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New Helsinki or Tallinn info?

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As mentioned in the long, informative "hounding around Stockholm" thread, I'll be spending 4 nites in each city starting Oct. 20 (Stockholm then Tallinn then Helsinki). Looked over past posts on Helsinki and Tallinn but most are from a while ago, and there aren't that many to start with. Any definite places we should check out? Maybe one on the nicer side in each city but mostly casual and well priced. I have a feeling we might be overdosing on hearty northern European cuisine by the time we get to HEL, so a good pizza/Italian or Asian place might hit the spot. Altho a place with interesting game dishes is always welcome too. Thanks.

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  1. I'm so excited for you! I went to Helsinki and Tallinn in June 2005, before shlepping to St. Petersburg and Reykjavik, and I had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, I've never been to Stockholm!

    In Helsinki I enjoyed Zetor (http://www.ravintolazetor.fi/eng/inde...), which bills itself as being a tractor restaurant devoted to rural Finnish patriotism. The decor is funky and tongue-in-cheek, and I thought the food was delightful.

    Some of the dishes include blini; salmon soup; beetroot and blue cheese hash; Finnish meatballs in mustard sauce and mashed potatoes; elk stew with bacon, onion, and sahti beer; reindeer stew and oven-baked cheese (the latter of which has lingonberry red wine sauce inside of it); and reindeer ribs. Being a vegetarian, my options were extremely limited at Zetor, but I didn't mind one bit because the atmosphere was so much fun. I had a scrumptuous vegetarian pie (12 euros) and tasty dry Finnish white currant wine (4.50 euros). Prices are somewhat high, but that's very typical for Helsinki. Likewise, my service at Zetor was very slow, but that, too, seems to be typical for Helsinki.

    Kosmos (http://www.ravintolakosmos.fi/englant...) is a fine Helsinki institution that astounded me because it actually had quick, attentive service. The portions were large and the prices weren't too bad. I had a yummy (and extremely spicy) pot of vegetables with curry and nuts (11 euros) and heavenly baked Camembert with cloudberry jam (8 euros).

    I currently don't have the address or a website URL for Angelonica, unfortunately. This was a laid-back restaurant that was nearly empty when I was there (making me worry that it won't last long). The service was superb, the portions were huge, and the prices were fair. I had cheesy potatoes, Finnish pancakes with lingonberry jam, vegetable patties with tartar sauce, and an alcoholic Finnish berry drink. All were scrumptuous.

    There was a Lappish restaurant I really wanted to try (Lappi), but their prices were insane. Like I said earlier, everything is very expensive in Helsinki, and to make our money last, we had to forgo some of the restaurants that really interested us.

    On our first night there, we ate at a restaurant in a hotel...I can't remember the name...but the service was quite awful. The portions were overly tiny, too, considering what we paid.

    On another evening we ended up at a Chinese restaurant in the Kamppi area. I really wanted to stick to native food as much as possible on this trip, but we found that on Sunday nights, everything closes really early in Helsinki, and the Chinese place was the only restaurant we could find that stayed open past, like, 8pm. Funnily enough, they did have reindeer on the menu! And their standard fare was tasty in the usual way.

    Some Helsinki dining websites:

    http://www.valt.helsinki.fi/staff/ruo...
    http://www.eat.fi/?setLang=3&PHPS...

    Tallinn has a competitive medieval dining scene. That sounds odd, but because the center of Tallinn is one of the most perfectly preserved medieval cities in existence, everyone is trying to cash in on the tourists' love of all things medieval. I'd heard that Olde Hansa (http://www.oldehansa.ee/?id=1069) was the best of the medieval restaurants Tallinn has to offer and I decided to give it a whirl.

    Old Hansa consulted medieval experts to ensure that their food and drink selections were 100% authentic. The decor matches the theme perfectly, and it's no wonder; after all, the building itself harkens from medieval times! I had cinnamon beer (55 EEK) and a dish called Five Delightful Tastes of Vegetarian Origin (148 EEK). Both were fantastic.

    Some of the quirkier items on the menu include: Berries of the Highly Blessed olive tree; Neptune’s Feast (which included salmon eggs, Andalusian fish, smoke-grilled salmon, herring, quail eggs, fresh cheese, herb-bread with nuts, rye bread with smoked ham); Grand Beef of the Mighty Knight, Arabian fillets in fig sauce; wild boar; Himalayan Lamb Dish with Warming Spices Mountain People-Style (whatever that means!); German Merchants' Delicious Pork Marinated in Beer; The Honourable Cook Frederic's Game Sausages Made From Bear, Wild Boar, Elk, Figs, and Almonds; Grandmerchant von Wehren's Hunting Company's Wonderful Rabbit Roast; and Bürgermeister’s Game Fillet. They have dishes for less adventuresome folks, too: salmon, herring, oven-baked herb and juniper cheese, fillet mignon, etc.

    On the other end of the spectrum was Cathedral (http://www.cathedral.ee/index.php/set...), a super-modern (and allegedly super-haunted) restaurant next to Parliament and across the street from the stunning Nevsky Cathedral. It's a popular place for members of Parliament, and in light of that, I was surprised to see that the prices were reasonable. I had fusilli in cherry tomatoes and basil sauce (95 EEK), deep-fried Camembert with bramble jam (60 EEK), and a glass of Vana Tallinn, which is a liqueur that can only be found in Estonia (35 EEK). All of the items were wonderful and the service was good, too.

    You can find tons of Tallinn dining ideas here: http://www.inyourpocket.com/estonia/t...

    While there, we also ate at the African Kitchen (http://www.africankitchen.ee/) which had huge portions and excellent food. I must admit, I really wanted to go to another Estonian restaurant instead, because there are plenty of African places where I live (near DC), but the friend who was with me has no access to African food in York, England, so he pushed for the African Kitchen.

    We ate at an Azerbaijani restaurant, too (http://www.bakuu.ee/). I recall not being overly thrilled with them, because they had no meat-free options (other than salad) and the waitress was rude. But the decor was still cool, and my friend (who does eat meat) said that his dish was very good. I'm sorry--I can't remember what he ordered!

    1. Wow, thanks for all that info. I had Lappi (which I knew was pricey but it's open Sun.) and Old Hansa on my list but nothing else. I have the In Your Pocket site along with these: www.balticsww.com/tourist/estonia/res...; visitestonia.com
      www.balticsww.com/; www.tallinn-life.com/tallinn/nightlife). Did you skip the Russian restaurants in those cities since you were going to St. Petersburg? Do you suggest any fun bars for hanging out? Did you notice the roving bands of drunk Brits out for their stag parties that I've heard about?

      I just realized, am I going to have to deal with three currencies while I'm away: Swedish kroner, Estonian kroner and Euro? What a drag.

      1. You're welcome! I'm always happy to gush about Helsinki and Tallinn. Especially Tallinn, since it was such a remarkable city, and so underappreciated by Americans in general. (When I began telling family, friends, and coworkers--all of who are educated and far from xenocentric--about the trip I was planning, I'd say that 95% had never even heard of Tallinn. Also, when I donated blood after returning, I had to list all the countries I'd visited, and Estonia wasn't even an option in the blood bank's computer. The woman honestly thought I was making it up--like it was Brigadoon or something!)

        BTW, I consulted my travel journal about the aforementioned hotel restaurant in Helsinki that I disliked so much, and found that it was called Bistro Socis.

        Yeah, we avoided Russian restaurants in Helsinki and Tallinn because of going to St. Petersburg. If Russia hadn't been on the agenda, we definitely would've hit one or two Russian restaurants in Tallinn and/or Helsinki.

        The only bars we checked out were a Depeche Mode-themed bar in Tallinn and an ice bar in Helsinki. I loved both of them. The former was great because I was a big DM fan as a teen, and the latter because it was so exotic. The DM bar was pretty empty, but it had a hip, relaxed vibe to it. The ice bar only had four people in it: the bartender, some foreign tourist who came in to take photos, my traveling companion Richard, and me. It really seemed to be the kind of place where only tourists go--probably because it's pricey (10 euros to get in, and that only nets you one shot of Finlandia vodka; every subsequent shot costs an additional 10 euros). Still, it's worth checking out, despite the fact that the only drink they sell is Finlandia. Stockholm has a kick-ass ice bar, too, from what I understand!

        Oddly, we saw none of the infamous British stag parties in Tallinn. The friend traveling with me was British, and we were both nervous that some places would flat-out refuse to let him enter, even though he was only with me and not a big gaggle o' Brits. In the end, nobody said anything to us about it.

        The multiple currency thing really is a nuisance. I faced the same situation: carrying four different currencies around with me. I tried ordering all the money in advance from my home bank, but they didn't have the capability of providing Estonian money. So I went ahead and ordered the other currencies from them and just exchanged American money for Estonian kroner once I got to Tallinn.

        I have all my travel photos online, stored in Kodak Gallery albums. If you feel like cruising through them, I keep the links on my website here: http://www.jenniferboyer.com/gallerie...

        If you're not a Kodak Gallery member, you should be able to view the albums without signing in; just click "View Slideshow." The Tallinn album contains some photos taken inside Olde Hansa and the Depeche Mode bar, and the second Helsinki album contains photos taken inside the ice bar.

        1. A belated response in 2007. I already posted a longer story on
          another Helsinki "chain", but just in case,
          if someone is interested, I will include this non-commercial Helsinki link:

          http://www.mybesthelsinki.com/Helsink...

          This site includes 3 pages of Helsinki Restaurant "reviews", some with
          photos. Even if some of the reviews are a few years old, they still stand.
          There are links to all the restaurants, and links to other restaurant lists.
          Enjoy.

          The site also provides other very useful Helsinki info, on it’s other pages.