Yesterday evening I was doing some Googling on Paris wine bars, guess how many hits I got? Hundreds! In Helsinki the number of (good) wine bars can be counted with two hands. Perhaps it is the relatively high price of wine, the dominance of beer or the cold weather keeping the Finns locked in their houses, but proper wine-hangouts are scarce. So I was quite excited to see this new place, Soil Wine Room, opening close to the center.
Soil occupies a cozy small space on Fredrikingkatu. I have seen several cute restaurants rise and fall in this same location. It is an expensive street to be on and there is not that much space for quests, so the concept needs to be exactly right for a restaurant to thrive. A wine bar with some simple dishes like Catalonian tapas, might just be the thing to make it. I hope so at least. Also there is a pretty impressive group of guys behind the restaurant, one being no other than Tomi Björk, the star of the Finnish restaurant scene (Farang, Gaijin, Boulevard Social and Bronda).
The focus seems to be on wine, the tapas being a nice plus, but you can have a proper meal there. We made sure to go hungry as I am a fan of Catalan cuisine, and the list did not disappoint. The menu had all the traditional stuff: Padron peppers, Pan con Tomate and some Iberico ham (different grades). All very well made or selected! Additionally I saw some interesting new dishes like cider marinated chorizo and Iberico ribs. Both good but not as great as the traditional dishes. A Catalan meal would not be complete without some Bikini toast. Unfortunately the Soil version could not compete with the Bikini at Matkonsulatet (nothing has so far been able to beat that), it is perhaps the truffle butter that was the missing ingredient. All in all I did like the food!
And to the main part of our review, the wine list. Soil Wine Group, the owner of the Wine Room is an importer of wines, so they have a nice selection of their own producers on the menu. I was not very familiar with the Champagnes they had, but a glass (of whatever they have open that day) costs around 12€ and I think that is a very decent price to try out something new. They work with A.Robert, Charles Ellner and Dosnon & Lepage Champagnes. The Cava list looked much more familiar with one of the producers being Naveran, a Cava house that we have been wooing as well. The Naverans are not best in class but looking at the price, they are very good value for money (you can bag a bottle in Barcelona for 5€). We tried out a Jaume Giro I Giro Cava, a Brut Nature Reserva (min 15 months) made from the traditional mix of grapes: Xarello, Parellada and macabeo. It was not the best Cava I have ever had, perhaps just lacking depth, but a well made Brut Nature with fresh and honest flavors from the region. Sometimes that and some Bellota ham is all you need to make the evening perfect. We had a peek also at the reds and whites, but to be honest that is really not my forte, so I will leave that up for someone more knowledgeable to review. We all had a glass each of the Esser 2012 Pinot Noir from Monterey, California. Not bad, but perhaps a bit uninteresting compared to all the other exciting stuff we have tasted from the region.
What I really enjoyed at Soil was the service. The guys were well prepared for winecurious customers and offered to sample all the wines by the glass before having to make a final choice. They also offered to sell wines by the glass that were on the menu only by the bottle in case we ordered minimum three glasses. As we were a party of three that worked perfectly. Food came at a good pace (not too fast and not too slow) and plates were picked up promptly after they were finished. That is perhaps the upside of the small space, the restaurant staff really have a good overview of the tables.
So if you are in Helsinki, and in the mood for some wine, make a reservation at Soil Wine Room. You won’t be disappointed (at least not after you have tasted the Bellota).