• Fine Level 65

    4 Vuodenaikaa (4 årstider)

    Wheelchair access
    Hämeenkatu 19, Kauppahalli, 33200 Tampere

    For over 115 years, visitors have been getting first-rate delicacies along with edible eye candy in the city’s beautiful market hall. Immediately upon entering you encounter a symphony of top-notch produce. At the other end is 4 Vuodenaikaa (Four Seasons), which quickly fills with people around lunchtime. Old and young, locals and tourists, everyone wants to eat here. In the queue you can see the city’s trendsetters in their checkered shirts, with beards and skateboards. The chefs are as tattooed and on-trend as their patrons, but the food is traditional with a French orientation. The bouillabaisse is a classic, available in two sizes. The fried fish is served with Hollandaise and a delicate potato purée. Nowadays the wine is presented in an ice chest beside the register where you can choose from several different really good bottles. But the hard wooden stools do not encourage you to sit for long, so we drink our espresso standing up, before hurrying off to buy ingredients for dinner.

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  • Global Masters Level 85


    Wheelchair accessVegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Vironkatu 8, 00170 Helsinki

    Fragile, slender parsnip roots are coiled on a stone slab with small dollops of turnip-rapeseed mayonnaise to dip them in. Yes, it’s spring and things are finally beginning to grow in the fields so that Ask, the primary interpreter of New Nordic cuisine in Finland, can start working with “primeurs”. We close our eyes and enjoy the root vegetable sweetness, milder and softer than the stumps of autumn carrot with marigold mayo that also lands on the table, perhaps as a reminder of how long and harsh winter has been. In the sparsely decorated room, with benches along the walls and Ilmari Tapiovaara’s simple wooden chairs, nothing here betrays that we are about to be treated to a spectacular show in roughly fifteen acts. Chef Philip Langhoff surely learned a lot during his years in Norway and Barcelona, but back on his home turf he is engaged in poetically interpreting the harsh and characteristically acidic Finnish traditions. To go with the evening’s tasting menu (the only option), most diners wisely opt for the beverage pairings too, either with purely natural and biodynamic wines or with interesting non-alcoholic options. A buttery broth of roasted barley is paired with a beer from Stockholm Brewing Co., packed with fruity notes of apricot and mandarin to balance the cereal taste. Toasted buckwheat with a crème made of yesterday’s bread (zero waste!) and salsify follows the same idea but gets exhilarating and refreshing acidity from a vinaigrette. After by far the most delicious dish of the evening, a thick chicken broth with celeriac cream, egg yolk confit and ramsons, we get the strangest match of the evening – a rather inelegant tartare of venison with chopped hazelnuts in the company of a glass of Sancerre from Sébastien Riffault. It doesn’t exactly all come together, but we barely have time for concern before we get a waft of a brilliant chenin blanc from Domaine Huet in Vouvray and dig into more buckwheat, in the form of porridge with nettles. The flavours converge; our knowledgable waitress has guided us safely and securely. Dried salmon roe is served in a flower of onion petals, but wait, doesn’t it taste a bit like apple? Yes, there were apples involved in the braising of the onion, she smiles. A sorbet of sour milk, frozen yogurt, pickled elderberry and juniper oil indicates that the end is near. But first we must face one last seduction: mini pancakes, the size of thumbprints, with spruce shoot caramels and brown butter ice cream. It’s heartbreakingly good.

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  • Fine Level 65

    Ateljé Finne

    Arkadiankatu 14, 00100 Helsinki

    Through the panoramic windows the Helsinki night passes by but at Ateljé Finne the atmosphere is warm, welcoming and filled with heart and soul. The restaurant is located in the former studio of the sculptor Gunnar Finne and the walls are covered with his artwork. There’s history in these walls, to say the least, and it adds a lot of personality to the restaurant. The menu is anchored mainly in Finnish cuisine, but the cheese pelmenis give us a taste of Russian food heritage – pasta dumplings cooked to perfection served in a rich bullion that, together with shredded beets, has a nice, earthy sweetness. A whitefish is up next, served in a generous amount of butter. The skin of the fish has a lovely crispiness and the grilled gem salad adds a nice, bitter taste. The competent and incredibly sweet service staff know their wines, so let them come with suggestions. The experience that awaits you here is in all aspects a genuine treat.

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  • Very Fine Level 74

    Baskeri & Basso Bistro (BasBas)

    Banqueting roomsWheelchair accessVegetarian dishes
    Tehtaankatu 27–29, 00150 Helsinki

    The happy-go-lucky mood masks a superbly run restaurant with a tight team of pros that like to work hard and play hard. Waltzing in early at 6 pm definitely doesn’t guarantee you a table. If the place is packed, the most you’ll get is a seat at the bar – which is not a bad thing, as the staff will draw you into the hustle and bustle. Dining alone is not a problem here, especially given the heart-warming amount of attention you receive from the smiling owner (who gets his hands dirty just like the rest of the eight-person team) and even the faraway chef in the kitchen. They see, they notice, and they pay attention to every swing of your mood. It’s uncanny. The food here is created from the highest quality ingredients available. It’s hard to resist creamy burrata cheese with bright mint and basil and some really expensive olive oil. The steak tartare is also a treat you don’t want to deprive yourself of, served Italian style with Parmesan, lemon and soft morsels of the highest quality meat. Wash it down with a sparkling rosé which at first tastes like a salty farmyard; the food and wine complement each other so well we consider ordering another glass. The white asparagus is as brittle and crunchy as the homemade bread and its nutty flavour is made even more enchanting by the thick, traditional buttery hollandaise that goes with it. The wine, Revolution White Solera from Weingut Johannes Zillinger in Austria, springs forth with a rebellious blend of chardonnay, scheurebe and riesling, bringing acidity and tropical fruit flavours to this traditional German dish. The coup de grâce of roast Iberico ham with BasBas’ version of a Waldorf salad makes us feel certain we’ve died and gone to heaven. Like a good relationship, the Anjou Rouge from the Mosse winery brings out the best in the meat while the food highlights the raspberry notes in the wine. We practically swoon. Did we mention that the wines are mostly natural and, if they’re not, they’re certainly organic? The wine menu is limited to no more than ten handpicked bottles carefully tasted by the sommelier and staff to find the right match for each dish. You get the idea? Many others do too, so be sure to book in advance.

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  • Very Fine Level 77


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    Rautatienkatu 14, 33100 Tampere

    As lively as the street is outside, it is beautiful and quiet inside Bertha.The light, cool decor with oak contrasts with the stony façade. This is where the city’s young avant-garde gather to appreciate the progressive cooking. The wait staff is knowledgeble, charming and friendly. The kitchen comes out strong with homemade butter and bread, the latter still warm from the oven. A Finnish semolina porridge immediately follows the bread, topped with cranberries and spruce shoots. The domestic theme continues with minced pike that, along with charred seaweed and fermented savoy cabbage achieves a nice balance on the palate. The sauce made of cod adds salt to the dish. The endive with cheese sauce and honey has a slightly burnt taste that is somewhat balanced by the sweetness of the extraordinary French cider served with it. An oxtail that has been lingering in the oven for two days is particularly tender, and with a thin slice of kohlrabi and butter sauce flavored with radishes, it is the strongest dish of the night. The dish of celeriac, cabbage, and slow-braised pork belly, which is quickly turned on the grill before serving, is a close second. The wine recommendations are reliable, and particularly a light pinot noir stands out. The chocolate dessert comes with a crispy tuile that’s just on the edge of burnt, accompanied by a cool Italian malvasia. Overall, everything is just right here at Bertha, especially the forthright staff with their great beverage knowledge. They make the visit a pleasure.

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  • Fine Level 66

    Bistro O Mat

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    Limnellin aukio, Asemnakuma 2, 02400 Kirkkonummi

    Seven years of success have proved that distinguished Chef Marko Palovaara made the right decision when he left one of the best restaurants in Helsinki and opened a bistro of his own in a small town well outside the capital. O Mat has become popular particularly among commuters. There’s nothing posh here (the restaurant is actually situated by the parking area of a large supermarket) and the food speaks for itself. Dinner on an ordinary Wednesday night shows that their kitchen keeps up with the trends. Parsnip has become increasingly popular in Finnish restaurants of late. Here it’s made into a creamy, almost foamy soup where strips of duck leg balance some of the root vegetable sweetness. The main course is perfectly roasted zander, and it seems to be tagging along on another popular trend, namely the adding of a surprising amount of smoke to ingredients where it does not usually belong, like in the butter sauce. At this bistro they know their wines, and they recommend sauvignon blanc from New Zealand with the dessert, a crème brûlée with rose hips. It tastes new and unusual, and comes with a trendy fennel meringue.

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  • Very Fine Level 67

    Boulevard Social

    BarTables outsideWheelchair accessVegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Bulevardi 6, 00120 Helsinki

    A high-spirited atmosphere and a cheerful chatter fill the small yet busy restaurant by the Old Church Park in central Helsinki. The lighting is dim, the ambiance cosy and the flickering candles are reflected in the copper-clad tables. A corner houses a well-stocked bar where a large number of cocktails are being shaken. The drink menu also includes an extensive list of wines and a good cellar selection. The food is influenced by Mediterranean cuisine – either in the form of a familiar dish or as a side or even just a spice. All of the dishes on the menu are served family style – a social, fun-dining concept recognisable from other restaurants by the chef duo Tomi Björck and Matti Wikberg. The dinner starts with a spicy pepper gazpacho poured over a fresh shrimp cocktail with a tangy cilantro kick. It is well paired with an exotically aromatic Italian wine. The arrival of food and wine is not entirely synchronized and although the staff are professional, they seem at times stressed and at other times inattentive. A bit of DIY is needed when the shish kebab arrives on a tray with traditional sides. The skewered lamb is extremely juicy and tender and the fennel salad adds a tangy crunch. Throughout the dinner the flavours are balanced and exquisite – even though sometimes of the more subtle-tasting ingredients get a bit lost among the Mediterranean flavours.The kitchen shines when the desserts enter. A simple paper cup holds soft green tea ice cream. The round bitterness of the tea adds complexity and depth to the smooth ice cream. Simple, but oh so tasty!

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  • Very Fine Level 68


    BarChambre separéeBar menuBanqueting roomsTables outsideWheelchair accessVegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Eteläesplanadi 20, 00130 Helsinki

    The celebrity chef duo of Tomi Björck and Matti Wikberg are the creators behind many of Helsinki’s beloved restaurants, and Bronda is the flagship. The restaurant is delightfully spacious and airy, with a stylish interior. A large bar welcomes diners but the real eye-catcher is the floor-to-ceiling wine cabinet that separates the bar from the dining room. Wine is also the big focus of the beverage menu and the wine pairings are competent. The selection of beer, however, is short enough for the server to recite the list out loud. The menu is a bit unfocused and mainly influenced by Italian, Spanish and French cuisine and all of the dishes are elegantly presented and served family style. In the snack section, the green-lipped mussel with shallots nicely combines ocean and herby flavours with the crunch of sweet breadcrumbs on top. The finger-licking good baby back ribs are less elegant but incredibly tender and served with flavourful sweet and sour pickled red cabbage. The meal finishes on a high note with a tiramisu topped with a scoop of coffee ice cream. The bitter flavours from the coffee and the dark chocolate ganache create a well-balanced dessert with the smooth mascarpone cream. The service is alert, warm, and professional, but at times the dishes arrive faster than we can finish them. There’s a strange lack of communication between the kitchen and the floor – especially noticeable as the entire service crew is carrying walkie-talkies.

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  • Very Fine Level 73


    Wheelchair accessVegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Rautatienkatu 20, 33100 Tampere

    It’s easy to miss the unassuming corner space opposite the train station, despite the large windows facing the busy street. We step inside and straight into the dining room without either a hall or a wardrobe, and feel like we’re crowding the already seated guests. The mixed group of patrons gets here early, even on a Friday night. After a warm welcome by the friendly staff, it’s just to sit down and relax, for this is where they serve the best food in town. The fermented theme appears early, with the aperitif. A “twig” of wheat is covered in powder made from fermented red cabbage. It’s a six-course dinner, but before we begin they manage to give us two amuse-bouches. The other one is a cup made of leek, filled with mayonnaise spiced with local truffles. The first real dish is parsnip with pickled chanterelles. It’s not the restaurant’s strongest card, but the local ingredients are nice. In contrast the tartare of local Kyyttö beef is even better, with fermented green beans and brioche and topped with spruce shoots. With its slightly tarry taste, it is the best course of the night. The pike is served with a smooth potato purée, porcini cream and a fermented aspen leaf. Even more local produce arrives with the goat meat from Nykarleby. The three different kinds of carrots get an international touch with a little Indian bread puff containing a mayonnaise flavoured with funnel chanterelles. After that Finnish blue cheese neutralizes our palates with white chocolate wrapped in spun sugar. An oatmeal ice cream with blueberries is paired with local blueberry wine. Otherwise, the wines are mainly sourced from the Old World.

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  • Masters Level 76


    Vegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Uudenmaankatu 11, 00120 Helsinki

    We receive a fairly brusque welcome. “No, we don’t have your booking,” says the guy who is to be our host for the evening. As it turns out the man, a steadfast, long-standing member of Demo’s staff, gradually eases up and even begins to show signs of a sense of humour. We’re in his hands now, and those of the chef, who has secretively concocted a menu we know nothing about. While still in suspense we pore over Demo’s wine list, which is as expansive as it is expensive, offering a veritable forest of champagnes. To entertain our taste buds we receive a minuscule circular tranche of kohlrabi with dried cod roe. Yes, we are amused. The atmosphere at Demo is a bit subdued and borders on the precious; most of the diners are in their 30s and 40s and seem to know what they’re doing. Intriguingly draped lights play a major role in an interior solely dedicated to eating. Demo’s bread is inventive, featuring a streak of dried and fizzy mushroom stock in its centre. Instead of butter it comes with pork fat, lardo style, with house-cured bacon, honey and flaky sea salt. Before we even know what the first course is we receive a glass of Chablis Premier Cru that we enjoy immensely. And just when we think it’d be nice to eat a minimally cooked king crab with marinated rhubarb, it is placed in front of us. It comes with a hearty jus that jives with the rhubarb. There’s a bit of tarragon-infused mayo playing hide-and-seek in there, too. The crab fits hand in glove, so to speak, with an Alsatian white made from the unusual auxerrois grape. Then more bread, this time a beautifully rich malt variety with whipped butter. Before the third course is laid on we’re being poured a clean and subtle Châteauneuf du Pape, which is just the thing with Demo’s Iberico cheek and “pluma” from behind the neck, accompanied by diced, fermented zucchini, and grilled carrot crème. This pork dish has tremendously deep flavours. Puffed buckwheat, onion flowers, and chopped chives make a contribution, too. After a short break we’re tucking into white chocolate ganache, celeriac ice cream and caramelised bits from the same root, along with crumbled malt bread and a sauce based on whey. Wrapping up our Demo visit, the Faubel beerenauslese riesling neatly dots the i’s 
and crosses the t’s. Demo may be small in size, but its cuisine has immense flair.

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  • Fine Level 66


    Eteläinen Hesperiankatu 22, 00100 Helsinki

    A half step below ground level on a leafy square in a restful neighbourhood lies Elite Restaurant. This is a happy place with a fantastical Art Deco interior that bathes you in flattering colours of orange, yellow and green. Just staring at the art is enough to give you a real lift. Families are welcome and even the littler guests are treated with deference. Whether the paintings were in lieu of bar bills or gifts from grateful patrons, it shows off the clientele that have been frequenting Elite since 1932. Tauno Palo, singer and actor, was one of these and his favourite steak is still served today. The Artist’s Menu looks more appetizing than a slab of meat with onion sauce (Tauno Palo’s favourite), and it begins with salmon and crayfish galantine with a slice of brittle, almost transparent rye toast. Trout as a main comes with a crispy skin and if it were not for the pimento, it would be quite bland. Pine nuts contribute some crunch. The crème brûlée is as it should be, nice and hard on top and creamy underneath. But the wine selection, alas, is too dull and lacks imagination. Elite is a classic and almost everyone in Finland knows this restaurant. It will always be here, it will always be frequented and the interior is absolutely worth the visit.

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  • Fine Level 64


    BarWheelchair accessVegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Kasarmikatu 44, 00130 Helsinki

    Helsinki is quite small and most eateries are reachable on foot. EMO is no exception, just a few steps off the lively Esplanadi. The place has a toned-down, Japanesy feel to it with vertical textile screens that do very little to stop your neighbours from hearing or seeing what you’re up to. Our waitress is friendly and down-to-earth as she hands us the impressive wine list. A glass of German riesling from Haus Klosterberg should work with the beetroot soup, she says. It’s fresh and clean as a whistle, and does wonders for the deeply flavoured soup. Goat’s cheese cream and chopped chives add to the experience. There’s a low-key sophistication about Gastrobar EMO that seems to appeal to businesspeople. The ground beef from Eastern Finncattle (Kyyttö) comes with quinoa, mushrooms and yoghurt souped up with saffron. It’s well-executed in EMO’s characteristically unpretentious style. A glass of Madiran courtesy of Alain Brumont helps things along. We finish with a lovely dessert: crumbled chocolate sponge cake with milk chocolate ice cream, passion fruit sorbet, passion fruit gelée and flaky meringue. Plus a macchiato, which – somewhat mysteriously – arrives before the dessert.

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  • Very Fine Level 68


    BarChambre separéeBanqueting roomsTables outsideWheelchair accessVegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Ainonkatu 3, 00100 Helsinki

    sexy, indie jazz version of “Light my Fire” is strangely appropriate in Farang, a restaurant just below street level in a period building which also houses an art museum. A smooth ride through the tempting flavours of Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia is about to begin. As the music deteriorates into some fusion ambience, the dishes reveal one secret after another. We inhale the aroma of the mussel in turmeric curry and as soon as we’ve slurped up the creamy mix, it leaves us with an unquenchable desire for more. This is exactly what an amuse-bouche is supposed to do. We take a sip of Wittmann Silvaner's “100 Hügel” which tingles on the tongue and tastes like tropical melons with a dash of minerality. With perfect timing, the green papaya salad arrives adorned by cherry tomatoes. The acidity is nice, even necessary, but the salad is disappointing in its unrelenting sourness. However, it does clear the palate for the crispy pork ribs in a roasted coconut dressing served with jasmine rice. A dish called “Morning Glory” arrives, a chunk of tofu that’s tender as a scallop on top of pak choi. Umami, smoke and sweetness mingle on the palate, cleansing it yet again for the Phanaeng lamb curry to follow. With coconut, nuts and cucumber relish on the side, it is enough to make your head spin even without the Jaspi Negre from the distinctive Montsant terroir in Spain – although a brave match, this combo doesn’t work. The Mekong River makes its way to the table in the form of a banana cake with crunchy tamarind on top and coconut ice cream. In this case, the dessert wine is a treat from the village of Monbazillac. Take your time on this journey to exotic lands because you’ll need it, both to digest and to dream a little.

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  • Masters Level 78


    Tables outsideWheelchair accessVegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Eteläranta 16, 00130 Helsinki

    Finnjävel is Henri Alén and Tommi Tuominen’s big restaurant dream come true. Both men have some twenty years of experience working in traditional restaurants in the French tradition. Then came the awakening, and the quest to find out what Finnish cuisine is all about. They consulted old cookbooks, delved into their own heritage and fortunately found living traditions that can still be found in different parts of Finland. It was obvious that poverty and necessity had been great sources of inspiration. Finnish cuisine also had influences from Scandinavia to the west, and Russia to the east. These Finnish (dare)devils distilled their ideas and the result has been a highly successful restaurant at a prime location beside Helsinki’s harbour. The nostalgic flavours and the smells of freshwater lakes and saunas are sure to appeal to every Finn, and are mostly familiar to fellow Scandinavians – but they also happen to appeal to the curiosity of foreign visitors. The kitchen is strict about using only traditional ingredients. Close connections with producers and foragers have been crucial. Imported items are only used if they were already being imported some hundred years ago, like herring, coffee and lemon. Today environmental regulations limit the use of some ingredients, like wild salmon, otherwise the sky is the limit. Even the choosiest international visitors have found something familiar in the menu, like meat jelly, and blood sausage. There are two menus – one with six courses and one with ten in which the different dishes are supposed to complete each other. A lot of the more familiar dishes take the form of something unrecognisable. Take the national dish of Karelian pie, presented here as a heap of rice porridge, boiled egg and rye crackers. But most of the treats are more conventional. The amuse-bouches are interesting, like buttermilk from the restaurant’s own dairy, or “From the pit”, an oven-baked onion. Part of the concept involves the design, which was created specifically for the restaurant by Atelje Sotamaa. All of the tableware and furniture are for sale. Not everybody likes the idea of inventing fork and knife again, and some of the ideas aren’t very practical, but it hasn’t gotten in the way of Finnjävel’s popularity. The food is paired with superior wines and other beverages and the enthusiasm of the staff is contagious. However, the team behind Finnjävel has only committed itself to remaining in operation for two years. On their web site the days are busily ticking off until spring of 2018. But who knows, with success like this, they might be tempted to go on with the show.

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  • Fine Level 66


    BarChambre separéeTables outsideWheelchair accessVegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Bulevardi 6, 00120 Helsinki

    Gaijin takes Asian food to a whole new level. Only in this context could China, Japan and Korea join forces to take us on a joy ride. Ingredients are carefully picked and pickled, the fish is of the finest quality, and all kinds of ingredients, from hamachi to daikon and wakame, are combined in mind-boggling ways. The starter is simply called “Sashimi Tasting”. It comes with hamachi, and salmon so soft and tender it nearly falls off your chopsticks. The wakame seaweed is a bit tough but subtly sweet in flavour. Daikon, a winter radish, comes thinly sliced adding some bite to the creaminess of the fish. Served with Vouvray from Marc Brédif, it works well enough but lacks punch. The Veal Hot Pot is a triumph. It’s comforting and a perfect balance of spicy and sweet, umami and meaty. As we listen to the rap music, and look around the room, the crowd makes us feel our age. This is a hipster spot and all you need to fit in is a tattoo.

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  • Fine Level 65

    Restaurant Bar & Grotesk

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    Ludviginkatu 10, 00130 Helsinki

    A large meat cabinet is the centre-piece in the light and elegant dining room. With meat as the star, the menu presents cuts of premium beef carefully cooked on a charcoal grill. But do not overlook the other sections of the menu! The Black Angus tri-tip is juicy with a seductive salty taste, charred by flames and served with tiptop sides: triple-fried French fries, a sharply acidic béarnaise sauce and roasted tomatoes. The salmon is paired with pickled red onions, fresh cilantro and herby dill pesto – a well-balanced dish, although served with a slightly dull chickpea salad. A plate of brutally black and grey colours is an explosion of flavours with a heavy liquorice taste and sour lemon curd – a dessert with attitude. The service is somewhat shaky and the sommelier shows us how matching wines can be done with almost no words at all. A fixed price margin of €20 on all wine bottles makes it possible to enjoy premium wines at fair prices.

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  • Masters Level 77


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    Albertinkatu 36, 00180 Helsinki

    Fermented and organic ingredients with a focus on vegetables, natural wines, a small room with a relaxed atmosphere and a tattooed staff. Check! Grön is the kind of modern, enthusiastic and uncompromising restaurant that you find in all the world’s major cities in the year 2017. But that doesn’t mean there’s something superficially trendy about the place – no, the entire experience is seamless from the bread serving to the last sweet bite. The owners/chefs Toni Kostian and Lauri Kähkönen have a penchant for umami-rich dishes, composed with a light hand, and with a profound yumminess that makes you yearn for more. And more. A good example is the buckwheat tartlet filled with eggs, a sweet onion cream and shredded baby spinach – sprinkled with flakes of frozen onion butter. The small pastry is nicely matched by the acidity in a Vouvray from the bio-winemaker Francois Pinon – fun! Raw, dry-aged beef is an even better combination with hip German winemaker Enderle and Moll’s slightly rough-hewn pinot noir, which is able to match the fiery mustard-flavoured green cabbage that comes with the tartare. This leads us to the best dish of the evening, which is not at all green, but as meaty as can be: a hefty piece of oxtail that has been cooked sous vide for almost 24 hours. It is so tender that all you have to do is poke it and the meat falls off the tail vertebrae. It’s glazed with “pea soy” and has a herby crust. Every bit of fat and cartilage has been broken down and it’s so yummy that the accompanying soft grilled onions, mushrooms, and potatoes have difficulty holding our attention. The beets in a split sauce flavoured with dill and horseradish are a good vegetarian option, though not sensational. We conclude with wild crowberries, reminiscent of blueberries but less sweet. They are served with sorrel sorbet, a cream 
flavoured with meadowsweet and strewn all over with bits of meringue. One more of those, please!

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  • Very Fine Level 73

    Gustav Wasa

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    Raastuvankatu 24, 65100 Vaasa

    The humble vaults in which Gustav Wasa is located are a living reminder of the fire that destroyed the old city of Vaasa and out of which the new Vaasa emerged. The black walls have been cleaned up, soft lighting has been installed and white tablecloths shine in the red brick surroundings. The staff are young and their sense of teamwork is evidenced by the laughter that rings out amongst them and echoes in this historically preserved building. By the end of the evening you’re calling them by name and asking after the due date of owners’ Tina and Kim Hellman’s baby. The mood may be laid-back but these guys run a tight ship. GW7 is the name of the tasting menu that changes almost daily and always promises to be full of surprises. The sourdough bread is nicely salted, the amuse-bouche gets our taste buds going with potted shrimp, a hit of dill and a smooth aioli. Pears, apples and fizz play on the tongue with each sip of the prosecco. The smoked, pale pink trout has a perfect firm texture and is surrounded by sweetly marinated cucumber. Horse fillet, a rather lean cut, can be fairly tough if it’s not handled with care, but these pros know what they’re doing. The smoky-flavoured meat is rare and tender and served with crunchy beluga lentils and beans. A pinot noir from Chile with its sweet, leathery qualities is an ideal match with this hearty dish. Arriving with precision timing, each dish is arranged by the artists in the kitchen and has the right amount of crispiness, crunchiness, creaminess, sweet, sour and smoke to keep you intrigued about what’s up next. That said, the line-up seems to lack cohesion. On the other hand, local, fresh and just plain damn good food could be what they’re aiming for and it’s hard to argue with that.

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  • Very Fine Level 69


    Chambre separéeBanqueting roomsTables outsideWheelchair accessVegetarian dishesRooms availableAmerican Express
    90 Havsviddsvägen, 22340 Geta

    It does not get more beautiful than this in the Åland archipelago – and that is saying a lot. Furthest north, out on a peninsula among the bare cliffs and windswept pines, you will find this place which has developed over time into a full resort with a hotel, several cliff houses for more private getaways, swimming pools and a restaurant. After a stroll through the surrounding area and perhaps a dip in the wood-fired hot tub, when you finally sit down in the dining room with its stunning views over the northern Baltic, it is not without expectations. This kind of pressure could give any kitchen the jitters, but Havsvidden takes a sensible approach. The menu is short and the ingredients are carefully selected, preferably from as close by as possible. An airy green pea soup has been beefed up with pieces of mild smoked salmon, and it’s a good start with its nicely balanced sweetness and acidity. The tabbouleh lamb is a bit odd (a breath of Africa feels a bit strange here in this northern archipelago), but the kitchen is adept and when a nicely grilled perch lands on the table, order is restored. Beef tenderloin with red wine sauce is a very retro dish, especially when served with bacon-wrapped haricots verts, but we honestly enjoy every bite. The wine list is short and does not offer so much by the glass, but the charming staff are happy to open a bottle if you ask. Overnight guests will be treated to a super nice breakfast in the morning.

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  • Very Fine Level 75

    Hella ja Huone

    ParkingVegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Salhojankatu 48, 33500 Tampere

    This is very much a one-man-show. Cuban Chef Arto Rastas glides in between the strict-backed chairs of black wood in this small but charming venue, while the cooks work diligently behind the door to the kitchen. The menu is playful and young couples, locals and visitors, all study its contents with a smile on their lips. The dishes make references to both film and music, like “Smoke in the consommé”, “All you need is lovage” and “Godfather’s egg”. The latter opens both the six and twelve-course menus on a strong note. A 63° egg with seaweed, caviar and Parmesan sauce has a nice saltiness, and it is well balanced by the residual sweetness in the prosecco it’s paired with. The sea theme continues with a piece of pike, served with its fried skin, resting on a slightly too icy Granny Smith apple sorbet. Chilled sake is an exciting taste combination, but hardly raises the temperature. The subsequent “Goldfish”, however, compensates for this. A piece of whitefish rests in a pool of Hollandaise, surrounded by samphire and round slices of yellow beets to complement the palette. When Arto announces “Silence of the Lambs” some of the English-speaking guests become nervous, but they calm down when it turns out to consist of two substantial pieces of lamb liver served with green beans, carrot purée and a powerful reduced sauce. The mellow chianti fits perfectly. Arto is passionate about Old World wines, primarily because of the environment. (“They have not travelled as far”.) On the other hand, the white chocolate in the dessert hasn’t exactly come from next door. It is served with lingonberry gelée and paired with a sweet French white wine to complete our visit to this little understated restaurant.

    More information about Hella ja Huone
  • Fine Level 64


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    Nygatan 1, 22100 Mariehamn

    After a couple of years out in the cold this centrally located Mariehamn restaurant is back. And it’s a good thing, because this is the kind of place where everyone is welcomed with open arms – night-clubbing young people, families and those craving a snack, as well as gourmands. The friendly staff promptly provides us with a little mood-boosting amuse-bouche in the form of a spoon of smoked salmon with horseradish cream. Most of the old regulars wave the menu away, but the kitchen shows ambition and finesse by offering tuna tataki with fermented pointed cabbage and soy pearls, and the variation on beets is accompanied by salty roasted pine nuts and a nice, wholesome cashew nut purée instead of the usual chèvre. The portions here are huge and packed with flavour. After lobster risotto with both croquettes and fried scallops, and duck with Puy lentils and parsnip puree, we enjoy a little chocolate bite with the coffee. It’s an extra plus that they have an ambitious wine list with reasonable prices.

    More information about Indigo
  • Fine Level 64

    Restaurant Jord

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    Kortteli 5th floor, Urho Kekkosenkatu 1, 00100 Helsinki

    At the top of a shopping center you will find Kortteli, a food court with everything from smoothies and pizza to fine dining. Little sister to the fine dining restaurant Ask, Jord is in an airy, rough-hewn space saturated in shades of blue with exposed pipes and beams. Through the giant windows diners can study the ant-sized people on Narinktorget below. Jord means “earth” or “soil” and Filip Langhoff’s food is definitely grounded, in spite of the elevated location. Every plate is a greeting from forest and field. The well-trained staff are anything but locally grown, many of whom prefer to speak English. Do not skip the starters, which offer a lesson in botany and a show of craftsmanship - like crispy-fried shiitake with mushroom mayo, lamb tartare with pickled ramson capers, or ultra-thin slices of air-dried ham served on a cutting board with preserves and pickles and a dab of golden rapeseed mayo. The main course of lamb brisket melts in the mouth. We enjoy the play of textures with popped cereals and a masterful porridge of ancient grains. Conclude with an adorable sour milk parfait resting on buttermilk caramel and strewn with crunchy honeycomb and fresh, green spruce oil. Naturally the food is more relaxed than at Ask, but perhaps it could do with some buttoning up, and it’s missing that pleasant buzz needed to drown out the background music of the neighboring restaurants.

    More information about Restaurant Jord
  • Very Fine Level 67


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    Korkeavuorenkatu 27, 00130 Helsinki

    It would not be right to shun the sapas at Juuri, as in all truthfulness they are what’s given the restaurant its special status. Sapas are small dishes, appetisers really, based on traditional Finnish cuisine made with a modern – and it has to be said – tapas-like twist. So, Finnish tapas. The first one we try is lamb’s tongue with beetroot and crème of the same, plus yoghurt and pickles. The tongue is incredibly tender, and a great start. Clocking in as sapa number two is the equally addictive cured Baltic herring. It features yellow beets in two forms as well as crumbled flatbread. We’re instructed to pick the Toivo red ale with our sapas, and do exactly as we’re told. It happens to be spot on. All of the beer served at Juuri is Finnish, by the way. The restaurant seems to attract a youngish clientele, and an international one, too, because all of a sudden there are Americans next to us, and then two Japanese parties come through the door. Fillet of perch is our next stop on the menu, and we fancy a glass of Roero Arneis from the Piedmont to go along with it. The wine and the fish prove to be an excellent combo. Not only is the dish lovely, but the perch is also pan-fried to perfection, and made to swim attractively in a frothy cauliflower crème with florets attractively strewn about. Suddenly we find ourselves with a juniper-scented crème brûlée dotted with transparent gin jelly, crème anglaise and rosemary sorbet. How did it all go by so fast.

    More information about Juuri
  • Masters Level 77


    Tables outsideWheelchair accessVegetarian dishes
    Kaskenkatu 6 A, 20700 Turku

    Young Chef Erik Mansikka decided that he had seen it all, worked at the best restaurants, won competitions, and gained fame on TV. He was reluctant ever again to leave his home town of Turku. Together with two friends, Topi Pekkanen and Simo Raisio, he set his eyes on a rather shabby old fish restaurant in Turku. They took over the place with its some 20 seats and kept the ascetic interior with its plywood walls. Only a devoted customer would notice the changes over the years. There are still no frills here, but the soundproofing and ventilation have improved. Though only in its fourth year, Kaskis has already become a legend. It is still immensely popular. The kitchen’s philosophy is to keep it simple and local. Often the meal is made of ingredients that an ordinary homeowner with a backyard garden and a fishing rod could produce. There are now more staff. The chefs have a busy time in the kitchen and do not make an effort to socialize with their guests, but our two talkative young waitresses with a brilliant knowledge of wine make up for it. The starter is local whitefish cured with salt and sugar, then scorched to make the skin fantastically crisp while the meat stays almost raw. The sauce consists of crème fraîche sharpened with juice from green tomatoes, jalapeño and, as a sign that summer is around the corner, elderflower. Two cuts from a Mangalitza pig are prepared in two ways, fillet and neck. The pungent sauce gets its aroma from sherry vinegar, as do the pickled shallots. The wine pairing is a South African chenin blanc. Beef comes from the Åland isles in the form of both cheek and flank. Celeriac and red beet are prepared in different ways with an unusual and quite dominating amount of allspice. The dessert consists of the traditional treasure of midwinter, blood oranges. Together with meringue and Crema Catalana, it is a simple but inventive treat served with a sparkling Limoux. The Kaskis team has great plans. Kakola is a dark-sounding name that every Finn recognises, but this former prison on a hill in central Turku will now be used for a different purpose. The Kaskis owners plan to open a big restaurant there in 2018 and experiment with a pop-up in 2017. Friends of Kaskis are happy that the original little restaurant will stay where it is.

    More information about Kaskis
  • Fine Level 60


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    Kalevankatu 3, 00100 Helsinki

    Sticking to its lofty traditions, this restaurant has been a popular eatery ever since it was established in 1924. It’s withstood a world war and still maintains its elegance and high standards. The Art Deco interior with wood-panelled cubicles and chandeliers speaks of a lavish era. Just walking in makes you feel like you’re stepping back in time. The same can be said of the formal staff, whose years of experience are evident in the way they go about their business. The menu, too, doesn’t change much. While Wiener Schnitzel with mashed potatoes will always be there, they do go out on a limb with seasonal ingredients. The foie gras starter melts in your mouth and the sweet flavour contrasts well with the slightly tart pickled red onion on the side, but the predictable sweet wine pairing, Braastad Pineau des Charentes, is on the verge of overpowering the delicate dish. The grilled sweetbreads are crispy around the edges and soft in the middle but the veal that comes with them is a little tough and not as warm as it should be. Year in and year out, Kosmos is still a favourite for many Finns, if for no other reason but sentimentality and a yearning for times gone by.

    More information about Kosmos
  • Fine Level 62


    Meritullinkatu 6, 00170 Helsinki

    The arches with their flaking paint give the place a medieval feel, as do the simple wooden chairs. But don’t be deceived by appearances – they serve really good food here! If you enjoy being on stage, choose one of the tables on the raised platforms in front of the big windows facing the street. Then sit back and enjoy the show – a three-course menu, with a few different choices along the way. The starter might be a suckling pig that has been poached and roasted to a delicious crispy consistency. The radicchio leaves filled with fermented garlic and shallots are a nice combination of tastes. The main course is an exceedingly large portion of fish swimming in a lovely lobster sauce. The butter-basted fennel does not make matters worse. Artichoke ice cream is yummier than it sounds, although the cranberries in the bottom are a little bit too acidic. The wine list is serious, especially the champagne section.

    More information about Kuurna
  • Fine Level 62

    Kvarter 5

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    Norragatan 10, 22100 Mariehamn

    Seared foie gras on brioche with truffle, scampi with fried tortillas... A meal in the hotel complex Kvarter 5 kickstarts appropriately with a bunch of small plates. Chef Dennis Lindqvist recommends ordering two or three each. We do so happily, beginning with pork “pluma” served pintxo-style on grilled bread, and langoustine with perch roe and pickled onion... Perch roe! Maybe we could order four – or even five more? We’re lucky that there are several of us around the table so we can sample the many treasures on the menu and on the blackboard over the entrance to the kitchen. The deliciousness continues with main courses like flavourful lamb brisket so tender it’s falling apart after cooking for ten hours. It’s served with mashed potatoes, jus, charred baked cabbage, salsify and green chilli butter. The arctic char with mashed potatoes is a stately piece of fish with garlic-spiked potato purée. These are hearty, lumberjack-sized portions – perhaps for someone who has not just eaten a dozen, albeit small, starters.

    More information about Kvarter 5
  • Very Fine Level 78

    La Maison

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    Tehtaankatu 21, 00150 Helsinki

    The moment you’re inside the door you realise that they know what they’re doing here. This is France, in Helsinki. La Maison is a serenely calm, comfortable and cosy restaurant that is oh-so-stylish without having to shout about it. They have only been up and running for a year and a half, but Madame knows her stuff because she ran a similar eatery before. She says she planned to retire but wasn’t able to, so she made a comeback that many have welcomed. The menu stems from the wines she favours at any particular moment. When we visit it’s all about Languedoc, and the chefs have come up with matching fare – like the pretty lamb pastrami dish with onion, shiitake, shallots and sundried tomato that works nicely with a 2014 red Saint-Chinian from Château Bousquette. We switch to a white Le Clos du Serres for the parsnip soup, which is just a tad too thick. The atmosphere is soft and laid-back. Although Helsinki is a long way from Finnish Lapland, we are treated to wild trout from right up north plonked in beurre blanc, accompanied by vegetables that are so green they look Photoshopped. We're sure the proposed 2015 Les Agrunelles from Mas Haut Buis is a match made in trout heaven. The cheeses include a heady brie from Normandy, a goat’s cheese that grows into rock-steady flavour, and a Roquefort that’s sexed-up with the wine pairing, a port-style Rivesaltes Grenat. The soundtrack of the evening is, as you would expect, French chansons, with the occasional guest appearance by Melody Gardot. Yes, La Maison is a consummate Francophile, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

    More information about La Maison
  • Very Fine Level 77

    Lapland Hotel Sky Ounasvaara

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    Juhanuskalliontie, 96400 Rovaniemi

    At the top of the Ounasvaara Ski Centre chair lift in the middle of the forest sits Sky Hotel. It’s a quaint little place in need of a facelift with paint chipping off the walls and a lot of stairs everywhere. Inside is the Panorama Restaurant, built on three levels with floor-to-ceiling views on three sides. The interior is simple, inviting nature in. When the food starts arriving our focus shifts to the works of art on the magnificent bowls and plates designed by Finnish artist Anu Pentik. Award-winning Chef Roope Kotila uses reindeer, fish, spruce, mushrooms and vegetables from nearby. Arctic char is crisply grilled and surrounded by fans of steamed, charred and fried leeks on a bed of spinach with a buttermilk sauce and sweet lemon curd foam. The slightly smoked reindeer tartare comes on a round slab of wood. It’s covered in petals of pickled red onion with pungent little bombs of dried capers that explode in your mouth. This creamy, smoky dish is paired with Little Beauty, a New Zealand pinot noir aptly named for its alluring fruity spice. It fills in the gaps, complementing every bite. The main course of pink-roasted reindeer fillet and barbecued reindeer rib-eye is paired with a bold California zinfandel. The dish is rich with a hint of wildness and the jammy and full-bodied wine is reminiscent of Christmas. Just when we think it’s over, after a heady blueberry cake with liquorice sorbet and chocolate pudding, they surprise us with another sweet, this one topped with an intriguing mushroom cream. The menu is thoughtfully composed and the beverages are curated to such a degree that the water comes from a subterranean source in Lapland. The service staff can read your mood like a book and tell stories if they see you want to listen. There is no sommelier; the crazily spot-on pairings are decided on collaboratively. Only one complaint: no aurora borealis to sprinkle more magic throughout the velvet skies.

    More information about Lapland Hotel Sky Ounasvaara
  • Very Fine Level 74


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    Mannerheimintie 22-24, 00100 Helsinki

    A beloved Helsinki institution is back after a renovation that kept it closed for more than a year. The enormous venue called Lasipalatsi, meaning “Glass Palace” has been returned to its former 1930s glory. Many original details, like the furniture, lights, and colour scheme, are back. Lasipalatsi will be part of an entirely new and innovative art museum, Amos Rex, which has been constructed underground and is supposed to open in 2018. The menu has many familiar elements but the classics have been given new pondus. Vorschmack, which consists of minced lamb, minced herring, and tomato and is braised for hours, retains its place as a starter here together with baked potato. Zander à la Mannerheim, the war hero’s favourite dish, can be found in many restaurants in town, but some connoisseurs consider Lasipalatsi’s version of the perfectly crisp-fried fish, creamy mushrooms and horseradish braised in butter to be the best. Local wild fish has its place on the menu, now in the form of lake perch with asparagus risotto. The desserts have a new finesse. Domestic wild berries, for instance, might come in the form of a sea buckthorn sorbet with some Moscato d’Asti poured over it. Traditions are observed here and they sell thousands and thousands of pancakes during blini season. In springtime asparagus dominates the menu. Since the restaurant has only recently reopened and many of the staff are new, the service still needs some polishing. That said, their knowledge of wines is evident and there is no doubt that they want the best for their guests.

    More information about Lasipalatsi
  • Masters Level 75


    Vegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Mannerheimintie 56, 00260 Helsinki

    Tired of pared-down Nordic design? Then make your way to Lyon. The restaurant opposite the Opera is like a time capsule: nothing has changed since it opened in 1966 – and even then the place was über French with cafe curtains on brass bars, wall-to-wall carpeting, sconces and Piaff tunes streaming from the speakers. We are met and shown to our table by the almost stern, black-uniformed waitress (who turns out to be kind, knowledgable and attentive to our needs). Then we put our evening entirely in the hands of Chef Tuomas Vierelä and his colleagues. While the decor might be perceived as dated, the kitchen delivers contemporary, technique-driven cuisine that digs deeply into the Finnish soil – but Vierelä is not afraid of carefully selected Asian elements. Soon the snacks come flying across the table: a dense, chartreuse-coloured turmeric-cucumber soup with delicious herby oregano oil; a beautiful creation consisting of chicken liver under thin slices of fermented kohlrabi on small papery meringue bottoms; pike roe and cream of roasted yeast... The flavors are intense and acid-driven with umami as the underlying mantra. Everything whirls along at a high pace and soon our waitress starts filling our glasses at the same rate. No natural wines here, but well-made French vintages – what else? With a small tartlet with pumpkin, kombu and homemade goat’s cheese we enjoy a mineral Les Perles Rares from Laurent Vogt. The same producer’s pinot gris is served later with the restaurant’s most famous dish: foie gras with red beets, raspberry and hazelnuts. The dish is stylish and well-composed, but we miss a little of the funkier notes that Vierelä lets shine through now and then. Like when he scatters the ashes of dried Japanese shiso leaves over a cream flavored with wasabi. After sweetbreads with an umami-laced chicken broth enriched with black garlic, mustard seeds and oxalis, things begin to calm down a tad with a sheer white meringue tuile, pollen and sea buckthorn. A Coteaux du Layon is paired with a construction of smoked white chocolate with rhubarb and a citrus-scented gelée cap. Can we really manage another dish – peppermint ice cream with flakes of dried milk and fir tree powder? But of course we can. Then we go dazed out into the night, along with the other, surprisingly young, hip diners.

    More information about Lyon
  • Fine Level 73


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    Linnankatu 3, 20100 Turku

    Yep, you guessed it, Mami means Mommy, and locals have crowned her the best-loved restaurant in Turku many times. Mami has a lovely location in the heart of Old Turku across the river from the cathedral. Saturday afternoons at Mami embody the spirit of the place with their special menu for shoppers on their way back from the market. Today it is comprised of a hearty soup, fried farmed rainbow trout and a sorbet. We choose the à la carte and eat instead a starter of pressed veal held together with strips of bacon and served with Cumberland sauce, and crème fraîche with mustard. It’s good, hearty and well balanced. For the main course we order cod from the North Sea. It has a nice exterior and consistency, and comes with salsify and mashed potatoes. A glass of German sauvignon blanc is a good match. The sorbet from the shoppers’ menu completes the meal. It is made of raspberries and topped with pears. The service is so amiable that it is easy to agree with local opinion.

    More information about Mami
  • Very Fine Level 74

    Meat District

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    Gabriel Hagerts gränd, 06100 Porvoo

    Let’s make it clear right away: this is a place for meat lovers. After the walk over the cobblestone streets of Old Porvoo you step through the old wooden door on the corner of a building from the last century. Almost immediately you encounter the fridge with its large glass doors, behind which pieces of meat hang in a row. Some realise right away that they are in the wrong place, but they actually have vegetarian options here. If you sit in the room by the fridge, you also get to enjoy the open kitchen with its flaming grill and savvy cooks. And you won’t be the only one. The locals, young and old alike, appreciate the progressive meat theme and the quality here is very high. Many of the cuts have been hanging for six weeks, with guaranteed tenderness as a result. But we start out gently with pieces of salami, chorizo and pata negra. The latter is very good, with a pronounced nutty flavour. But it is the beef tartare that really make us happy. The cow, of the Charolais breed, has grazed just twelve kilometres from the restaurant. Mini burgers are cooked to medium and topped with cheddar cheese. We wash all this down with a light pinot noir from Hungary. The main attraction on the smaller “Half In” menu (as opposed to the “All in” alternative) turns out to be sirloin, lightly grilled medium rare over an open fire. The standout among the condiments is the red wine sauce with marrow. Amazing! Naturally we sit on cowhide chairs. They’re not very comfortable but certainly appropriate at this establishment. The wine list is packed with good bottles from the Old World.

    More information about Meat District
  • Very Fine Level 70


    BarBar menu
    Fredrikinkatu 41, 00120 Helsinki

    If you continue along the quay, so far that the indistinct signage makes you think you made a wrong turn, you will soon find yourself at the epicentre of Finland’s wild flavours. It’s a rather unexpected location for such an extraordinary restaurant experience, a stone’s throw from the moored cruise liners with their giant smorgasbords. At Nokka they make it clear early on that the kitchen adheres exactly to seasonal variations and is dependent on what they receive from small-scale suppliers, both in terms of animals and vegetables. This sets the tone for the two set menus, one of which is vegan. The first courses look confusingly similar. The omnivore’s dish, smoked pike with its roe, has a strangely delicious saltiness under pickled radishes, brightened up by a bowl of tarragon-laced cucumber salad as ice cold as the ocean outside. On the vegan dish the fish has been replaced by pieces of porcini. The pairing of a six-year-old, oak-barrel-aged, cognac-scented and white grenache from Montsant is more interesting than good. But the non-alcoholic pairing is perfectly on point: a lightly spiced sparkling beverage made of black currant leaves meets a small caramelized onion with browned butter and crispy “muesli”. At Nokka they are proud to have their own fisherman, who has provided the pike for the main course, which has been pan-fried with honour and comes with vegetable “cannelloni” and a potato croquette to suck up the creamy and tart sauce. The passion-fruit-flavoured sauvignon blanc from New Zealand is a fresh exception to the wine list that is primarily dominated by the Old World. Though the food is finely nuanced it’s never pretentious in this former warehouse on the harbour. It’s warm and inviting here, between the brick walls, with a full view of the kitchen where the happy cooks have eschewed knitted hats in favour of baseball caps. The staff are in a really good mood when the dining room is filled with tourists from far away, often from Japan and the United States, sitting side by side with jubilant large family gatherings. Over elderflower granite served in the restaurant’s obligatory carved wooden box we discuss how rare it is at a restaurant of this calibre to find the kind of generosity they exhibit in switching out dishes on the fixed menus. The food odyssey is rounded off with riches from “the land of a thousand lakes” in the form of a milk chocolate with gooseberries.

    More information about Muru
  • Very Fine Level 70


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    Hamngatan 2, 22100 Mariehamn

    In the middle of reading the menu we notice that the Pommern is gone! Instead of the four-masted steel barque that is usually moored in the harbour outside Nautical and the Åland Maritime Museum, now there is nothing but the (albeit beautiful) glittering waters of Mariehamn. Our first look at the menu inspires fears that that resourceful simplicity that charmed us on previous visits might also be missing. Toast Skagen and flounder meunière sound undeniably like dishes you might find on the menu of a small town hotel. But after assurances that the museum ship has only been temporarily relocated for maintenance, and a delicious amuse-bouche in the form of Jerusalem artichoke soup with smoky bits of lamb tartare and crisp black bread, we feel much calmer. When Skagen à la Chädström turns out to be chock-full of horseradish, and the witch flounder majestically sails in like the Pommern on a 1:2 scale with zesty pickled fennel and a decadent buttery champagne sauce, all our worries are blown away. It’s a bit intimidating to eat, but there is nothing not to like when it’s this intensely delicious. “The cod has arrived!” exclaims our very social waiter, pointing out the fishing spot beside some islets just beyond the harbour entrance. On the plate the fish swim à la bourguignonne, in red wine sauce with diced pork and mushrooms. A nice, smooth potato crème completes the plate. This dish is also rather hefty, but just the right amount of nourishment on a bleak late-winter night in expectation of spring – and the Pommern’s return.

    More information about Nautical
  • Masters Level 76


    BarChambre separéeBar menuTables outsideWheelchair accessVegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Kanavaranta 7 F, 00160 Helsinki

    If you continue along the quay, so far that the indistinct signage makes you think you made a wrong turn, you will soon find yourself at the epicentre of Finland’s wild flavours. It’s a rather unexpected location for such an extraordinary restaurant experience, a stone’s throw from the moored cruise liners with their giant smorgasbords. At Nokka they make it clear early on that the kitchen adheres exactly to seasonal variations and is dependent on what they receive from small-scale suppliers, both in terms of animals and vegetables. This sets the tone for the two set menus, one of which is vegan. The first courses look confusingly similar. The omnivore’s dish, smoked pike with its roe, has a strangely delicious saltiness under pickled radishes, brightened up by a bowl of tarragon-laced cucumber salad as ice cold as the ocean outside. On the vegan dish the fish has been replaced by pieces of porcini. The pairing of a six-year-old, oak-barrel-aged, cognac-scented and white grenache from Montsant is more interesting than good. But the non-alcoholic pairing is perfectly on point: a lightly spiced sparkling beverage made of black currant leaves meets a small caramelized onion with browned butter and crispy “muesli”. At Nokka they are proud to have their own fisherman, who has provided the pike for the main course, which has been pan-fried with honour and comes with vegetable “cannelloni” and a potato croquette to suck up the creamy and tart sauce. The passion-fruit-flavoured sauvignon blanc from New Zealand is a fresh exception to the wine list that is primarily dominated by the Old World. Though the food is finely nuanced it’s never pretentious in this former warehouse on the harbour. It’s warm and inviting here, between the brick walls, with a full view of the kitchen where the happy cooks have eschewed knitted hats in favour of baseball caps. The staff are in a really good mood when the dining room is filled with tourists from far away, often from Japan and the United States, sitting side by side with jubilant large family gatherings. Over elderflower granite served in the restaurant’s obligatory carved wooden box we discuss how rare it is at a restaurant of this calibre to find the kind of generosity they exhibit in switching out dishes on the fixed menus. The food odyssey is rounded off with riches from “the land of a thousand lakes” in the form of a milk chocolate with gooseberres.

    More information about Nokka
  • Masters Level 82

    Olo Restaurant

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    Pohjoisesplanadi 5, 00170 Helsinki

    Not much has changed at Chef Jari Vesivalo’s little gourmet temple near the harbour, minimalistically decorated in sober shades. As on previous visits, the bread is placed on the table to rise while the initial imaginative snacks appear at a rapid pace: small crackers hidden in pine boughs, a lettuce leaf from 
Lindroth Nursery with a razor shell clam, and a small roll of finely sliced potatoes hiding under a piece of herring. But not until we get to the brilliant chicken trilogy does the kitchen really start to show off. A hard ball conceals almost-liquid chicken liver ingeniously flavoured with sweet-sour blueberries, served with a heart-warming umami-tinged broth made from the bones and sheer chips of chicken skin. So beautiful! Soon it’s time for the sweet porridge of emmer, which has become something of a signature dish at Olo. “This is a memory from my childhood in north-eastern Finland,” says Vesivalo, presenting it himself at the table. The little plate of creamy porridge floats on a mild mushroom broth and is topped with flakes of dried venison heart and malt crisp. It’s a perfect composition and in some ways the culmination of the tasting menu – the only option here – even though we are far from halfway through it yet. After a fun serving of the bread that has been baked in the kitchen, with a big pat of country butter that we almost lick off the paper, and a rustic stewed lamb with celeriac foam to dip it into on the side, it’s as if the kitchen changes its stripes. We get a young fresh riesling from Fritz Haag with a mosaic of zander blanketed in gelée and resting on horseradish cream; it’s a dish that in spite of the fried fish scales feels fastidious and more like classic fine dining. The king crab with Carelian caviar and fennel is along the same lines, as is a tender lamb tartare adorned with rose petals. Everything is skilfully prepared and on the mark, but we lack some of the cocky self-assurance that characterized the initial dishes. The cod in a smooth sauce characterized by brown butter notes even comes with such classic eye candy as a nest of fried potatoes. A recommended glass of wine made from the odd pelaverga grape from Burlotto feels a bit too rustic in this context. But perhaps we only have ourselves to blame for not choosing the much more expensive pairings of prestigious wines. But enough with the whining, because when our lively waitress starts bringing in the sweets, it immediately puts us in a good mood again. A mouth-watering sorrel sorbet with apple, vinegar and white chocolate is followed by a sweet-sour combo of lemon verbena, apple and small bits of salt liquorice. We can only surrender, and leave with the lovely memory of the porridge preserved deep in our hearts.

    More information about Olo Restaurant
  • Very Fine Level 71


    Vegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Pieni Roobertinkatu 13, 00130 Helsinki

    The name could mean several things – that the meat here is top notch or that they go about their business with passion. It could also apply to the fact that they don’t seem to waste a thing. All the fat from the meat is drained off and bottled and all the bones and onion skins are used in stock. Sit at the counter – it’s the best place to be. You can watch the boss Janne Ahola and his team at work in the open kitchen and pick up a tip or two. They’re not averse to answering some questions even though the heat is on, literally and figuratively. The fennel bread is made on the premises and comes as your own darling little loaf with brown butter and fennel dust. Why didn’t we think of smoked asparagus? It’s raw and crunchy with a lovely crisp, fresh taste and the added dimension of smokiness. It’s served with creamy avocado foam, and each ingredient brings out the flavours of the other. The 100% xarello wine from Spain is fruity and peppery and actually has hints of asparagus. Australian beef is up next, perfectly rare, retaining its juices without any blood spreading across the plate into the green spring onion purée that keeps this dish light and balanced. With fried and dried onions on top and buttery onions underneath, it's deliciously oniony. A big, bold and acidic Nero di Troia from Apulia steps right up to this meaty plate. The menu is made up of dishes from all over the globe: “Boquerones” herring, parsnips “baharat”, and “maminha” beef. It lacks cohesion. On the other hand, these guys are cooking stuff that they like, that they’ve discovered on their travels, and they do it with heart.

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  • Very Fine Level 67


    Vegetarian dishes
    Kalevankatu 13, 00100 Helsinki

    This continental-style brasserie attracts an international audience. On some days you can hear American, British, Korean and Swedish being spoken amongst the diners. The staff handle everything correctly and in perfect English so there are no misunderstandings. The entrance is in the middle of the restaurant, so it can be a bit draughty if you get a table by the door – especially in winter. But the friendly staff warm you up, and so do some of the dishes. Normally, you can choose between three or five courses. The latter is preferable, but when the amuse-bouche enters you will think it’s the starter, given the size. It is pig’s cheek, paired with egg yolk, red beet cream and yellow beets. When the real starter lands on the table it takes the form of salmon, including its roe, potato cubes and crumbs of dark bread. It’s very good, even if it lacks a bit of saltiness. The house version of onion soup contains pieces of wheat bread that almost taste like sweetbreads! All this is swept up by the restaurant’s own unfiltered APA, whose bitterness matches the sweetness of the dish. The rest of the courses are paired with wine, preferably from the Piedmont. With the black sea bream we drink Arneis from Langhe that’s powerful enough to handle both the snails and pickled red onions included in the dish. Unfortunately, there are six or seven additional ingredients, making the preparation feel a tad overloaded. The lamb racks are presented as Baby Lamb, accompanied by a hefty piece of porcini mushroom, and parsnip purée. We receive a palette cleanser before the dessert – sea buckthorn sorbet with liquorice cream and subtle fennel strips. It’s complex and delicious enough to work as a stand-alone dish.

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  • Very Fine Level 75

    Restaurant Pastis

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    Pieni Roobertinkatu 2, 00130 Helsinki

    Pastis is the kind of French bistro we all dream of having nearby. The moment you step into its cosy bar and dining room a few steps down, you are transported to Paris and voila, it’s “la vie en rose”. In fact, the menu almost feels like a parody of French cuisine with frogs’ legs, snails, bouillabaisse and quenelles. But that doesn’t mean that the food lacks sincerity. Chef and owner Timo Linnamäki’s love for all things authentically French is deep, honest and appreciated. The crispy-fried, breaded frogs’ legs are tender and filling – we have not seen the like in many years – but perhaps we would enjoy them even more if they weren’t surrounded by so much eggplant caviar. But oh, the veal tongue! Served with a silky parsley root purée with a slightly mineral taste, and a deep red wine sauce seasoned with lovage, it is by far the best tongue we’ve ever bitten into. The wine list has a strong bias towards France, naturellement, but the selection is personal and the breadth is rather impressive for a restaurant of this size. The charming staff are happy to assist with their tips on good pairings. Finish with chocolate parfait and coffee with armagnac!

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  • Fine Level 70


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    Erottajankatu 4, 00120 Helsinki

    Pastor has the sort of rough-and-tumble feel that we associate with Brooklyn. It used to be a primary school, to which the chairs still bear witness. It morphed into a hardware store, then a nightclub with an adjoining strip bar. The walls at Pastor surely have tales to tell, as do the friendly and garrulous staff who happen to look strikingly similar to their patrons. It’s Nikkei cooking at Pastor Drink & Dine, that fashionable fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine. We’re off to a smart start with sea bass and lime, coconut sauce, jalapeño and deep-fried lotus root. It’s not bad, although the attractive plating outshines the dish’s flavours. Most people who dine at Pastor seem to favour beer but we go for a passable Toni Jost riesling from Mittel-rhein in Germany, which suits the fish well. On a weekday night it’s relatively quiet at Pastor, but on weekends DJs move in with music that matches the brute, industrial, no-nonsense look of the place. Grilled red and yellow beets are served with a quinoa salad, mustardy mayo, crème fraîche and beet juice. A glass of Italian Blauburgunder is a fine match with the slow-cooked veal neck, presented with grilled celeriac and a tamarind sauce. Next to us sits a bearded hipster in a red t-shirt and a girl in a hoodie with the name of one of the capital’s top restaurants printed on the back. Apparently this is where restaurant people spend their hard-earned cash.

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  • Fine Level 64


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    Albertinkatu 29, 00180 Helsinki

    This affordable lunch restaurant with its backyard entrance has held its own on Helsinki’s competitive lunch scene largely thanks to its seasonal buffet table. But the charm of the place comes from the firefighting tradition. The main dining space is a former firemen’s club with paraphernalia and photographs going back 150 years. The soup is always good, for example the tomato with a green sour cream topping. There are usually seven different inventive salads that are far from the ordinary drab cucumber and tomato set-up. A main course of chicken really tastes like it is supposed to. The atmosphere is casual with regulars often lingering at the long communal tables. There is a limited selection of beer and wine.

    More information about Pompier
  • Very Fine Level 71


    BarBar menuBanqueting roomsWheelchair accessVegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Ludviginkatu 3-5, 00130 Helsinki

    You get a nice warm feeling as you stroll into smallish Ragù, which is remarkably buzzing for a Wednesday night. Large parties of guests seated at the longish tables demonstrably thrive on the free and easy vibe. We’re wondering if the table next to us is celebrating somebody’s big 6-0. Our waiter is as attentive as he is charming, despite being rushed off his feet. Although or perhaps because it’s a painfully frosty night, he reckons we need a Negroni before proceeding. Shortly after the apéritif the bread basket arrives. The bread takes a back seat to the spreads, of which there are four – humus, butter, cheesy goat’s cream and cherry compote. The lamb tartare with tarragon-infused mayo, cloudberry jam, rolled sliced carrot and a cool miniature blood pancake hits the palate in just the right way. We’re talked into a sparkling lambrusco from Emilia Romagna that works, while being largely forgettable. The boneless veal rib-eye does not blow our socks off either, but the various trimmings move the dish up to and beyond scratch. Cauliflower in different guises fights with the meat for attention, and is backed up by pak choi and béarnaise. Spicy and lively watercress stretches its long tentacles across the creation. The pinot nero from Aosta works as it should. So what’s the interior like at Ragù? Italian? But of course! With its simplistic white walls and dark floor, leather-clad benches, grey-backed chairs and double linen tablecloths, the restaurant clearly takes its cue from the country that’s given us the world’s most iconic dishes. We stay in Italy for the dessert: lemon cream with slightly blow-torched Italian meringue and basil ice cream.

    More information about Ragu
  • Fine Level 70


    American Express
    Neitsytpolku 10, 00140 Helsinki

    In the doorway we are greeted by a maître d’ of the classic school – a type that is unfortunately rare these days. He has built up an inspired and thoughtful wine cellar with a predilection for France and Italy. When it comes to the food it is unclear where Chef Markus Aremo wants to steer our senses. There’s a chance we’ll see southern European classics like risotto and ratatouille, rustic elements from home and side trips to North Africa. The champion- ship winning minced pike under a tomato salad and a crispy pastry lid is a memorable signature dish. Though what hummus is doing under an almost cold poached egg and smoked shrimp we do not know. Fortunately we can wash it down with sparkling rosé from Veneto full of refreshing strawberry flavour. It is also easy to enjoy the glass art objects on the dark grey walls, the nice jazz streaming from the speakers and the comfortable chairs that encourage you to sit until late in the evening.

    More information about Regina
  • Masters Level 76

    Restaurant Aanaar (Hotel Kultahovi)

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    Saarikoskentie 2, 99870 Inari

    There’s a river and it flows from the springs of Lapland. It’s crystal clear and it’s called the Juutua, one of many where fly fishermen swing their lines and catch the freshest of fish. The snow is pure white and the people are, shall we say, on their guard, but friendly nonetheless. Lapland is the land of shamans and it is at the kitchen altar of Heikki Nikula that we worship tonight, at Aanaar Restaurant in the Kultahovi Hotel where Sami culture and cuisine gets a rare chance to shine. His artistry comes in a rainbow of pink, orange, green and white, with some hairy brown stuff on top that we eye with suspicion. It’s ’naava’ or hanging moss, found on nearby trees – a testament to the clean air that reindeer find irresistible. It melts in our mouths, adding texture and an earthiness to this succulent starter of lightly smoked reindeer hearts, horseradish yoghurt and sweet marinated vegetables. Johanna Fabritius is in charge of the beverages and like the chef she has her own bag of tricks, combining food with beer, cocktails and wine. The house version of Finland’s famous Napue gin comes with angelica syrup, an ingredient we will come across again on this menu. It’s made from the hardy aromatic flowering herb angelica, that grows as far north as Iceland and Greenland. The main course is pike caught by Inari fishermen and turned into the lightest of fluffy white balls flavoured with a touch of lemongrass. Though the latter is not from this region we give them a break because it adds acidic, fresh interest to a dish that might otherwise be quite bland. The fish balls are accompanied by yellowish beurre blanc and cerise beetroot mousse with a hit of vinegar. We wash all of this down with a Yealands Riesling – clean, pure and unadulterated like the river flowing by. Dessert is aptly called “Snowball”. The bowl is too small for the lingonberry-filled scoop of yoghurt ice cream with angelica syrup and crunchy sweet meringue slices on the side. As we leaf through the menu, it’s evident that people from all over the world visit this magical place and that special care is taken to accommodate frequent visitors. In the heart of Sápmi, from true Sami people, comes this warm welcome.

    More information about Restaurant Aanaar (Hotel Kultahovi)
  • Fine Level 69

    Roster Helsinki

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    Pohjoisesplanadi 17, 00170 Helsinki

    When an ice-hockey-goalie-turned-fine-dining-chef and a restaurateur of note put their heads together, they naturally came up with a workable solution. Housed in a period building right on the Market Square, Roster has a bag of tricks that fills every seat on a Sunday afternoon. Kape Aihinen, who decided early on that a career in ice hockey wasn’t going to cut it, has earned his spot as Executive Chef of Savoy Restaurant, one of the finest dining restaurants in town. He and Paul Hickman know what it takes to build a team: careful coaching and encouragement. Roster’s staff are super knowledgeable and when they’re not, they call in sommelier Olli Kolu to save the day. The devil is in Roster’s details. The interior is brassy but not tacky, and the quirky touch of an illuminated skull, also embroidered on the staffs’ tops, befuddles us for a moment. Then we think we get it – perhaps it’s another mafia allusion like their hidden Omertà lounge. Three starters arrive, each more intriguing than the last. “Caramel Chix” are chicken legs and wings meant for dipping into that black pepper cream with your fingers. Nuggets of citrussy zander with slivers of tomatillo are a little sour and a little spicy, urging that Sumarroca cava to show more of its green apple flavours. Sweet parsnips with walnuts and a creamy, umami miso yoghurt is named “Pastinaca”, which you have to be Finnish to understand. A herby, green risotto circles the meaty stroganoff and by the time the “Cake” arrives, a heady mix of sorrel sorbet, pistachios and meringues, we’re all wondering how we’re going to manage. Roster has a winning formula. It’s casual dining but with no holds barred on quality and the wine comes in glasses and carafes, a long-awaited phenomenon in Helsinki.

    More information about Roster Helsinki
  • Very Fine Level 76


    BrunchTables outsideVegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Rautatienkatu 7, 15100 Lahti

    Located 100 kilometres from Helsinki the town of Lahti can be reached by train in less than one hour, and Roux, a charming family restaurant, is the main attraction for many visitors. The French tradition is obvious from the name of the place, but most of the ingredients they use are carefully selected from domestic suppliers with consideration for the season. In late April asparagus plays a major role. Fans of that seasonal delicacy can enjoy it in an amuse-bouche mousse, in a soup with morsels of smoked salmon and even for dessert in a posset with pickled strawberries. There are many other delicacies, including fish and game. A farmed whitefish from Bothnia Bay could not have tasted better with spring potatoes and garnished with anchovy crème. Chef Sami Häkkinen has good connections with producers up north, so reindeer is always on the menu, now as a tender fillet and hearty blood sausage. Roux is proud of their wine selection. Though they are open on the weekends, they do not have a lunch menu. In a way it is a pity, because this old chemist’s shop with its attractive traditional interior is practically made for brunching, which is still a rarity in Finland. The service is friendly, efficient and dedicated.

    More information about Roux
  • Fine Level 60


    BrunchVegetarian dishes
    Kolmas Linja 17, 00530 Helsinki

    We sit on chipboard boxes with a gap between our backs and the window that makes it a tad uncomfortable to recline. The chairs are from schoolrooms, but this restaurant and its two siblings in other Helsinki neighbourhoods are a hit among the locals. Restaurateur and former New York Chef Richard McCormick hits the jackpot every time he opens a new one. Sandro’s target group is everyone and anyone who likes slightly spicy, Moroccan/Lebanese style food. English is the language of choice since most of the staff are foreigners from far-flung reaches of the globe who bring their nice flair to our interactions at the table. The menu is exotic and while you might think there’s a dearth of starters, the main course says it all. There it is, the pièce de résistance: slow-cooked lamb shank encircled by small portions of all kinds of dips and sides, including a little bit of cinnamon pumpkin, a dash of harissa pesto, a dollop of yoghurt, a spoonful of hummus, some slices of avocado, a helping of crunchy cauliflower tabbouleh and the crispiest sweet potato fries. The pulled duck “burgers” get washed down with fruity Australian pinot noir, the tajines come sizzling hot, and yellow saffron bread is served in chunks. This ain’t no fine dining joint. Take the day off, bring the kids and the grandparents, sit back and stuff yourself with delicious mouthfuls of unusual flavours.

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  • Very Fine Level 79


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    Eteläesplanadi 14, 00160 Helsinki

    Savoy is an institution in Helsinki, which is not so strange given that its space on the eighth floor was decorated by design icon Alvar Aalto and his wife Aino in 1937. It is worth going just to see the setting. Since Marshal Mannerheim’s beloved Vorschmack has been a regular feature on the menu for almost 80 years, they cannot stop paying tribute to this national hero: Polish “balls” of lamb and herring with beets, smetana and pickles. That said, today the Savoy is a place that attracts tourists and dressed-up locals looking for traditional fine dining. The service is impeccable, the tablecloths are starched, the views are captivating and wine is served at the proper temperature. The food is classic French – the pigeon comes from Anjou, asparagus is in season as soon as it shoots up in France and sole is served Belle Meunière. You pay for what you get, with most entrées hovering just under 50 €, and the wine list includes innumerable, expensive and mainly Old World bottles. Over the years the quality at the Savoy has fluctuated between mediocre and really good. This type of cuisine, with a lot of imported ingredients and classic recipes, works great if the kitchen is fully focused on execution, but is not at all forgiving of missteps. This spring we have noticed some sloppiness at the pots and pans, which we hope is temporary. Savoy’s kitchen is at their best when they let a little New Nordic inspiration seep into all that Francophila, like when a refreshingly acidic fern consommé is nicely balanced by the sweetness of onion purée against a sounding board of Puy lentils and mushrooms. The recommended pinot noir from German Jurtschitsch matches perfectly. More ideas like that and the bill might feel a little more affordable.

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  • Fine Level 61

    Sea Horse

    Chambre separéeWheelchair accessVegetarian dishes
    Kapteeninkatu 11, 00140 Helsinki

    The word on the street is unanimous: “fried Baltic herring and meatballs”. These are the signature dishes at Sea Horse and they have been on the menu since the days when it was little more than a seaside tavern. Nowadays, with its white napkins and tablecloths, it’s hard to imagine the drinking orgies that took place within these olive-coloured walls. Riimihärkää, Finland’s version of beef carpaccio, comes rather too thickly sliced on a bed of mushroom salad, but together with the capers and pickled red onion, the delicate taste of the beef holds its own. World-famous Napue gin from Kyrö Distillery in the middle of Finland goes down surprisingly well with the meat, leaving you with a rather pleasant tingling tongue. The cabbage rolls are doused in thick, dark beef gravy, topped with sweet lingonberries, but they are a little overwhelmed by the neighbouring side of vinegary beetroot, and turn out to be somewhat bland. A pick-me-up in the form of an organic syrah from Chile is a little spicy and does a balancing act with all that acidity. The joint is frequented by Asian tourists along with artists and rock musicians from a bygone era, now greying but still sipping their Koskenkorva (Finnish hooch) shots, while the Swedish-speaking group in the back room shouts “Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah”! Sea Horse is, without doubt, iconic.

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  • Fine Level 69

    SicaPelle Wining & Dining

    BrunchChambre separéeBanqueting roomsParkingTables outsideVegetarian dishesRooms availableAmerican Express
    Kirkkotori 3, 06100 Porvoo

    Right next to the church and half a flight down we step into an older environment with small tables and art on the walls. The blackboard is in English, but we hear only Finnish being spoken. After we push our way onto the banquette sofa, the choice is obvious. The five-course menu kick-starts immediately with a Finnish version of ceviche made of whitefish topped with a fennel granité. So fresh! The intermediate dish of spelt porridge with porcini mushrooms is more filling than innovative, but the hay-smoked perch is one of the better fish we have eaten on the south coast – firm and nice! The friendly staff guide us safely through the wine list and the Slovenian wine served with the meal.

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  • Very Fine Level 72


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    Läntinen Aleksanterin katu 1, 06100 Porvoo

    In the summer town of Porvoo you can eat well all year round at Sinne, situated a bit off the beaten path in a somewhat anonymous grey concrete building on the main road. The restaurant’s interior is industrial with huge pipes suspended from the ceiling and bare walls. It can get loud in here at times. But the waitresses do everything to make the diners happy, and they succeed brilliantly. The restaurant attracts a younger crowd who gladly sink their teeth into the famous hamburger. But try the five-course menu instead, which is Finnish and progressive and contains lots of local produce. The superb spelt bread comes from Malmgård a few kilometres inland, and the lamb meat is from Kivikko, just five kilometres away. (“We bought all 20 animals.”) Some of the meat is salt-cured and served as an excellent amuse-bouche. Some of it was made into the tartare that kick-starts menu, served with cured grated egg yolk, pomegranate and mint cream. A 65-degree egg comes with caramelised butter foam, green asparagus and fried potato shreds. It is slighty overpowering, but the Italian sangiovese provides the requisite balance as a finishing touch. An extremely thinly sliced king crab gets a bit lost in a sauce of fennel and spinach, but it tastes good. The kitchen chooses to braise the boneless veal rib-eye until tender, but is not entirely successful. The amazing cut becomes a little dry. Finally, the birch ice cream gives us a taste of Finnish summer. A panna cotta contributes a continental note, but pieces of almond cake and white meringue sticks emphasise the Nordic heritage.

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  • Fine Level 69


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    Slottsvägen 134, 22520 Kastelholm

    Chef Michael Björklund’s dream project is right next door to the tourist magnet Kastelholm Castle in the middle of the Åland outback. Smakbyn is an impressive complex comprised of a restaurant, distillery, conference facilities and a shop. Once inside the door the cathedral-like dining room almost takes our breath away, but we pull ourselves together as the extremely down-to-earth and welcoming staff show us to our table. The food is liberatingly far from the kind of dishes that gave Björklund top rankings in international competitions. It features local produce, unpretentiously cooked with love, with lots of extra yumminess on the plate. The snails are stout Ålanders, served Provencal-style with a ton of garlic butter. A browned pork consommé with pork rillettes and porcini is not for the fat-phobic, but attractively displays the pig’s delicate flavours. A pale ale from local Stallhagen works well alongside, but the apple and gooseberry pressed juice is even better, contributing much-needed acidity. Otherwise, the non-alcoholic alternatives are relatively few, which is a shame considering that most people come here by car from Mariehamn, half an hour away. Do not miss the Åland lamb if it’s on the menu! And we recommend wrapping things up with peasant-style sour cream paired with various forms of sweet and sour sea buckthorn.

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  • Fine Level 68

    Smyg Helsinki

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    Eerikinkatu 2, 00100 Helsinki

    Smyg used to be called Sinne and was the second location of the renowned Porvoo restaurant. Now Janne Aaltonen is running things on his own with Chef Karri Davidson. The charm of the place relies much on the back room, a three-storey-high space now decorated with greenery that they call The Garden. It’s something for other restaurants to envy. The menu relies on domestic produce, fish, game, vegetables (especially spring “primeurs”), and wild berries. The result is usually inventive and tasty. Lamb pastrami is delicious with Jerusalem artichokes prepared in two ways. But the flavour of smoke in the pheasant is a bit overpowering. The panna cotta has a hint of thyme and is accompanied by wild-tasting bilberry sorbet. In the centre of Helsinki the competition can be tough, even though at lunchtime there are enough customers to go around. In the evening Smyg has tried to attract a new clientele by dining without the lights on, as is now the trend in some cities. In the dark room guests are presented with a menu they have no say over. Pay as you like. The events have been surprisingly popular and are planned to continue come the dark season.

    More information about Smyg Helsinki
  • Fine Level 62


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    Läntinen rantakatu 3, 20100 Turku

    The best thing about Smör (meaning “butter” in Swedish) is the milieu. In this house by the riverside the cellar vaults date back to the 16th century. In April the starter was exemplary and brought the promise of spring: a crisp nettle croquette, kale pudding and deep-fried sea kale. It is easy to eat one’s greens and be happy here. The main course is fried hake, like cod from the North Sea. It is accompanied by braised pak choi, a wintery carrot, and new potatoes. Dessert is a pile of meringue and raspberry sorbet. The service on this visit is less than perfect. Our wine is brought to the table without explanation and although the restaurant is empty, we can’t seem to prevail in having them turn down the Finnish pop music playing in the background. But they must be having an off night, since Smör is beloved by the locals and tourists alike.

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  • Fine Level 67

    Soil Wine Room

    BarVegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Fredrikinkatu 37, 00120 Helsinki

    The crispy piece of bread is cut so finely it’s more like a chip. The plain tomato spread is anything but plain and the patatas bravas are cooked to perfection. This tiny restaurant may be laid-back but their intentions are clear: outstanding quality and superlative service. Owner and Chef Matti Romppanen moved from his Nordic restaurant in Barcelona back to Helsinki and decided from the word go that only the best would do. The space on Fredrikinkatu specialises in tapas and while the menu stays the same, daily blackboard specials provide some variation. The tartare on the regular list is fresh and lightly stuffed with chives, parsley and thyme. Iberico de Bellota ham and the aged Manchego cheeses, which come with quince jelly, are all carefully chosen. The wine selection is small but well curated from the slopes of Mount Etna to the plains of Spain – wines that add plenty of backbone to the food they accompany. If you think the next course is taking too long, read the newspaper the last one came on and remember that everything here is made with heart. Before you know it the waitress will arrive, smile broadly and describe in detail what simple delights your palate is about to experience.

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  • Very Fine Level 77


    Vegetarian dishesAmerican Express
    Kasarmikatu 26, 00130 Helsinki

    Things are so pared down here that the wine glasses lack stems. The space consists of only a few square meters, with black and white furniture framed by exposed brick walls located at an address that is easy to forget. But that hasn’t stopped the whole city from finding it. Since its inception five years ago, Chef Antero Aurivo has devoted himself entirely to capturing the essence of authentic Finnish gastronomy and presenting it in the clearest of ways. The evening’s barely underway and he has already turned winter potatoes into perfectly crispy small spheres, beets into sweet-soft pieces of candy and the forest’s mushrooms into crisps. Vegetables have the leading role in the four and six-course menus. Meat and fish are also present, like the pike that has barely crossed the border from raw glassiness and swims in a deliciously oniony-sweet fish broth. It takes a lot of composure not to gorge ourselves on the signature sourdough bread with fluffy butter. Restaurant manager Marc-Antoine Marcoux handpicks natural wines with justified self-confidence and changes them often. Åland lamb and Jerusalem artichoke are perfectly matched with a buoyant but not too thin southern German pinot noir. Late harvest loin-de-l'oeil is absolutely sweet and delicious with malt cake and blueberries with whey sorbet, even though we manage to drink most of it with the preceding tiny apple pie. Overall there is nothing at all to complain about when the friendly, cool and low-key team at Spis provides the kind of completely seamless food and service experience that we so often crave but rarely encounter.

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  • Fine Level 63

    The Cock

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    Fabianinkatu 17, 00130 Helsinki

    The atmosphere is fun, the crowd is cheerful and the oysters are fresh. The interior is playful yet stylish with plenty of amusing details. Popular restaurants have been located at this address for over 50 years and restaurateurs Ville Relander and Richard McCormick have been running the business since 2015. The menu contains worldwide influences and its fair share of crowd-pleasers. Beef tartare is served with egg yolk and frisée salad, and seasoned with dried horseradish – a simple presentation with rich flavours. A classic, perfectly cooked steak-frites needs some more seasoning, but it is accompanied by a delicious béarnaise sauce with fresh acidity and coarsely chopped tarragon. Innovative and classic cocktails are available at the bar along with a focused selection of wines. The tasty food is on an even keel, but the main attraction is the ambiance and the restaurant’s distinctive personality.

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  • Very Fine Level 77


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    Pieni Roobertinkatu 8, 00130 Helsinki

    When Ritva Blomquist moved her antique shop across the street, the restaurateurs moved in. Her formerly cluttered basement is now a wine cellar, and the large shop windows facing the street bring in natural light and give diners a view outside. It is easy to feel comfortable in this space and you can tell the other diners agree. The menu is as it should be, short and concise, and just like the venue it’s very bistro-esque. If you begin with braised oxtail, you will get a dish that looks more like rillettes, topped with pickled onions and aioli, which complement each other well. The soup of the day might be a Crème Ninon. In the middle sits a few shrimp with spinach on top. It’s pretty, tasty, and by the book. Among the main courses the zander seems to be popular, because they run out before we can order it. Instead we opt for the veal rib-eye with béarnaise, red wine sauce and mushroom cream. The dish is a bit overloaded and has a few flavours too many with root vegetables, bacon, mushrooms and green beans, but the sommelier makes outstanding suggestions, favouring the Old World. A big plus since the vintages in our glasses substantially heighten the experience. If you have any room left, the dessert list leaves nothing to be desired, but a few petit fours will suffice. On the whole, this oh-so-continental establishment is a very safe bet.

    More information about Vinkkeli
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