After visiting Helsinki over Easter, I said to M that perhaps the wine-scene is picking up enough to justify an honest consideration of Helsinki as a home city again. Since moving abroad in 2012 I have not longed back, although I have been missing my friends more than words can describe. Helsinki has felt too far away and small for my taste and the places to go for wine, coffee or whatever culinary experience could be counted with one, or to be less dramatic two hands; Finnair has been too dominant as an airline and the amount of patronizing the individual in the form of an abundance rules and regulations has often made me crazy. I am not saying things are much better anywhere else, Finland is a great country, but I needed to see the world to know what I am missing.
However, the scene is changing, not with regards to bureaucracy but at least the culinary experiences. Cozy Central-European influences are being drawn in and the offering for specialty coffee and wine is now pretty good. Perhaps this has been going on for a while, but now the selection really seems to be at a decent level. Sinne-Helsinki is just one example of something wonderful being set-up in the heart of the capital city. It is fresh and casual; and it would satisfy even the more demanding wine-geek with its selection of bottles.
The restaurant is located just off the main streets, behind Forum (big shopping mall) and Torni hotel. The space is divided into two parts: the Deli, where you can just pop in for a bite and a glass, and the ‘Garden room’ where they take reservations. The Garden room is built in an inner yard with a glass roof, so the space has a lot of light and a nice airy feel. The decoration of the space is nothing special, but there is some green (plants) in the middle of the room which created a nice ‘winter garden’ feel. Nothing special was needed to make it cozy.
The drinks list consisted of a decent selection by the glass. Three bubblies: one Austrian sparkling wine, a Janisson-Baradon Champagne (13€) and a Champagne of the day. Yes, a daily rotating Champagne (16€), this is what I’m talking about! The waiter offered for us to taste a small sip before deciding, so we sampled all three. The Champagne of the day was Bulle de Rosé from Savart, a wonderful aromatic bubbly with some berries and brioche. After declining the Austrian sparkling wine due to it’s sweetness (hey, if you would drink mostly zero dosage, you would probably think a Brut is sweet as well) M went for the Janisson-Baradon. For the drinks with our food, the Malaysian born sommelier, Edmund Liew, came over to our table to make recommendations. He was aware of our food orders (Asparagus for me and pork for M) and asked some questions to what kind of wine we would like. After that he sneaked into his wine room to bring out his suggestions. As I know wine, I am much more comfortable with browsing a proper list instead of someone choosing the wine for me but I must say he did a good job. I had a nice dry Riesling from Weegmüller and M had a Patrimonio Rouge 2010 from Corsica. Both well chosen to match the food, however I am still slightly annoyed that I could not see if there was something even more to my taste available nor was I made aware of the price prior to purchase (that is actually very annoying). There is a proper wine-list, but it was never brought to our table.
But when talking about the wine at this place, the list by the glass is only a scratch on the surface. The actual wine list (by the bottle) is amazing. It is 40 pages long, so I cannot really describe it to detail in this blog post, but browsing through the champagnes (now after our visit), I can already see many favorites, like Egly-Ouriet and Pierre Gimonet. They also offer a wide range from Selosse, this is stuff that you can’t even find in in the store (I don’t think there is any Selosse at Alko). Something that caught my eye as well were some of the prices for these bottles. A bottle of Selosse Brut Initial for 132€, that is a bargain! Normally I would expect the retail price to be well over a 100€, so to pay only 20-30€ more at a restaurant is fantastic. Finally a place that is offering a great selection of wine for an affordable margin. Other than Champagnes I noted some wonderful Rieslings from Nahe and a Castell d’Encus from Northern Spain. What I was left missing was a wider selection of other than Champagne sparklings, some premium Cavas for example. Ridgeview from the UK is old news and I have more than often been disappointed by Cremants from Loire. The prices from other sparklings were also close enough to some great Champagnes, so I would rather pay the extra 15-25€. All in all, a wonderful list, I really need to go with a group next time to be able to sample the amazing selection at hand.
The food was also wonderful. We had the glazed pork cheek with heart salad and Malmgård-emmer rice and the grilled asparagus with mushroom wild rice and pesto. Both dishes were awesome with full and balanced flavors. For dessert we had the peach-tart with vanilla ice cream and caramel-sauce to share.
All in all a great and refreshing experience in Helsinki! I would hope that they in the future show up with the wine-list though (so that I can see what I am paying). So all you wine-enthusiasts out there, this is the place to go if you are in town. The foodies won’t be too disappointed either.