Helsinki Restaurant Struts Like a Cock

Not ‘Le Coq’ or ‘Coq au Vin’ or ‘Cockerel’, no, just plain The Cock! Here’s an eating establishment that takes its food seriously with ear-to-ear smiles, fun and a lot of buzz. Not a trace of ‘I’m doing you a favour serving you’ only people who are more than happy to help and put you in a good mood for the rest of the day.

The Cock Restaurant
There’s a new cock in town!

The food is wonderful! Help yourself to a funky metal plate and fill it up with fabulously fresh salads from the buffet table at lunchtime as well as soup and turmeric bread with a hint of aniseed, all of which burst with Med/Moroccan flavours and plenty of crunch. I especially liked the quinoa, cranberry and artichoke salad, a tiny bit spicy or was I imagining that? The hot salmon had a blob of tarragon pesto to give it an extra dimension.

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Ville Relander, partner in crime with Richard McCormick, both of whom are masters at creating (and sustaining!) affordable, trendy eateries says,

“We make it all ourselves. Our own granola, pastries, bread. There’s a chicken rotisserie in the kitchen, already in operation, that will be brought out for all to see when we get the time to do so!”

Hey, they serve breakfast, not a common occurrence in this town. The menu includes said granola as well as other goodies that suit both the cholesterol freaks and herbivores amongst us.

Homemade breakfast
Homemade breakfast

But the two pièces-des-résistances are their rotisserie slowly grilling their herby chicken to perfection and the ping-pong table that doubles up as a dessert buffet (psst, for as little as €9!!!).  

Dessert buffet
Load up the carbs from the ping pong table

 

Ambience: Buzzy, relaxed, smiley

Food: Med/Moroccan and everywhere else – fresh, crunchy, a bit different

Prices: Dead reasonable (for Helsinki, that is!)

Service: With a happy grin

Wines: Catchy labels, pricey except for Champagne Serge Mathieu for €55

Drinks: Clever non-alcoholic and special alcoholic combinations

My rating: 8/10

Links:

The Cock – http://thecock.fi

Tripadvisor – http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g189934-d7890909-Reviews-The_Cock-Helsinki_Southern_Finland.html

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Four Seasons at Restaurant Nokka, Helsinki, Finland

The slush outside (January 2015) is enough to drive you straight back to where you came from and I mean anywhere else except Helsinki. Crossing the bridge to the peninsula called Katajanokka, there’s a glimmer of hope when you notice that all the love locks chained to it, weigh it down with stories of passion and love that it turns your attention away from the surroundings and makes you smile.

Helsinki
The view from the peninsula of Katajanokka, just across the bridge from Helsinki

At Nokka you get out from the cold and the wet, and there’s this happy fuzzy feeling of being wrapped in comfort and warmth. The interior just folds you in with its vaulted redbrick ceilings and over-stuffed chairs. The building speaks of its historical past when this area used to be a busy cargo port and where spaces like these were used as warehouses. I love this place and really, if I were rolling in it, I would come here on a weekly basis. Maybe it has something to do with the last time I was here when the waiter broke into perfect Afrikaans, my mother tongue, and asked me whether I was comfortable? Gob smacked is an under statement.

Even though the Afrikaans speaking waiter is no longer there, it’s still a pleasure to be served by someone a little less interested in keeping up appearances and more involved in serving you with care and attention.

Ari Ruoho
Ari Ruoho, executive chef at Nokka

And then the food… This guy, called Ari Ruoho, throws all your worries of high cholesterol out of the window and slaps on the butter. After all, he’s not your physician, he’s your chef and he’s gonna indulge you. Ari’s head of the kitchen of this esteemed establishment and he’s into Finnish and more Finnish ingredients unless necessity calls for it and then it’s fresh as fresh can be. Like the king crab, flown in from Bugøynes or Pykeija in Finnish with its many Finnish-speaking residents. This town was on the verge of financial collapse until they discovered this succulent crustacean. So even if it’s not exactly from Finland, Pykeija is close enough.

King crab at Restaurant Nokka
King crab from Bugøynes or Pykeija in Finnish

Ari’s Four Seasons menu gets sweeter, juicier and tastier as you go along from this same tender, sweet king crab to rosemary and garlic infused elk. You try to bite but your teeth only sink into a melting pot of textures and flavours that go so well with the wines they have chosen to select. There’s the Klosterneuburg Grüner Veltliner 2012 with just a hint of acidity necessary for the delicate seafood but the Jèma Corvina 2010 turns the elk into a taste extravaganza. Ye gods! this full, huge, fruity number takes the cake and is one helluva pairing on the part of the resident sommelier.

Elk at Restaurant Nokka
Elk comes in a stoneware pot

Afters? Well, I’m not so into sweets but if I can say anything at all, it would be that the cloy of the chocolate next to the cloudberry sauce works, but not for me. I just don’t like desserts much but I do like the hug from the reindeer man Hannu Lahtela who treated us to his reindeer ‘chips’ Poromi, chewy, salty and a real good combo with beer or chilled vodka.

Dessert at Restaurant Nokka
Chocolate/salty liquorice mousse and flambéed cloudberries

 

Chocolate, Chilli and Cowboys – a Restaurant in Helsinki, Finland

Get ready, grab your hats, ‘cause we’re on a trail from east to west, north to south. Your taste buds will never be the same again. Yiihaaa!!!

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Plunge into the depths of the traditional, always-been-there König Restaurant, down to the nightclub that most Finns have seen the inside of at least once in their lives and there you’ll find Shanghai Cowboy, a fusion of food and a conglomeration of nationalities you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in Helsinki. Here’s a line-up of the mix: Mehdi Younes, Lebanese Project Manager; Iman, Persian Restaurant Manager, chefs from America and the Congo, waiting staff from Australia, Bangladesh and as far flung as Finland! They’re all smiling, having a laugh and obviously loving every minute of it.

Now let’s get down to business. The food is fresh, mostly locally sourced except for the stuff you can’t find here and beautifully presented. Take a look at this Angry Duck Quesadilla with a touch of North Africa in the sweet dried fruit and nut mole, mixed herbs, a Lebanese input with pomegranate, manchego from Spain and Mexican salsa to top it, a vegetarian’s dream but equally good for a meat lover.

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And speaking of meat, the ribs drip with chocolate and coke with chipotle making its presence felt and would even make the toothless smile, they’re so tender. Or the Korean Gochujang version again with chipotle, a little thinner in consistency this time, but beware, it’s beautifully spiced.

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And then there are the cocktails with standards like Chilli Mule and Margaritas amongst others (€10) or Cowboy Tea with a mix of Jack, mint, lemon and orange and yes, tea!

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It’s colourful, everything’s playful and fun and bursting with energy and life, including the chow. It’s innovative and to boot, will not break the budget. Most expensive on the menu is the ribs at €25, the rest is all below €20.

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Pull on your boots and go for a raucous ride! Even the kids will love it, peering at you from behind their complimentary sinister face masks.

Hotdogs, Hamburger and Lobster – Restaurants in Helsinki, Finland

I’m on a mission, a fun one, to find the new and newish in the restaurant world out there. I hop on my bike, whizz down the road, make for the glorious Helsinki shoreline, pedal till I get tired and there it begins.

 Birgitta (1)

Birgitta – neatly placed at the end of Eira and the beginning of Hernesaari, this café is much more than just that. Let’s start with the coffee which comes from local artisans that call themselves Kaffa Roastery, then the open sandwiches of Baltic Herring on rye and other innovations, the ‘pulla’ (sweet buns) brimming with butter and sugar and best of all, hamburgers, meat and veggie, barbecued on their charcoal grill set to rival any others out there. The salads are ridiculously fresh created with local, as local can be. And then there’s the Baltic Sea view…. (http://birgittahernesaari.com)

Hummeri ja Hodari (Lobster and hotdog) – You can only giggle at this one but this is no laughing matter, I assure you. The hotdogs are hand-selected from local sausage maker Chef Wotkins while the buns travel less than a klick from Kanniston Leipomo to land in the hands of the crazy chefs who love to fool around with lobster sauce combined with fresh dogs, or serve the whole crustacean on a bed of Caesar salad. Sides include black trumpet mushroom or Parmesan fries and coleslaw with not a hint of mayo in sight. Need I add that champagne is available at €9,50 a glass as are other stylish wines and beers. (http://hodari-hummeri.fi)

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Let’s tell a Story about a few top chefs of Michelin star fame that believe they have finally earned the right to take their place in the historic Market Hall recently reopened after extensive renovations. Anders, Matti, Teemu and Markus have paid their dues in some illustrious eateries and are serving up some creamy Eggs Benedict for breakfast, pulled pork sandwiches for lunch and dinner invented every Friday and Saturday by whatever captures the chefs’ imaginations in the hall that day. Of course there’s plenty more on the menu and the prices are well in sync with most wallets. (http://restaurantstory.fi)

It only takes a couple of Australians to take one look at Helsinki and say, “Yeah, mate, these guys like to drink and they like having fun.” The Woolshed is born. Friendlier you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere, good value for money too at this dining and drinks joint right next to the station. Lobster, flown in from Maine, features strongly and comes at as little as €20 while their plenty-to-eat burgers weigh in at a mere €14,50. Woolshed and Camden beers on tap as well as their wines cutting out the middleman and served to you at a competitive price. Live music. laughter and banter come free! (http://www.woolshed.eu)

But if you want some bite in your bite, sink your teeth into an Adobo De Res taco with Mexican chilli beef and onion or a slow-roasted pulled pork quesadilla at Eatos. To make your day even more complete, you’ll be just as pleased as I was when I saw the bill. (www.eatos.fi)

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Tapas plate at Bronda

You can’t miss it – it’s right there on the Esplanade near the Swedish Theatre and it’s Bronda owned by celebrity chefs Tomi Björck and Matti Wikberg whose favourite European food countries are Spain, Italy and France and who incorporate their culinary travels with their finely-honed skills to present you with an Anchovy Toast and Manchega cheese snack, tiger prawns gently rolled in garlic and brown butter with fresh herbs and roasted almonds for crunch. Handcrafted snacks at the bar, a la carte or a tasting menu for dinner, it all happens in an elegant stylish atmosphere of white linen and selective lighting. (http://ravintolabronda.fi/?lang=en)

Passion is an overused word these days, but there’s nothing passé about the guys cooking food at Passio. Let’s get you started on smoky, creamy whitefish served with a potato pancake, then wild boar smothered in porter beer sauce next to Jerusalem artichokes, then apple pie and caramel… You know the feeling, you’ve died and gone to heaven. (http://passiodining.fi)

 Kolmonen

Lunch at Kolmonen

Tucked away in cosy Kallio is Kolmonen, a tiny little place where good home food is made with heart and is served at no more than €10 at lunchtime with fresh bread and crispy salad, a little more at dinner. The menu changes constantly but there are some evergreens that make the list every day such as their own take on a Charolais Burger and Fish of the Day. Seek them out – you won’t be sorry! (Kolmas Linja 11, https://www.facebook.com/ravintolakolmon3n)