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Top 10 Bars: Helsinki

TEXT
Bella Sarris
Photography
By Toni Kostian and courtesy of Restaurant Plein, Young Hearts and Wino.
Natural wines shine in the bars and restaurants of Finland’s coastal capital, as you might expect from one of the world’s most sustainable cities.
Winery Report
No one matches natural wines and small plates like Restaurant Plein.
1

Beautiful food starts with good ingredients. In Grön’s case, this means the finest organic, local and wild seasonal produce they can get their hands on, simply and masterfully prepared. Grön is an intimate sanctuary, decorated with jars of fermenting veg and bunches of foraged wild herbs delivered daily by bike.

The open kitchen is as much a work of art as the individual dishes and the handmade ceramic plates that frame them. Each is presented by a different chef and perfectly paired with a glass of something natural from Grön’s refreshing selection.

Expect perfect pairings at Restaurant Grön.
Expect perfect pairings at Restaurant Grön.
2

Grön’s wine-obsessed little brother is also responsible for the delicious naturally leavened sourdough served there and all day at Way. Cover it with freshly churned butter and a soft egg for breakfast, top with the finest cheese and charcuterie for lunch, or use it to soak up the juice of their heirloom tomato salad or creamy burrata for an evening snack.

The point is you can eat sourdough and drink the finest natural wine and coffee all day every day. Try a bottle of Costadila Moz Frizzante in the sun with some green olives and anchovies with lemon... and a big chunk of sourdough, of course.

3

This little place, dedicated, as the name suggests, to the wine obsessed, is a second living room to locals of the Kallio area. Wino is all about craftsmanship, from the small-batch natural drops that change weekly, to the fine, Scandinavian-inspired plates of local, seasonal organic ingredients.

There’s a wine list that will satisfy any natural or classically inclined oenophile and a menu reminiscent of fine dining, but without the price tag. Walk-ins are always welcome but bookings are advised.

The aptly named Wino restaurant welcomes the hip Kallio crowd.
The aptly named Wino restaurant welcomes the hip Kallio crowd.
4

There are many reasons why Harju 8 is highly irresistible, not least because it’s open until 2am every day, and you can dine or just snack until 11pm. If the constantly evolving, fresh seasonal menu and natural wines by the glass don’t bring you back, then the classic cocktails and specialty coffee will. You know you’re in the hip area of Kallio when you can sip a glass of pét-nat, buy a bouquet of seasonal stems and pet your dog all at the same time.

It’s playful and fun, Berlin-ish in vibe, with a calendar of events as eclectic as the furniture. From DJs and bingo, to drag shows and drink-and-draw classes, to live street jams in the summer, this is a place where you really can hang all day and night. No reservations, just rock up.

5

Small plates and natural wine seems to be the theme here in Helsinki, but no one does it quite like Plein. Hidden on the outskirts of the charming neighbourhood of Puu-Vallila, they serve up unique flavour combinations of seasonal produce expertly matched with craft vino.

Apart from a three- or five-course chef’s menu Wednesday to Saturday, they also plate up a different lunch special each day of the week. Try the organic root vegetable salad with 63-degree egg on Wednesday or frittata and aioli on Thursday.

The current “wine-up” includes the likes of Foradori, Cornelissen, Fanny Sabre and Sebastien Riffault — reason enough to stop by.

Seasonal produce reigns supreme.
Seasonal produce reigns supreme.
6

Head chef Marcos Gois is the ripe age of 27 and he already owns two restaurants. Gohan is his second after Fat Ramen. Born to a Portuguese father and Finnish mother, he combines influences from both cultures to turn organic seasonal ingredients into unique elegant food.

This is perfectly matched with the eclectic natural wines and sakés on offer, mostly from small artisan producers. When he’s not foraging, pickling, fermenting or experimenting in the kitchen, he’s searching for inspiration elsewhere in the world to continue to push boundaries in the Helsinki food and wine scene.

7

BasBas & Staff is the ‘back pocket’ of Baskeri & Basso Bistro, inspired by the French bar à vin, where locals spend long evenings picking at plates of cheese and charcuterie, and downing more glasses of wine than they can count.

This is the Helsinki version, a moody, candlelit living room, full of cosy corners where you can sip both classic and unusual drops, poured by charismatic staff. They have a serious stock waiting to be popped.

8

This neighbourhood gem is sure to warm your heart. The kitchen reflects the Finnish seasons, but also draws inspiration from the Mediterranean and beyond. Its small but flavour-packed menu manages to incorporate all of these influences, from cumin and yoghurt, to bonito and shiso, to basil and pecorino.

Four courses are reasonably priced at €47 (∼$76) while five will only set you back €58 (∼$94), which is probably why the 20-something seats are generally reserved well in advance. Wash it all down with a juicy orange drop from Staffelter Hof or even a Japanese plum wine for dessert.

9

Tanner is that easygoing, over-accommodating Italian friend who will make you espresso at 7.30 in the morning, serve you mozzarella and pesto on toast for breakfast, lay out a lunch buffet of cold cuts, whip up a fresh truffle pasta for dinner, make you a cocktail for dessert, play you music until 2am, then take you out dancing.

Cafe by day, Italian-inspired social eatery by night, they really offer everything from smoothie bowls and banana bread to pizzas and natural wine. They’re also positioned above one of Helsinki’s best music clubs, Post Bar, so you can stumble down after they call last drinks.

10

Somewhere between nightclub, wine bar and listening room that feels like you’re in the Tokyo underground. Or, as they would define it, ‘a music bar and dance club for the people’.

Who are they? The Post Bar Posse, a group of four local DJs who simply wanted to create an intimate and safe space to play music and express themselves on phenomenal sound. They are big advocates for the more ‘obscure stuff’ so Post Bar has an eclectic and impressive line-up of selectors and of natural wines. I was lucky enough to play there last year and have to say it was such a pleasure to hang out as a DJ, dancer and drinker.