Restaurants in Helsinki
With more than 800 restaurants to choose from it is possible to find many international cuisines as well as places to sample tasty local food when eating out in Helsinki. Various restaurants on offer include steak houses, bistros, cafes, up-market gourmet establishments and fast food joints; whatever else you may want to try though, the traditional Finnish food is a must.
Finnish food is generally quite healthy and simple with an emphasis on fresh produce and some influence from Russian and Scandinavian cooking traditions. The local cuisine centres on seafood and many of the trademark meals are fish dishes. Fresh berries are also common on menus in Helsinki, often served with ice-cream or pastry. Lapland has its own distinct cuisine and its most famous staples are reindeer steak and snow grouse. The most common drink in Finland is vodka but in Helsinki it is also wonderful to sample the hot spiced wine called gloggi, especially in the winter.
The best areas to find restaurants in Helsinki include the central areas of Katajanokka and Kruununhaka as well as the city's main boulevard, the Esplanadi. The Hietalahti area is good for those eating on a budget, and the Kallio quarter is a fun clubbing area with cheap ethnic food and some good bars.
Pride of Helsinki's very worthy cuisine scene is the Michelin-starred restaurant Chez Dominique, imbued with elegance through and through - from the inventive signature dishes to the minimalist décor. The ever-changing menu blends traditional Scandinavian with French gourmet touches to produce items like pigeon stuffed with foie gras or roasted lamb from the Pyrenees. The beautifully prepared dishes are prepared under the direction of top Finnish chef, Hans Välimäki. Open for dinner Monday to Saturday, and lunch Tuesday to Friday.
Address: Rikhardinkatu 4
Telephone: (0)9 612 7393
For many years Sundmans has set the standard for Helsinki fine dining and can be consistently relied on for high-class cuisine, a beautiful setting and elegant atmosphere, top class service and the best desserts in Finland. The landmark restaurant is housed in five rooms in a 19th-century empire house designed by Finnish architect Carl Ludwig Engel, offering a great view across the Market Square. Only the finest ingredients are used to create the dishes on the menu, which are modernised Finnish, including the specialty Baltic Herring Fillet. Another plus for this restaurant is its extensive wine cellar, the selection housed in a magnificent vaulted chamber, which can be hired for private functions. Open for dinner Monday to Friday. The wine cellar is open Monday to Friday from 11:30am and Saturday from 6pm. Closed Sundays. Reservations are essential.
Address: Eteläranta 16
Telephone: (0)9 6128 5400
Helsinki is renowned for its Russian restaurants, and probably the best of the bunch is Bellevue, which is reputedly the oldest Russian restaurant outside of Russia. It also claims to produce Russian favourites that are better than you will taste in the home country, and many gourmets tend to agree. Characteristics of Russian cooking are soups, black bread, pastries, caviar and fish dishes. Bellevue's menu contains all these, for example a set menu featuring beetroot soup, Chicken Kiev and Baked Alaska, or try post-roasted bear steak or roast fillet of reindeer off the à la carte menu. The ambience is pleasant, the décor unpretentious but classy, and the service friendly and efficient. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner, and Saturday for dinner only.
Address: Rahapajankatu 3
Telephone: (0)9 179 560
For a taste of traditional Lapland cuisine in the heart of Helsinki, Lappi should be a definite dining experience on any visitor's itinerary. Finnish dishes, including reindeer of course, are served up on the rustic wooden tables in a warm, friendly 'log cabin' atmosphere. If you want to just pop in for a drink the attached Kelonkolo bar will give a sample of the ambience to be enjoyed in the restaurant itself, where specialities include dishes like reindeer tongue and liver, grilled breast of snow grouse, or grilled fillet of elk with turnip and red wine sauce. Reservations are essential at Lappi, so popular with tourists that its menu is printed in eleven languages. The restaurant opens daily for lunch and dinner.
Address: Annankatu 22
Telephone: (0)9 645 550
Kynsilaukka Garlic Restaurant
If the pervasive scent of garlic tickles your taste buds, Kynsilaukka Restaurant in Helsinki is a must, particularly in a country where this renowned root is a rarity in local cuisine. The atmosphere is intimate, and the quality of the fascinating dishes excellent. The menu includes items like hot goat's cheese as a starter, salmon loaf, lamb stew or noisettes of pork as a main, all imbued with garlic. Side items like garlic jam and garlic beer spice up the experience. Snails sizzling in garlic sauce are, of course, a hot favourite. The restaurant opens at 11am on weekdays and 1pm on weekends.
Address: Fredrikinkatu 22
Telephone: (0)9 651 939
The far north has not been left out of the worldwide penchant for Italian food, and Helsinki boasts its fair share of Italian restaurants, from fast-food pizzerias to top-notch gourmet establishments. Papa Giovanni's in the city's World Trade Centre is rated one of the best. This is not a spot for the ubiquitous pizza, but the small, quality menu does offer several meat and fish dishes, and various pastas, at a comparatively reasonable price. The restaurant is very proud of its lobster pool from which diners can pick out their chosen lobster for immediate preparation. A handy touch is that each item on the menu is listed with a recommended wine. The restaurant opens Monday to Saturday until late, and for lunch on weekdays.
Address: World Trade Centre, Keskuskatu 7
Telephone: (0)10 766 4090
Whether you're after a quick bite or a relaxed cup of coffee, Gran Delicato is one of the most popular delicatessens in Helsinki. The scent of fresh-roasted coffee pervades the air as customers linger over the stuffed ciabatta and baguette sandwiches as well as pastas, salads and other light meals. The restaurant is a bit of a walk from the city centre, but worth it for the great food and cosy atmosphere.
Address: Kalevankatu 34
Telephone: (09) 694 0403
The décor, clientele and menu at Nuevo Restaurant and bar are upmarket and trendy, but fortunately the prices, along with the setting in an alleyway off Helsinki's Market Square, remain more historic. This restaurant is particularly attractive in summertime when diners can sit on the sidewalk terrace with a view of the harbour. Inside, stainless steel and glassware gleams as guests enjoy a varied menu and affordable wine list. Fish dishes are the favourite here, but the menu includes some hearty and eclectic meat offerings like almond-roasted lamb or beef fillet. Open daily for lunch and dinner (from 2pm on Sundays).
Address: Sofiankatu 4
Telephone: (0)9 6128 5900
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