Helsinki, Tallin, Turku
Looking for restaurant and pub tips for the above. Any info on great, local food and wouldn't mind a finer dining option either. Also, any fun bars always good to know about. Thxs.
Hey hopefully some locals will chime in but when I went to Helsinki and Tallinn almost 5 years ago, I got very little response. Maybe my trip report below will help, double check that everything's still open.
I'm not sure people care much about the Helsinki/Tallinn dining scenes if the lack of responses to my earlier request is any indication. I do thank Jen for her posts here and email comments re: Tallinn. Our first meal was the soup buffet at our hotel, the Reval Express just 5 min outside the old town. It was rainy and cool and that hit the spot. They had about 8 different soups, I esp. enjoyed the cabbage & sausage and fish soups. Only 55 EEK with some nice breads. The next nite was Turg, a cute little downstairs place on Mündi 3 in the old city (many places are located downstairs in Tallinn). Had a good chicken wrapped in bacon dish that was a tad dry but helped by the nice creamy mushroom sauce. A had pork in bacon with more of a red wine sauce. I started with a small plate from their antipasto table and got a little beef (too tough), salmon (nice), chicken (similar to my entrée) and some salad but you could get as much as you wanted to pile on whatever sized place including a nice looking cheesecake. The small plate was 39EEK, entrees reasonable, service good but they charged us for ice water most everywhere in that city. Our nice dinner out was at Cathedral at Lossiplats across from the beautiful Russian Orthodox church. Not a soul besides us was there between 7:45-9:30 on a Thurs. nite which was strange but it's a pretty room with the church right outside the window. The hostess was on her laptop the whole time. Started off well a nice amuse bouche, decent bread but my kangaroo was woefully overcooked. Great side of potato croquette tho. A's lamb was a little less overdone but not much. We split blini w/ sour cream and honey which were decent, good coffee. Even tho this was the nicer meal, my portion only came to about $25 with a glass of white wine. Last meal after much wandering around was at Fellini in Raekoja Plats, a little nicer than we expected when we got seated. They had a piano player who was thankfully unobtrusive but prices were fairly reasonable to make up for the personality-deprived waitress. I had spaghetti carbonera that wasn't quite perfect, a little too saucy but tasty, around 115 SEK. A. had a seafood pasta dish with head on shrimp and a few others, came wrapped in foil shaped like a fish or swan or something.
Quick hits: Loved the Kehrwider Café on Saiakang, a favorite hang out spot in the afternoon. Great latte, decent blackberry tarte, huge pieces of tiramisu. A little pricier than the others but that underground cuteness was hard to resist. Also stopped by Café Wecken Gang next door but their choc. covered baked good wasn't as good. Enjoyed Reval Café on Vene with big comfy couches downstairs and a little upstairs section (seemed to be where the smokers went). Had a good capuccinio and egg & bacon sandwich there but that black bread overpowers other flavors sometimes.
We had one cold but sunny day in Helsinki, plus one cloudy day and two pretty rainy days so not prime visiting weather. First dinner was something easy around the corner from the Scandic Marski, Mandarin Court where I felt the need for vegetables. The dish was spicy enough but the veggies were the most basic bamboo shoots and peppers, so not too exciting. A's beef in red curry was a little better, 10€ for my dish but I could have kissed the guy for bringing us a whole pitcher of ice water to quaff down. Very old fashioned Chinese looking place with lots of red and gold. The sunny day brought us to Suomanlinnan Island and since I just missed the ferry back, got lunch at the brew pub Panimo. They had a lunch buffet with a kind of scalloped potato/ham dish and a salad w/ cucumbers and shrimp for 8€ with a bunch of bread. The best deal there and hit the spot while wasting time. That nite we resorted to Hessburger and since I'd eaten some junk during the day, just had a fair side of fries and their Big Mac equivalent looked pretty typical. I was on my own for what ended up being the nicest dinner in Helsinki, Sasso on Pohjoisesplanadi which was in some 50 Best Restaurants in Finland book (I discovered while eating there). I have to say, they don't really know about bar dining in these cities and I walked around looking for that but not having luck. Vespa had been packed on Sat. but no one was there on a Mon., liked the looks of a French place by Stockman's where mussels and frites sounded good (if overpriced) but even tho they had two bars, no one was eating there and there weren't even bartenders at the bars. I thought Sasso would be different but it's just the waiters coming to the bar mixing/pouring their own drinks, so I was odd man out. Plus there was some zany performance dance going on, maybe a Halloween thing. But the place had a hip feel to it and the menu was Italian influenced. I went with a grilled red fish entrée with an anchovy potato kick, some foam (have never been into the foam phenomenon), calamari and a little veggie with a glass of nice white wine. A relative bargain at 19.95€. The last nite we went to Baker's a couple doors down from the hotel where I got a lamb burger, which was basically lamb cutlets on a nicely grilled bun with goat cheese and aioli, okay fries, 14€. A. had a basic burger that he thought was fine (I avoid burgers in other countries, never seem to be as good). They had a bread station too if you wanted. And some much fancier entrees. A nice place that's open til 3AM even on the weekdays, something we're sure not used to in Boston.
Quick hits: Had a nice snack in the midst of downpours at Café Esplanade, weird overly cardamom tasting sweet at Café Lotsplotsa on Mannerheimintie and good cap. at Café Java also on Mann. Like Bar Loose on Fredrikinkatu for a bar w/ a rock scene. Hard to deal with all the smoke after living in a non smoking city for so long.
As an aside, and unrelated to food and dining, I found that Talinn had some of the most beautiful women of any place I have visited in that neck of the woods (Sweden included). The food was not memorable (must have been all the Saku we drank - possibly the explanation for my take on the women also - but I don't think so).
The boat bars in Turku are fun. They are moored in the center of town and you can sit outside on deck and enjoy a drink ( or 2 or 3) if the weather is nice. Also, next to Turku is Naantali, a picturesque waterfront village with many outdoor restaurants and cafes.
Here you can find some information of the best restaurants in Finland: http://www.visitfinland.com/web/guest...
In Helsinki I also recommend the following bistros/restaurants: Atelje Finne, restaurant Juuri, Carelia and Kuurna.
And for fine dining in Helsinki, Demo, Luomo and Olo are really good choices. In my opinion Chez Dominique is the best restaurant in Finland, but it's really expencive. Luckily they have a great lunch deal: 3 courses for 29 €.
As for Turku I recommend an italian restaurant called Sergio's. They have good italian food, nice wine list and you can sit outside on a terrace next to the river Aura. Restaurants Mami and Smör are also widely recommended.
In july many restaurants close their doors for a month so it's good to chek if the places above are open.