KM DRIVEN: 5371KM
Helsinki is one of those northern cities where a good walk in the cold must end with a hearty and “real” meal. Nowadays Scandinavia scores high when it comes to culinary treats. You have yourself spoiled for choice in Helsinki where in lots of restaurants the very popular New Nordic Cuisine is served. For once, you can let go of the New and focus on the real and authentic Nordic Cuisine, the sort of stuff that Vikings used to love. Tyler BrĂ»lĂ©, our unconventional editor of Monocle magazine – and all but one burly Viking with a giant appetite – said in an article for the New York Times, that restaurant Ravintola Sea Horse is one of his all-time favourite restaurants ever. Be warned, it isnâ€™t a trendy place with the glitterati of Helsinki as clientĂ¨le. No, Ravintola Sea Horse is an establishment founded in 1834, where still the same dishes are served and where the interior has stayed unchanged.
Besides Tyler also other notorious figures such as writer Pablo Neruda, Jean Paul Sartre and the jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie found this place an absolute must-eat when you’re in Helsinki. However, the restaurant in the neighbourhood of Ullanlinna, looks from the outside as if they do less honour full activities inside. Think of some red and green neon on the grey walls and not a real indication that you can eat here. Inside you have the impression that time stood still and that you’re in Communist and retro Helsinki. The decor is quit sober and feels more like a dining room than a typical restaurant. About the large seahorse, which is painted on the wall, there are some hypothetical stories. Some customers claim it was painted by a student from the arts academy, who wanted to put his stamp on the place.
The other story is that of a poor painter who, by painting the wall, got some free food and beer. Sanna, one of the waitresses, shows us the original menu from 1934, when the restaurant opened its doors. But it was only in 1959 that Sea Horse began to make a name thanks to the owner Mrs. Paukku who started serving the legendary fried herring and beefsteak. Two classic dishes, both perfect to fight a Nordic hangover. On the menu today you will find hearty portions of Finnish, affordable home cooking like Vorschmack, a very Russian dish or simply fried herring fillets with mashed potatoes and pickled beetroot. In the restaurant we notice a mix of business people in suits next to obviously some creative or artisty types who probably don’t have much on their agenda seen the speed of drinking their glasses of wine. I am sure if Vikings would still be around, this would be their favourite place.