Whilst I was dreading navigating Japan’s food scene, I wasn’t sure what to expect of Finland. So I was pleasantly surprised to find several meals that were (literally) worth writing home about. I’m not a sophisticated diner, so don’t expect Michelin-star selections here, just hearty winter fuel.
With the Hotel Indigo’s breakfast buffet starting at €28.50 and quickly rising if you wanted anything hot, I was keen to find other places to start my day. Lazy Fox was a mere 3 minute walk away, and honestly I’d have enjoyed anything from their menu. But their vegetarian all-day breakfast included halloumi, so was an easy choice, and comparatively cheap at €17.
Of the several dozen eateries in the vast Kemppi shopping centre, I had originally bookmarked Singapore Hot Wok as a lunch spot. But when I got there the options didn’t particularly appeal – and Bunit, just next door, seemed far more promising. Although they specialise in bao, I was intrigued by an Asian twist on carbonara. I try to minimise the amount of red meat in my diet, but I will stray for something special, and this certainly was: fried pork belly swimming in a rich sauce with a kick of chili. Two types of cheese and both spring and crispy onions rounded out the flavours and textures, and the portion was enormous: I had no hope of finishing it as a midday meal. At €16 I was very happy with the price, too.
The 120 year old Hietalahti Market Hall hosts a number of vendors offering food from around the world, although most of them seemed to be closed when I visited late of an evening- I wasn’t even sure if I was in the right building at first… However, I soon found Pizzeria Särdough in its impressive location at the end of the hall, and claimed a table up on the balcony after ordering. I took the internet’s advice to go for The Star, which seems to be their signature dish – at €19, it’s the most expensive pizza on the menu. I was able to customise it, trading the usual salami for mushrooms to create a meat-free version, but the highlight is the sourdough crust, each point of the star stuffed with cheese!
Helsinki’s famous Old Market Hall serves reindeer in many ways – with rice or chips, as a soup, in pita or spring rolls – but I had my sights set on a jacket potato from Kumpi Peruna. €16 gets you as many toppings as you want, but I kept it simple with just reindeer and lingonberry. Creamy mash in a slow-cooked skin is precisely what I hope for from a jacket potato, and they have perfected it here – no microwave nonsense. I was glad I had brought my travel cutlery, though, as a plastic fork quite literally doesn’t cut it. I’ve now eaten reindeer in Sweden, Norway and Finland, so I guess I have a quest for the other Nordic nations…