Wineweek 116: Unprepared in Helsinki

I am not a fan of January. It’s dark, cold and long until spring and summer. This weekend it paid off though, big time, as there were not that many people going out in Helsinki. I was finally able to visit BasBas (or at least their wine bar), the restaurant I have been raving about for over a year, yet not been able to get a reservation. 

Our weekend in Helsinki was logged into the calendar a long time ago. It was the weekend of the annual Nordic Travel fair, and I was there talking on stage about Stockholm with my Tripsteri colleagues. regardless of the early planning I started looking for restaurant options only a few days before departure (amateur), which meant that nothing good was available. Obviously. So the contingency plan was the following: dinner on Friday at wine-loving friends, and on Saturday try to snatch a walk-in table somewhere. It is just that if you don’t get a walk-in table from your first option, it is too cold to just wonder around looking for option two. Browsing for last minute alternatives online, I noticed that my “white whale” BasBas had opened a wine bar. No reservations needed, just pop in for a glass of wine and a snack. However, taking into account the popularity of the restaurant, I was very nervous if we would get a seat. BasBas is a bit off, so there were no back-up options within a reasonable distance. We took the risk anyway, and it paid off.

The BasBas & Staff wine bar is like heaven on earth: long list of wines by the glass, mouthwatering bar snacks and genuinely interested staff. I think the sparkling selection is a good example of what I mean (at least to those obsessed with sparkling): a Cremant de Limoux, a methode ancestral and a grower champagne (Bereche & Fills). There was also an orange wine by the glass and many, many delicious whites and reds. The bar snacks were quite small, but when you order enough of them, they make up for a decent dinner. I will write more about BasBas & Staff wine Bar later, but I can say already now that it is my new top-one in Helsinki.

Our friends also took us on a spontaneous visit to a speakeasy I had never heard of (I am obviously not that well informed): Books & Antiques. It was a really small cocktail bar, hidden behind a dusty bookstore front. They specialize in classic cocktails. M ordered an El Presidente and I opted for Golden Fizz; both cocktails from the 1920’s. The experience was great: place not too crowded, music was low so we were able to chat without shouting and the service was fast and friendly. Cocktails were also delicious!

I took a nice walk with a friend today (wtf! a nice walk in January), strolling along the water in the southern tip of Helsinki. We ended up in Uunisaari (oven island), a small rock just off the coast in Kaivopuisto. A bridge connects the island with the mainland. Uunisaari has a cafe, a public sauna, and a hole in the ice where you can dip yourself in the icy water (no thank you!). We sat down at the cafe for some pastries and a cup of hot coffee. The queue to the cash register was daunting, but in the end worth the ten minute wait. The cafe has walls of glass, and the afternoon sun was showing its best in all shades of yellow and orange. The coffee was bad, but that did not really matter. It was a very pleasant atmosphere to sit and chat without really being in any hurry to go anywhere.

So regardless of it being January, the weekend was great. Even the poor preparation with no reservations did not spoil it, but rather brought us to just where we wanted to be.

xx Soile

Sunset at Uunisaari
Mushroom brioche at BasBas & Staff wine bar
Avocado and fennel at BasBas & Staff wine bar
At BasBas & Staff wine bar
Furmint candle holder at BasBas
Wine list by the glass at BasBas
At Books & Antiques speakeasy
Waiving goodbye to the Stockholm ferry from Uunisaari

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