In Finland people have extreme reverence for seasonal food and fresh produce, perhaps due to the sustainable culture that is so deeply embedded within the society. So every summer the locals impatiently await as the rhubarb rolls in followed by berries and fresh vegetables and then we say farewell to the warm months with fresh seafood and celebrate the grand finale with crayfish, as we settle into impending autumn and the mushroom season.
If you also wish to experience a Helsinki summer by not only buying the seasonal produce but also by founding the best cafes and restaurants around the city that make best use of the offerings then come along!
Well first of all lets mention the most loved child of Mother Nature, the Finnish summer strawberry. No other fruit can hold a candle to this sweet delight. You can find these in abundance at grocery stores and markets all over the city. But if you wish to treat yourself to some delicious cakes and buns adorn by strawberries then make your way to Kanniston Leipomo and the Hakaniemi Market Hall. There you will find innumerable amount of pastries, danish pastries and sweet buns made with fresh strawberries.
As the season continues more fresh berries and fruit flood the markets as well as cafes. Way Bakery has a knack for using the best that the season has to offer and incorporating it into their weekly changing menu of baked goods. So when we are in the thick of summer do check out the changing pastries that might feature produce such as black currants, red currants, gooseberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries.
Once you have gotten your share of sweets then let's move on to some savoury. New potatoes are what Finns wait for every year and they are very easily available throughout the city in summer. Restaurants also make sure to feature them in their menu in creative ways. Story features a seasonal special sourdough pizza every so often and in summers that special is adorned by new potatoes. Carbs on carbs now that is a cause we should all support.
If you wish to pamper yourself and go out for a meal alone or with company but still wish to enjoy food made with the freshest produce then you cannot go wrong with restaurants such as Grön, Ego, Bona Fide, Cheri and Nokka. They all feature seasonal produce ranging from fresh cabbage, peas, summer carrots, cauliflower, lettuces to uniquely Finnish produce such as nettles, chanterelle mushrooms, boletus mushrooms. Not only can you buy all these ingredients from various markets and stores in Helsinki, they also find their way into most menus throughout the city. A meal in any of these places would tantalise your taste buds and leave you wanting more!
In late summer mushrooms and seafood become the talk of the town; fish such as perch, whitefish, flounder, pike that are available throughout summer are followed by crayfish well into early autumn. But the summer season is bid farewell with the vivacious Nordic crayfish party. Restaurants that specialise in seafood and that offer a special crayfish party menu include, Meripaviljonki, NJK, and Merimakasiini.
While the restaurants and cafes that have been mentioned make an effort to create amazing and delicious culinary delights that feature fresh produce it is worthy to note that there are places in Helsinki that in fact not only use the seasonal produce but as a matter of fact only open their doors during the summer months, and then leave us all craving their creations for the rest of the year. Thus it is paramount to visit these places when they give us the opportunity.
First of all everyone should head to the pancake stall at the Market Square. Cafe Crepes, operates only during the summer months and always has queues of people salivating after their sweet and savoury thin crepe like pancakes that are made fresh, right in front of you, using generous amount of butter and deliciousness. From there you can easily head over to the Esplanade Park’s iconic spool shaped kiosks that serve as cafés during the summer. There is coffee, refreshments, snacks and of course ice cream.
Speaking of ice cream, well it is only fair you don't just try one. You must make your way to Cafe Compass, next to the Kaivopuisto park. They serve the best soft serve ice cream, no joke. No one knows why theirs is better, perhaps because it is creamier or maybe it is the waffle cone they serve it in or the fact that the portions are insanely generous. Also try out their meat pies which again are truly robust as well as their sweet pies, which are also served with a side of ice cream. From here you can also head to the Mattolaituri Bar, they roll out their terrace for the summer and you can enjoy sea views as you have a drink.
Well once you have committed yourself to the cause then how about a few more. Helsinki's numerous canopy kiosks offer a wide variety of delicacies. In Liisanpuisto near Tervasaari, this summer you will find a kiosk run by BB Grill with wonderful selection - of course, it's worth testing the unique selections at various kiosks.
And then one more for the road. Ape Gelato’s bright orange moped car spoils customers with its ice creams that are made at the Mamma Maria ice cream factory in Lahti. Apart from their selection of vegan as well milk based ice creams you should try their affogato, i.e. espresso coffee with vanilla ice cream, which is heavenly. Ape Gelato's moped cars and bicycle are most likely to be found in different spots in Helsinki that can be easily stalked from their Facebook page.