A Food Lover's Guide To Helsinki
The Finnish capital is buzzing with restaurants that mix daring cooking with on-trend design, and this is creating delicious results
The name Palace may sound a tad grand but it's apt for a place with this much history. Its privileged location—on the 10th floor of a building erected to mark the 1952 Olympics—is one thing, but the restaurant itself has long been known as one that "led the way for gastronomy in Finland". The reimagined Palace restaurant is a homage to its mid-century roots, with modern interiors featuring teak panelling and an alluring Scandi colour palette conceived by Note Design Studio. While the design makes a strong first impression, the food makes a lasting one. Continuing in its tradition of raising the bar, chefs Hans Välimäki and Eero Vottonen lead the kitchen with a fresh and progressive approach to the Finnish fine dining experience. Another plus? Your meal also comes with a glorious panoramic view of the sea.
Eteläranta 10, 00130 Helsinki, +358 9 6128 5400, www.palacerestaurant.fi
Every city needs a great bistro that consistently delivers, and that’s exactly what Pontus is. Located at Helsinki’s Ullanlinna district—a creative centre chock-full of vintage and design stops—the cosy restaurant was buzzing with diners on both days we visited. According to an interview, co-owner Antto Melasniemi describes Pontus as "fine casual", which means a combination of fine dining and fast casual, a concept that clearly resonates with locals and visitors alike. The approachable menu has a heavy Italian accent, serving rustic pizzas with unconventional toppings such as Baltic herring, as well as comforting oven-baked dishes.
Kapteeninkatu 26 00140 Helsinki, +358 40 775 9656, http://ravintolapontus.fi/
Yes Yes Yes
Apparently, this name was the response of the founders once they knew that this corner space, formerly occupied by a McDonald’s, was opening up. The three founders moved in and put in its place an undoubtedly cooler joint—unmissable with its glowing neon yellow sign (a great addition to a city already teeming with awesome typography) and large windows that allow passers-by peek into its colourful, graphic interiors. What makes Yes Yes Yes really stand out, however, is their modern vegetarian and vegan food (think: Cauliflower tempura, sweet chilli, and tellicherry pepper) paired with a great selection of wines. You'll surely find something to munch on, from lunch to when the place transforms into a bar come night time.
Iso Roobertinkatu 1, +358 9 6128 5130, www.yesyesyes.fi
Until recently, breakfast (and brunch) wasn’t really much of a thing in Helsinki. That all changed when places such as Levain entered the scene. A bakery-eatery from the successful BW Restaurants group (the same company behind Michelin Guide-listed hotspots Farang and Bronda), Levain is a charming spot at which to start your day, pause for a caffeine fix, or even wind down in the evening. Come with an appetite and order their famous egg sandwich with local Feri’s sausage, made with a toasted brioche, fluffy scrambled organic eggs, cheddar, and sriracha dressing. If a snack would suffice, anything that catches your eye from the pastry counter won’t disappoint—we recommend the kouign-amann and pasteis de nata.
Runeberginkatu 29 00100 Helsinki, +358 10 322 9389, www.levain.fi
Believe it or not, Finns consume the most coffee in the world, so it comes as no surprise that the city has plenty of cafes to choose from. The brick structure on Kanavaranta alone houses a few options but a stop at Goodio Cafe offers more than just a good cuppa. As a guest of My Helsinki Residence, I first discovered Goodio chocolate in the apartment. I was drawn to the beautiful packaging, but the wholesome taste—it's made from raw cacao, stone ground in Helsinki—was what convinced me to visit the cafe. Serving coconut milk ice cream, smoothie bowls, and unlimited coffee among other treats, Goodio Cafe is a choice spot in which to indulge without guilt. It's a nice, warm respite from which to escape the harsh Helsinki winters, and with its location right by the water, an excellent choice to bask in the eternal sunshine come summertime.
Kanavaranta 7 00170, +358 50 3485 417, https://goodiochocolate.com