if you want to taste some of the best examples of this at the new Gastrobar Emo . Can’t get a reservation? Try Toca , Aito or Kolo .
How to do it: Two night city breaks in Helsinki, including return flights with Finnair from London Heathrow/Manchester cost from £327 per person, based on two sharing central hotel accommodation with breakfast. guildtravel.com