My final review in Helsinki was at the elegant Strindberg Restaurant overlooking Esplande Park. Named after one of Sweden’s greatest playwrights, a short walk from the Swedish Theater, this is a warm and convivial rendezvous point that’s usually packed. Its street level houses a cafe and a pastry shop, but its heart and soul is upstairs, where a conservatively modern setting contains a colony of comfortably upholstered chairs and sofas and a big-windowed dining room. Menu items contain an appropriate mixture of comfort food and modern continental.
I was whisked to a table with an excellent view overlooking the park. I sat propped up on my bench with much delight as I looked over the pedestrians, joggers and dog walkers who filled the scene below. My server was an always smiling blond who was well versed on each dish and a pleasure to chat with throughout my meal.
I had one of those moments: I stared at my table and realized that this was my new office. I had three glasses of wine, a glass of sparkling water, plate of lemon wedges, three forks, a spoon and two knives and a wee vase of flowers staring up at me in a semi circle. I couldn’t help but laugh as there was clearly no way on earth this two top could comfortably seat another person. This has become my bitter sweet lifestyle. Solitary meals at fantastic restaurants. On the up side, the time alone allows me to take notes, pictures and really focus on reveling in each moment of the dining experience. I was ever so happy that I had such a chipper server as she provided some great company during my meal.
Strindberg was exactly the finish I needed before zooming off to Russia in the morning. It was elegant, relaxing, refined and excessive. I ordered half the menu and mentally stretched out my stomach hours before in preparation for my final Finnish binge. Beyond the decorum and excellent service, what I truly appreciated about Strindberg was their honest Finnish comfort food which wasn’t fussy or overly complicated. It warmed my soul during a moment of solitary travel writer loneliness. I think we often forget about how food plays a vital role in keeping us not just nourished in the gut but also our souls.
Highlights of my meal which I will never forget: Wild Mushroom Soup which tasted like warm umami rich whipping cream, buttery ribbons of pappardelle paired with salty serano ham and porcini and the essential Finnish Meatballs with rich brown sauce and lightly preserved grandma’s cucumbers.
Cuvee Anne-Laure Gewurztraminer, AC Alsace
Cecchi Natio, DOCG Chianti, Sangiovese
pine nuts, roasted beetroots, lavender syrup
Pressed Veal Brisket
waldorf salad, lamb lettuce
Wild Mushroom Soup
crispy roasted bacon, thyme foam
serrano ham, porcini mushrooms, rocket
Lamb Osso Bucco
confit of celery and preserved lemon, risotto milanese
brown sauce, grandma’s cucumbers, lingon berries
Passion Fruit Mousse
dark chocolate ganache, roasted white chocolate