Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hietalahden Kauppahalli

Since March the 1st of this year the Old Market hall of Helsinki, one of the highlights for tourists, but also a good place to get some poro (reindeer) or a fish soup lunch, it is now closed for renovation. It will reopened only in 2014.

Helsinki couldn't stay that long without such a place (yes, we have also Hakaniemi Market hall), and the city had the great idea to give a new life to the Hietalahti Market hall, few tram stops away from the city main landmark: Stockmann.

Hietalahden Kauppahalli was for many years a place for expensive antique stores, and for a couple of restaurant, depending of the years and the season (lately it hosted a Greek restaurant, Knossos, and a small Thai booth).

The Market Hall is now 100% dedicated to its first aim: Food, in retail from or as lunch places.
As in most of the Market Hall you will find fresh vegetables, a Butcher corner, a fish stall, bakeries, coffee, and also many lunch options. Many of the sellers seem to have taken this removal as a new beginning and they do kick now!

We went around and found our old favourites like the soup place (Soppakeittiö, which you can find also in Hakaniemi Market hall) and fish sellers. If you are looking for a cup of coffee or some sandwiches, you will find some in here. There is even a place, which is specialized to make all kind of food of shrimps: there are skagens, jacket potatoes, shrimp cocktails etc.

For this first visit we sat down in the table of The Fish store called Marja Nätti. They proposed mussels, blinis and other sea food based dishes. We went for the blinis. Good honestly not too fat not too dry, but a bit pricy. And of course you can also buy your fish from there or other fish sellers and cook your meal at home.

In the neighbor booth you'll also find a sushi, oysters and some more fish. A butcher Roslund in the corner seems to serve amazing looking burgers (we'll have to try them next time) for example "Heppaburger", which means a real thing made of horse meat.

If you want you, can eat on the few tables next to these food kiosks, or take your order (or wait that it is served to you) upstairs where many table are set, but hardly available on Saturdays.

The place gets easily crowded, and the age of the building makes also the ventilation system from another era. It has some very good point, a mix of nice smells coming from everywhere around, making you graving for any food proposed there. On the other hand, your clothes may smells a bit after your visit, and we will have to see how it will be in the summer time when the hot days are here.
But the place looks very nice, renovated just as it needed, not too modernized, not too tacky (in the way it wants to look too much like a postcard), and most important this place simply has a good atmosphere.

We will definitely go back and write more about this place. We are now looking forward the summer as this place might become a hotspot of Helsinki's summer 2013. When the open air adjacent flea market will start again, we bet that many restaurants of the market hall will open a terrace on the Hietalahti Market square, which is by the way just along the sea.

Verdict: Even if it is a bit overpriced, it is a go!

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Bar Socis

Now continues the story of the new Restaurant + Bar of the Hotel Seurahuone - and this will be the happy part!

Just next to the restaurant, after you pass the Hotel reception is the Bar Socis.
The bar is set in a nice coupole which makes again the place looking like from the 'Belle Epoque'.
It looks extremly interesting, and at least on the day we were there the interesting thing was that customers were hotle people, but also some regular younger and older people and some tourist. A large mix which make the place interesting actually.

The music is also French here, but contrary to the Brasserie part, the tracklist is much more interesitng, palying some oldies from the 30's, 40's and 50's (imagine Arlety or Mistinguett are played there) or even some 80's French classics (Alain Chamfort 'Manureva') to the latest big French hit M.

The service now was night and day if you compare to the Brasserie. The waitress working there on the opening night was friendly, enthusiast, and simply very professional (even though she was still a student). Simply the total opposite of the restaurant experience. The bar tender is also an interesting character, it almost made me think of the bartender in 'The Shinning'.

Only bad thing of course the prices of the cocktail. A Gin Tonic will cost you 11€ there. But honestly Bar Socis could become one of the best hotel bar in Helsinki.

So as a conclusion, maybe skip the Brasserie Le Havre, or give it a chance hoping the chef and the waitresses were on a bad day for the opening. Please, go and check the Bar Socis, with some tiny tunes up and some more crowd there, it has the potential to become a great place to grab a drink or two in Helsinki.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Brasserie Le Havre, Helsinki

This is a tricky one.

Honestly at one point we were even thinking not to write about it, just not to be mean.
But as you will see the story has an happy ending.

Brasserie Le Havre is a new restaurant which opened in Helsinki on March the 1st 2013. The place is located at the ground floor of the Seurahuone Hotel, just opposite the railway station in a very nice building from the late 19th century. The place itself looks very interesting, you could feel in a French high class restaurant from the 'Belle Epoque'.

The table are set in quite nice way, and the restaurant tries to keep it as French spirit as possible, even by playing only French music. On that point some choices are quite interesting some are...well it might be a very long time I haven't been there so no more comment...

But we were there for the food, on the opening day.

As a starter we got the Foie gras mi cuit for Monsieur and Snails for madame.

It was a vey long time since I ate foie gras, even more mi cuit like. Served on a toast, the bread could be a bit better for this kind of product but the overall taste was fine.
The snails were maybe not cooked at their best as the garlic kick you usually have in this dish was extremely mild. This was even more disappointing that the chef has the very good idea to use a nicely extra salty butter, the real garlic taste would have just act perfectly here.
Perhaps their recipe is still to be improved.

Then started the trouble:
We asked from the waitress if the seafood section on the menu was more like a started or like a main course. Her answer was straight forward: seafood dishes are like main course.
So we went for the Scallops in crab mousse in one plate and Roquefort Mussels gratinated.

First surprise, the size of the dish, clearly for starters.
The Scallop was ok, even if it could have been a little bit more grilled to emphasize the contrast between the soft inside and the crispy outside. The crab mousse was in fact a 'bisque' wiped too fast and still foamy, but not anything you could call mousse.
But let's talk about the worst dish in the history of this blog maybe, or at least the less good looking. This mussel plate was just ridiculous: 5 mussels fighting with 2 slices of lime in a very large plate. It looked very bad even the plate (the dish) itself was quite nice. And the taste was not really successful either.

But we carried on and experienced the dessert list:
Crème brûlée and double chocolate mousse.
The Crème brûlée was maybe one of the worst I tasted in any restaurant in Helsinki, the texture was almost liquid and for some reason a oversized ball of cassis sorbet was on the top of the brûlée.
For the chocolate mousse, it tasted good honestly, but this place seems to have a problem with the term 'mousse' as this dish was far closer to fudge.

So as a overall Brasserie Le Havre should be renamed Brasserie Gonfreville (the name of Le Havre neighbor city in France where all the polluting factories are located).
The place looks nice, but the service (at the exception of the main waiter always going everywhere, taking very good care of his customers) is very poor: our waitress should have adviced us on the size of the dishes and few of them seemed at one point to be on their break at the same time causing a time lapse in the service for some tables.

But the story continues in the following post...